The catalyst I needed to grow my property portfolio
Doctor and property investor
The following case study illustrates the SSAS journey taken by Dr Prithviraj Rao, Consultant Paediatrician at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, whose strategy is to use his SSAS pension as the catalyst to grow his property portfolio .
Dr Rao and his wife Preethi are both doctors in Sheffield, have a young son and a successful property investment and development company. If that was not enough, Dr Rao has taken it upon himself to build a 250 strong network of other healthcare professionals with the objective of sharing his property, pension and investment knowledge. His focus is to help them understand their own pensions, protect their wealth and illustrate the opportunities for ensuring they are optimised.
The situation and the goals
The obvious first question is, how did Dr Rao, a very busy paediatric consultant with a young family, become involved in property development?
Dr Rao’s first taste of ‘the property business’, was becoming what is known as an ‘accidental landlord’. The Rao family had initially lived in Durham but when work commitments required a move to Sheffield, they found themselves renting out their family home to facilitate quickly finding a Sheffield home for the foreseeable future.
Later, as Dr Rao reached his 40th birthday, he decided now was the time to build upon his success as an ‘accidental landlord’ and grow his property interest and knowledge.
“You could call it a mid-life crisis, but that day, I decided I wanted to get involved in property more seriously. I was hungry to get started…”
For Dr Rao, that decision meant full commitment to learning all he could about property, its value, how people were investing in property and how they were developing it. Once he had made up his mind, in his own words;
“If I was going to become involved in property, I had to go headlong into it and find out everything there was to know, to make it a success”.
In the months that followed, Dr Rao attended property auctions to see the process, what people were buying and how much they were paying. He talked to people across the property spectrum about their property strategies and journeys, spent time researching online and did all he could to prepare himself for
the property journey he was looking to take.
Once he had started his own limited property company, Dr Rao sold his original Durham property, using the capital to buy property in the Sheffield area to convert to HMO (house in multiple occupation) properties. This formed part of a strategy that allowed him to use the rent from the HMO properties as capital to refinance and grow the portfolio at a steady rate.
Through research online, Dr Rao had discovered the Small Self-Administered Scheme (SSAS) and how people were very successfully using their pension funds to cashflow their property goals. This warranted a clear direction and further investigation into the SSAS.
“Through my research, I was assured that the SSAS could provide the catalyst needed to grow my property business and ensure we were as tax efficient as possible”
The SSAS would enable the Raos to recycle their own cash, held within their pensions and leverage it to invest in their property company. Dr Rao and his wife were able to combine and pool their own pensions into one tax efficient scheme, take control of how the pension funds were invested and use its unique flexibility to create property strategies that would assist in achieving their property goals.
“My wife and I are both medical professionals and in the higher tax bracket. I am only 42 and have a good pension and so does my wife. Our pension is on track to support retirement, but until then, we wanted a solution to utilise our funds to full potential. Optimising tax efficiency is essential for us and using the combined pot means we can achieve our property goals at the same time as growing the pot for future strategies.”
As a company, it was clear that talking to other directors about offsetting tax and looking toward director contributions to the SSAS is another key goal in the Rao’s strategy. By ensuring fixed interest for a few years, directors can build capital to a level which will allow investment in a commercial property strategy.
The Rao’s property company portfolio quickly scaled to 25 properties, mostly in the Sheffield area. These investment properties are either HMO properties, student lets or property lets to professionals, often healthcare specialists, which supports Dr Rao’s dedication to supporting others in the healthcare arena. The strategy is such that the current portfolio continues to provide cashflow to invest further and elevate the choices and investment power available. So far, this strategy has also facilitated investment into a mixed-use property, in the form of a hairdressing salon with 4 flats above. In the near future, Dr Rao’s aim is the acquisition of more commercial assets, which are a perfect tactic to optimise tax efficiency and align pensions, business growth and property goals.
In addition to the growing portfolio, Dr Rao’s strategy also includes underlying and reliable investments in property crowdfunding, both involving his own developments and other property crowdfunding opportunities. This gives a stable, fixed return on investment and consistent growth to support the other projects.
For Dr Rao, learning about the SSAS and gaining extensive property knowledge has been enlightening and something he wanted to share with other healthcare professionals in a similar situation.
“It is important that people understand the need to protect wealth and assets, especially having seen what has happened during the recent pandemic. It is imperative for your own sake to look at your own future, your tax situation and your pensions and also for the ‘survivors’ (your beneficiaries and their families) for their future.”
Today, Dr Rao’s company also runs a 240 members and growing support network, sharing his property and pensions knowledge, experience and story with others.
“I wish I had had a ‘Dr Rao’ to speak to when I started out. My aim is to ensure that others have this opportunity”.
The network runs zoom meetings every Friday, to which Dr Rao invites experienced speakers to help grow knowledge and confidence. He is keen that others can create strategies like his, to ensure their own wealth protection, tax efficiency and pension growth.
“Our network is about learning about ‘smart’ pension planning”.
For others, Dr Rao’s advice is to research online, go to networking groups, speak to other property professionals and learn as much as you can.
With regard to pensions, as Dr Rao proves, the SSAS is a powerful and flexible tool for any company director, whether looking to optimise tax efficiency, fund a business or grow a property portfolio.
We asked Dr Rao about his experience of choosing the right SSAS support when growing his property portfolio.
“I wanted to understand what other developers and investors were doing. Lewis at TLP was able to explain that. I wanted a look over the other side of the fence and Lewis enabled this…
- You MUST speak to many providers and always trust your instincts.
- Always look for historical success and a strong track record.
- When you speak with them, the fundamentals MUST make sense to you.
- Remember, every situation is unique. Make clear what is important to ‘you’, not a generic strategy that doesn’t fully solve you current sticking points or account for your goals”.
“There are many providers out there. I spoke to a good number, including TLP. But the key element I wanted to achieve was TRUST!”
Dr Rao is only 42. Whilst the opportunity to grow the pension is fantastic, the primary outcome for Dr Rao is to optimise tax efficiency and grow his property portfolio.
“When I spoke to Lewis, Senior SSAS & Investment Consultant at TLP, my initial feeling was that the relationship was personal. He wanted to understand my situation and what I wanted to achieve rather than launching into a sales pitch before knowing if the SSAS was right for me…”
Each relationship with TLP starts with an initial consultation to help understand the SSAS, for you to ask any questions and to take a look together at each individual situation. It is important to be sure that the SSAS is right for you and to create strategies for long term success.
“I found it shocking that when I spoke to most providers, they were just salespeople with no real depth of knowledge. However, when I spoke to TLP, Lewis explained the pros and the cons right from the start, leaving me clear about how this could be planned out. There was no pressure. After all, it is what it is so let us not dress it up”
For Dr Rao, he suggests treating an initial consultation like an interview. Having his wife involved in a video call with TLP worked well for him, giving him the reassurance of another perspective.
When looking at SSAS support and fees, Dr Rao suggests…
“People need to understand that they need deeper pockets to achieve optimum success. This will give them the ability to have more control. A big initial fee should not deter, as it will give you more support, control and knowledge. It is very easy to look for the cheapest, producing poor long-term results and in the long run, costing far more”
Thank you very much to Prithviraj Rao for sharing his story and being so open in an effort to support others just starting out on their SSAS research and property journeys.
“Ultimately, speaking to Lewis gave me the belief that ‘I can get there’ when growing my property portfolio.”