Dear Reader: Today Jerry has nearly 3,000 apartment units. But as you saw in last week's story, he started with no money, made a fortune in real estate only to lose nearly all of it in 1981 when interest rates hit their highest levels since the U.S. Civil War.
Jerry then made a dramatic comeback during the 1980's, and built a much bigger fortune. But he lost it all when the California economy collapsed in 1990, leaving him $12 million in debt.
In the face of such dire circumstances, how did Jerry rebound?
Ironically, it came from a disaster. The 1994 Southern California earthquake shook up the real estate market.
Before the earthquake struck, Jerry refused to go bankrupt. Instead, he worked with his banks to sell his properties. They in turn let him keep his home, his possessions and his reputation.
After the earthquake hit, many properties were damaged, and most investors fled the real estate market in fear, driving down prices.
But Jerry organized a group of investors and bought apartments at huge discounts, using cheap financing from lenders, who in some cases were happy to unload damaged properties they had foreclosed.
From 1994 through the real estate market's recovery in the 2000's, Jerry kept buying.
Then in 2006, he saw real estate prices had gone crazily high, as much as twice what he had been paying at the start of the 2000's. But rents had gone up just a fraction of that amount. While most investors kept buying, paying ever more, Jerry stopped.
But after the global economic crash and real estate collapse of 2008 - 09, while other investors fled real estate, Jerry began buying again, at huge discounts.
By putting as little as 25% down, Jerry borrowed the difference at record low interest rates. These low rates were put in place by the Federal Reserve Board, as it fought to avoid a U.S. and global financial Armageddon.
Because of the real estate crash, demand for apartment rentals soared. Jerry became a large provider of affordable housing, and at a time when it was desperately needed. He profited accordingly.
What will become of his fortune? Other than "a certain amount" set aside for his wife and children, "All the money is going to go to charities," Jerry said.
He has already donated generously to the YMCA, the Torrance Memorial Medical Center, and a charity that helps street kids in Vietnam.
Dear Reader: If you are passionate about real estate investment, Jerry's story shows the courage and commitment that can be necessary to succeed. And his charitable donations remind us that large or small, those donations uplift the lives of others and bring greater meaning into our own lives.