PHOTO: Marc and Susan Pickering lost half their superannuation during the GFC.

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A southwestern Sydney couple were left devastated back in 2008 when they saw their retirement plans go up in smoke.

Marc and Susan Pickering used a self-managed superannuation fund that they had built up over the course of 30 years being in the workforce but 45 per cent of their money was wiped out during the Global Financial Crisis.

“It was like a sucker punch,” Mr Pickering recalled to

“It takes you years to develop a base level of money in the share market.

“[I realised] there’s not enough time in my working life to recover if I lose half of that. I thought, ‘How am I going to make that money back?’”

The dad turned his attention to the property market, realising this might be the only way to salvage their retirement plans.

Now, in the space of 14 years, he has built up a five-property portfolio worth $3.4 million and is due to retire “comfortably” next year.

Mr Pickering, now 64, decided property was his best bet to salvage his future.

The former apprentice electrician, who called himself “just an ordinary bloke”, pulled together enough money to buy an investment property in Leumeah, just five kilometres from his own home.

He purchased the place in 2012 – he would have been 54 at the time.

For two years he fixed up the place, all the while reading books on investments and renovations.

The couple have managed to salvage their retirement plans.

The couple have managed to salvage their retirement plans.

He eventually sold the property and conceded “we did quite nicely”.

“When I sold that one it gave me a base amount of money to feel comfortable to put some skin in the game,” he said.

However, during Mr Pickering’s rigorous reading of investing in property, he realised he had made one huge mistake.

“You’re not supposed to buy one close to where you live,” he explained.

Diversifying your portfolio is key, according to the books he’d read, so he looked much further afield for his next purchase.

In 2014, the Pickerings forked out around $290,000 for a 499sq m empty lot in Greenvale, Melbourne.

They spent a further $240,000 to build a dwelling and soon got renters in.

As of the latest data available, that property is now worth an estimated $775,000.

Over the next few years, the couple made one more purchase in Melbourne and three more in Brisbane with similar returns.

Each time, it was a block of land which they built a house on.