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Huh? Real Estate that pays for itself - what's the catch?

About 2 years ago, I left my job in Australia in the banking and finance industry and moved to the US with my wife and two young children.

We didn't know anyone here. We didn't have any connections or friends. No job offer. Crazy? Yes!

But coming to the US was something we'd wanted to do for a while and things lined up the right way and we took the leap and we've never looked back.

When we arrived, because I was no longer working, we had plenty of time on our hands. It was delightful and dangerous. I enjoyed checking my phone and not having my Blackberry accumulate 150 e-mails a day. But at the same time, I was so used to being 'on' that I was beginning to find it challenging to stay motivated - I had lost my purpose. I had worked for a decade in my chosen career and had progressed from being a part time phone consultant to a Regional Manager running a division with a $700m balance sheet and responsibility for 7,500 customers. I had a housing and vehicle allowance, and a great six figure salary. Now I had - well - nothing. No responsibilities and nothing to drive me. I wasn't needed.

So I started looking around and thought i'd go back to my first love before banking - real estate. I purchased my first investment property when i was 18 - i was still in high school. I didn't have a job. Or a deposit. I won't go into how i got the loan or made the repayments the first few years - both were a miracle. Over the years I continued to buy homes and set myself a personal goal that I wanted to have a portfolio wort