What Are You Doing With Your Lunch Money?

Over the Summer, I have been spending time with my Godson who just turned 5 years old.

It has been a while since I have spent time with a young child, but his imagination, curiosity, and self- confidence reminds me how young children are so fearless in their dreams.

As children, we had dreams of who and what we would like to be when we grew up. Most children dream of growing up to have the most exhilarating job they can fathom.

Somehow throughout life, those dreams conform to what the world says they should be.

I think children’s aspirations are so grand because they have no basis to believe they can’t accomplish what they dream to be.

It’s a beautiful reality to start at ground zero because that is how dreams, without restraints, are formed. Sometimes starting with nothing allows us to be the most creative.  

Why do adults with more maturity, knowledge, and hopefully, more money, than we had as children, allow our aspirations to shrivel over time?

This question arose after listening to a recent Podcast on the Massimo Show featuring Nikita Zhitov. The title is “Ground Zero Is The Perfect Place to Start.” I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast here.



Nikita Zhitov immigrated from Russia to the United States when he was 14 years old and spoke no English when he arrived.

As a senior in high school, Nikita has able to purchase his first apartment building using $500.00 from lunch money he had saved, and he made $150,000 on that deal. Yes, you read that correctly!

Nikita turned $500 of saved lunch money into $150,000 when he was a student in high school.

After that first deal in 2004, Nikita had caught the real estate bug and began buying about one property a week by using creative financing strategies.

Nikita is now the Co-founder of City Plat Commercial Real Estate, which is based in Raleigh, N.C. This brokerage primarily manages and brokers properties for its own portfolio and is projected to own one billion dollars in assets in the next three years.



After hearing Nikita’s story, I read his book, Expandability of Investment Real Estate. Here’s my take aways from Nikita’s mindset that has led him to be so successful:

Consistent Creativity

Nikita has been successful in real estate because of his creativity in structuring deals and increasing the value of properties. Nikita says there are thousands of ways to make money in real estate. The problem is most people only know one of these methods…buy low and sell high.

His story and strategies highlight one important characteristic to be successful in commercial real estate: creativity.

In order to be successful in commercial real estate, one must think very creatively and be able to see different ways to create or add value to a property.

Nikita has become a master at this principle. His consistent creativity in structuring deals and thinking about real estate has played a key role in his success.


Starting at Zero

As Nikita stated on the Massimo Show, “Ground zero is the perfect place to start.”

Nikita really knows what it is like to start at ground zero when he began his investing career as a high school student with $500.  He sees the potential that can be unlocked in someone who is just beginning in a career and starting at zero.

This is why at his brokerage, he actually prefers to hire new brokers instead of re-train brokers who have been in the business for a while.


Expandability of Investment Real Estate

Nikita’s book, Expandability of Investment Real Estate, gives practical, real world examples of how he has increased the cash flow and value of properties.

Examples include adding ATM machines or cell towers on a property, timbering land, appealing property tax values, etc.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn how to think about property’s potential value.

Nikita’s story ties beautifully with what I see in my Godson.

Children are all starting at zero, so they have no prior experience to know what is “reasonable” to achieve. Their creativity hasn’t become lost as they become accustom to the ways things are or have always been done.

We all should take the time to restore creativity that loses itself over time and act as if we are starting at zero.

I think this is why Nikita has been successful in his career. Of course, goals don’t become reality without follow through and hard work as Nikita advises in his book,

“The greatest plan will not work if you will not.”



Of course, ground zero can be an advantageous starting point, but it’s not a place to stay. From Nikita’s story, it’s important to remember that while some things start small, it’s the daily actions compounding over time that led to big results.

We can see this principle become a reality from the person who created a multi hundred-million-dollar real estate business by saving a few dollars of lunch money every day.

Emma McDaniel Commercial Real Estate Agent
Emma McDaniel

Hello! My name is Emma H. McDaniel and welcome to my real estate blog. As a Business Economics major at Wofford College, a third generation in my family to be a real estate agent, and a woman who has a great love for our community, I am looking forward to sharing with you what I discover as I engage with people, explore places, and learn about different sectors of our market.

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