A tax refund in 2009 changed this single mother’s life forever.

After banks refused to give her a loan and without any credit cards to finance her dreams, Detroit-based waitress Ashley Hamilton, decided to use her tax refund to begin her real estate journey, reports Black Enterprise.

Each year since 2009, she used cash to purchase single-family properties in Detroit to rehab, before ultimately using the properties as buy and hold rentals.

Her initial plan was to secure one property every year with her annual tax refunds, but instead, she was able to expand her portfolio building dream by saving the rent she collected from tenants and was finally able to gain access to loans.

“Not having money worked for my benefit,” said Hamilton during an appearance on the BiggerPockets podcast. “I got a tax return at the end of the year. By me only making around $20K and having two kids, I was able to get a $5K-$6K refund.”

She also has Detroit’s real estate market — which had a low entry point at the time — to thank. Her tax refunds and savings were just enough to get her started.

For Hamilton, she’s always dreamed of becoming a millionaire by 30 and knew that real estate investing was the most practical way to make her goal attainable.

While she didn’t join the millionaire club by 30, she did have a portfolio of 10 properties that were all fully paid for using her cash savings and tax refunds.

“I was willing to live how most people won’t because I wanted to be financially free,” continued Hamilton explaining the importance of having the time to watch her kids grow. “I knew I had to have a passive income so I didn’t have to work as much.”

In February, Hamilton took the leap of faith to quit her job as a part-time bank teller to fully pursue her vision as an entrepreneur.

Despite the fact that she now has multiple six-figure businesses and a million-dollar real estate portfolio under her belt, Hamilton maintained the 20-hour a week position to have a steady source of W-2 income.

“I finally did it,” said Hamilton via Instagram. “This has been well overdue. I know a lot of people ask me why do I even still work there. But the truth is I really enjoyed what I did. I was also recycling wealth and using a ton of leverage last year.”

Today, Hamilton has a portfolio of 24 rentals and five vacant lots. According to her Instagram, 14 of those properties are paid off and she has complete ownership of the real estate assets.