At their prime, they shunned full-time work to live their dreams according to their script. Through savings, they invested in rental apartments as a gateway to their financial freedom.
They have made it big and now use the income to drive their lives’ agenda.
These are Polish investors, whose list is dominated by Slawek Muturi, a Kenyan-Polish entrepreneur.
In 2009, the 43-year-old was confident enough to quit his job. The income from his rental business guaranteed his income to live a decent life – thanks to his savings. Today, Mr Muturi is living his dream – supported by the income and benefits from his investment.
His pride is a firm he founded – Mzuri (Swahili for beautiful), a name he got from his late Kenyan uncle, Muriuki Mukiria. With over 100 rental apartments, Muturi has been able to pursue his lifetime passion for travelling.
He said real estate investment in Kenya is an admittedly competitive and expensive venture. He is, however, convinced it is still doable, especially with the removal of trade barriers.
“I had wanted to invest in Kenya because, after all, the first business lessons that I learned were from my entrepreneurial uncle, but because of the hostile business environment then, I opted for Poland,” he said.
He added that the prices of real estate properties in Kenya are much higher compared to Warsaw, and the rate of return lower, offering no incentives to the investor.
“A pension will not provide you with a dignified life in old age, and I urge Kenyans to stop deluding themselves but instead save to buy rental properties to benefit from returns,” Muturi said during a stopover in Nairobi recently. He was from Cape Town and was on his way to Sydney.
To him, it is terrifying to see the inefficiency of the government system that attempts to give retirees a comfortable life. Muturi embodies the famous presentation of a prosperous old-age retiree relaxing under a palm tree, though not through the Polish government’s pensions programme but through his own initiative.
He said despite Kenyans paying huge taxes like their Polish counterparts, after 40 years, they receive less than they need to sustain a retiree’s life.
“Let’s assume someone receives 2,100 zlotys (Sh55,000) a month – that is much more than most get, but it still does not give a retiree much room to live their best life.
“This is how I calculate it. If I put down 1,000 zlotys (Sh26,000), after 100 months (just over eight years), I could buy a studio apartment using my savings and a small loan, and rent it out.”
Muturi says by saving more and reinvesting rental earnings, in another 10 years, one could buy a second house.
“This means that after 30 years of work, one can rely on retirement earnings from the rentals for three or four apartments, and can bank on at least Sh104,000 a month.”
The road to 100 apartments
Muturi said acquiring his 100 apartments required discipline and tightening of the belt, skills he learned from his late Kenyan uncle.
His Kenyan father was a lecturer at Warsaw University, while his Polish mother worked for a local firm.
The entrepreneur said he learned about saving at an early age.
“When I got my salary of 7.2 million zlotys (Sh192 million) from the Arthur Andersen International consulting firm, after deducting expenses, I converted the rest into dollars ($22,000) and opened a foreign account,” he said.
He continued upping the savings with the increment of his earnings.
After a few years, Muturi could afford to buy a furnished studio apartment for $22,000 (Sh2.2 million) in the Warsaw city centre. He bought another flat from his savings and proceeds from the first lease. From then on, he was unstoppable.
Today, Mzuri manages 6,000 properties, making it one of the biggest real estate firms in Poland.
“A group of my friends, fans and readers of my books joined Mzuri, adding their properties to the pool,” explained the investor.
The 6,000 properties, he said, spread across major cities in Poland. Out of this pool, Muturi owns 100 apartments. The company has 60 partners and employs more than 200 staff.
Muturi said if he had remained a career corporate consultant, he would probably have risen to partner and lived in a fancy area code. He, however, chose to live local life and focuses on managing Mzuri and travelling.
“Retirement does not bother me now because back in 2009, I realised that I didn’t need to work to live,” he said.
At the time of this interview, Muturi was on a tour of the world’s 195 countries – for a second time.
He hopes to launch Mzuri in Kenya in 2021.