With many Americans now realizing they can’t depend on the government to take care of them in old age, investors are now turning commercial real estate investing because they know it’s time to face the hard reality that it’s time to take care of their own financial futures. While some may aspire to be “rich,” others see financial independence as a necessity when it comes to surviving and enjoying their retirement years. Savings accounts grow too slowly, as do bonds, in order to create the growth and income most investors seek for their retirement portfolios. Smart investors tolerate risk and volatility in search of the higher returns that will help their nest eggs hatch and grow into cash cows.One asset class that has traditionally met these goals is the stock market. Low-fee, high-growth mutual funds have an excellent track record when it comes to long-term returns. However, many investors feel frustrated by the sense that there’s nothing they can do to improve the performance of their stock and mutual fund portfolio.That’s why investing in real estate makes so much sense.Many investors dip their toes in the water with a few rental homes or a small apartment building. That’s a great place to start building wealth and learning the commercial real estate industry. However, for investors looking for serious retirement income that can be relied upon to grow in a hands-off portfolio, commercial real estate certainly has its place.Commercial real estate for beginners is not something to be entered into lightly. It’s hard to read a book or talk to a broker and really understand everything that’s involved in making and financing a good real estate deal, and then managing your property once you have it in place.I think the two best ways for beginners to get involved in commercial real estate are to a) Work their way up through the ranks of owning smaller properties or b) Work with a mentor of some kind – ideally another property owner in your marketplace – to find out what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. You can find a lot of salesmen trying to get you started in commercial real estate by buying their magical business-in-a-box but their claims of simplicity from just following a simple system are often over-stated. You can get yourself into a lot of hot water in commercial real estate as a beginner unfamiliar with the business, so if you can’t afford to make a mistake, it’s best to grow slowly and pay your dues. When you do dip your toe in the water, let the voices of experience guide you and check with your attorney, CPA, and other investors in your area to help you confirm you are on the right track.