Zipping around town

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2094
Zipping

Visitors and residents of Redmond, Washington are hard pressed to miss the house of Erez Benari, a resident of the small town since 2017. While the house itself is a rather dated and unimpressive rambler built in the 1960s, the two bright-yellow sports cars residing in front of it draw regular attention from neighbors and drivers alike. Benari, who moved into the house in 2019, is himself a rather colorful person, known around the region for running “Hugz & Cuddlez”, a social club that hosts group-cuddle events that draw dozens of guests to his house regularly. 

“I’ve always been a car-guy,” says Benari passionately. “Growing up in Israel, I’ve always admired cars like the Italian Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and many other brands, and always dreamt of having one of my own.” In his home country, Benari worked as an engineer for Microsoft, and while his income was substantial, it was far below what it would take to be able to afford a fancy car. “In Israel, income tax is high, and taxes on cars is even higher, so even the most basic sports or muscle car like a Chevrolet Corvette or Ford Mustang would have required me to save up my entire salary for 2.5 years. As a man with a family and a mortgage, that was not even remotely possible.”

When Benari and his wife immigrated to the United States in 2008 and settled in Washington State, things seemed a little brighter at first. “In the US, the annual bonus I’d get working for Microsoft would suffice to buy a used Corvette, which was my 2ndfavorite (after Lamborghini),” shares Benari, “but even though I could fairly easily afford it, my wife (not divorced) was not a fan, preferring to spend my bonuses on other things like taking trips to Israel or renovating our house.”

 All this changed in 2019, after Benari and his wife divorced. While Benari struggled financially for the first 2 years after his divorce in 2017, things slowly improved later on, and by mid-2019, he was able to save up enough money to buy himself a beautiful white 2006 C6 Corvette. “It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t new, but finally, at age 42, I was finally able to afford myself a real sports car, and I was on cloud 9”, says Benari with a glint in his eyes. “While I don’t actually drive fast, the acceleration of a 400-horsepower engine is an amazing thrill, and I couldn’t be happier.” 

However, that wasn’t the end, as Benari’s real dream was to one day own a Lamborghini. For about 2 years, he zipped around town in his white Corvette, turning heads and enjoying himself, but still dreamt of one day owning an Italian supercar. “Yeah, I’ve always admired Lamborghini. Their powerful engines, stylish design and the brand recognition was a huge draw for me, but I never thought I’d ever be able to afford one,” admits Benari. Back in 2014, while driving around Bellevue, Benari incidentally parked his Honda Pilot next to some Yellow Lamborghini and was super excited about it. “Until then, I only saw them in movies and car-shows. I never thought I’d ever see one up-close. In my excitement, I took pictures of it and posted on social media with the caption “when you shop in Bellevue, sometimes you park next to a Lamborghini”. Little did he know that someday, that same very car would be his. 

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“Around the end of 2020, numerous financial products I invested in started to mature, and finally, I had enough to buy myself a real Lamborghini.” Tell us Benari. “It wasn’t simple, because I still could only afford a used one, but after a few weeks of looking, I was actually able to find the very same Lamborghini Gallardo I saw back then in Bellevue”, says Benari excitedly. He purchased the car, which has been parked outside his house ever since, and has been his daily driver when going to work or running errands. “My boyfriend and girlfriend love it when we go out on dates in my Lambo, of course, or when I pick them up in it, “says Benari. 

But that too wasn’t the end of the journey. While driving the Lamborghini was fun, Benari fell in love with McLaren cars, which he saw at the Car Show that is hosted at the Redmond Town Center every week during the summer. “McLaren doesn’t have quite the brand-recognition of Lambos, “admits Benari, “but their curves and design are amazing and futuristic, from the sleek body to the doors that go-up in a design known as ‘Butterfly doors’ which are also featured on other high-end cars.” By mid-2021, Benari had once again saved up enough money and started looking for a McLaren. “This too took a while, as I was looking for a used one, and there aren’t many of them around”, reveals Benari. After a few weeks of searching, a Yellow McLaren 570s showed up on craigslist from a dealership in Oregon. “Most McLaren’s are dark colored, but when I saw the yellow one, it felt like a sign, since my Lamborghini is also yellow.”

Benari proceeded to purchase the McLaren, which is now parked outside his house, next to the Lamborghini, to much excitement by both passers-by and his guests. “Redmond Middle School is just up the street, and kids coming out of the school often stop-by to look at the cars,” says Benari. “They often ask me what I do for a living, and I am always happy to share with them what I do and how I got to where I am.” Says Benari. “These kids expect me to say I’m some kind of celebrity or CEO, but the truth is that I am a fairly regular guy. I never went to college and didn’t even finish high-school. I just worked hard, saved-up and made smart choices with my money”.

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“What were these smart choices?” we asked Erez. “I followed some fundamental ideas in economics and money management, “he says. “Instead of dumping tons of money into a fancy house, where just heating and cooling would cost me $4000 a year, I just rented a small house that fits my needs and doesn’t cost a fortune to maintain. Instead of wasting money by letting it sit in my bank account, I invested it in a diverse portfolio of ETFs and Crypto. Instead of selling my stocks, I borrowed against them. It’s all 101-level finances, really,” claims Benari. 

According to some of Benari’s friends, “regular guy” doesn’t quite describe it. Starting in 2018, he has been hosting regular social events that focus around cuddling, where his guests socialize and cuddle in groups. “Erez’s parties are amazing, “said a guest who asked to remain anonymous. “I try to go to his events every week, and I highly enjoy the atmosphere, and connecting with the other guests. It’s hard to believe he is doing all of this voluntarily, without charging anyone a dime,” added the guest. 

While Benari certainly enjoys his cars, he is somewhat frustrated with the high amount of attention. “I shouldn’t complain about the fact that people around town recognize me as ‘the car guy’, “says Benari. “I bought the cars and brought this on myself, but I prefer to be remembered for stuff I did, not stuff I own. “He adds. Benari is referring to numerous activities he is involved with for the polyamory community, to which he belongs. Last year, Benari donated significant amounts of money to numerous organizations that support the polyamory community, such as the Chosen Family Law Center in New York, the Longhouse in Redmond and the Polyamory Foundation in Boston, and also volunteered with these organizations. “Over the past few years, I’ve had to deal with numerous difficulties related to my polyamory,” shares Benari. In the past few years, apart from dealing with financial independence and accomplishing the cars of his dreams which kept him awake at night once upon a time, Benari has suffered with emotional trauma that broke off his family relationship and dragged to court. However, it is happy for people akin to Erez to find some kind of satisfaction in life, even if it comes with as strong financial strategy as benari built. 

Epilogue

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