Lawrence-Gonzalez_Journey-to-launch

Episode Number: 180

Episode 180- How Lawrence Amassed a Six Figure Net Worth and Doubled His Income to Six Figures (while still in debt)

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Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the Journey to Launch Podcast How Lawrence Amassed a Six Figure Net Worth and Doubled His Income to Six Figures.

Intro 0:12

Welcome to the Journey to Launch Podcast with your host Jamila Souffrant. As a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave Journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom.

Jamila Souffrant 0:39

Hey, hey, hey journeyers. As always, I am excited to bring you this week's episode of the podcast. Now on the podcast this week, we have Lawrence Gonzalez, who is also known as a neighborhood finance guy. He's also a journeyer. He listens to the podcast and he follows me on Instagram. He always is really great about tagging me on Instagram @Journeytolaunch that's where I hang out most socially letting me know when he's listened to an episode. So I went digging to his page and saw that he had an amazing personal finance story himself that he went from a negative net worth to a positive net worth. So went from six figures of negative network to six figures positive net worth, also was able to more than double his income. So now he's earning six figures. And he just has a really good way on his page and in his blog explaining what he's doing, like giving concrete tips and relatable information to help with financial literacy and freedom. So I thought, let me invite Lawrence on the podcast. And it's pretty cool because Lauren is also Haitian. I am not Haitian, I'm Jamaican, but my husband is Haitian. So I just thought it was pretty cool that we had a connection on that level. So I'm really excited for you to hear this episode.

Just a little bit more about Lawrence, Lawrence is the creator of the NeighborhoodFinanceGuide.com which provides financial empowerment tips and general tax guidance. He also shares his journey to Financial Freedom and Independence there. He has a strong passion for giving back to the community and has over a decade of experience working with schools and organizations through mentoring, event programming, and curriculum writing. Lawrence is a proud Haitian- American and is a decorated veteran Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps.

First a word from our sponsor DCU, also known as Digital Federal Credit Union. Now at their core credit unions were founded on the philosophy of people helping people for individuals that might find themselves part of the underbanked or underserved communities. Credit Unions offer individuals a safe place to manage their finances or help fund purchases as an alternative to other financial service providers like payday lenders. At DCU the credit union places and enhance focus on financial education by offering learning modules on key financial topics like budgeting, saving for the unexpected, building credit and much more. DCU also offers a secured credit card that could help individuals establish or improve their credit by borrowing securely against their savings balance. To learn more, check out dcu.org and stick around to the end of the show for a new segment called the DCU money tips of the week, where I'll be sharing tips to help you save and manage your money so you can reach your goals.

Okay, journeyers. I'm excited to have a fellow journeyer in the rocket chair. This week, I have Lawrence Gonzalez, better known as the neighborhood finance guy on Instagram, hi,Lawrence.

Lawrence Gonzalez 3:41

Hey, how's everybody doing.

Jamila Souffrant 3:45

Good. So okay, we follow each other on Instagram. And that's why I feel like I first connected with you and you're always really supportive of the podcast and my work. And I remember, I don't know how it went about, we probably were exchanging some sort of correspondence and on dm or maybe I responded to you. And I said, Why don't you like, here's the link to come on the show, but that was like a while ago. So before we press record, you were saying you were surprised to see that I emailed you back and was like, Yeah, come on the show.

Lawrence Gonzalez 4:12

Yeah, I was kind of like, Oh, snap surprise. It's 2020 a lot of things go weird. So this is actually the positive you like, oh, there's something good happening today. It's actually good.

Jamila Souffrant 4:20

Yeah, well, so I first of all, I gotta be honest, like, it's funny, because whenever I get to like talk to a Black man on the show, I'm always excited, honestly, because I have a lot of women on the show and I have a lot of Black woman and some white men. And when I was like looking back at like my roster of guests, like it's not that many Black men, they're Black men, obviously in this space and that I'm cool with and they're gonna be on the show, but I'm always just like, I want to like represent for the Black men. And on top of that you're Haitian. So what's up "sak pase?"

Lawrence Gonzalez 4:51

"N'ap boule"

Jamila Souffrant 4:54

And just to give you a background on that my husband is Haitian I do not speak Creole. Hence, My last name is Souffrant But it's his fault. I don't speak Creole. It's not my fault. It's like all on him.

Lawrence Gonzalez 5:04

Yeah, I'll put the blame on him. And I think the first time I actually saw or spotted you, I'm like, Jamila Souffrant that's like that's a Haitian last name. And I think she has to be Haitian but I was like, I guess she's not because she never reps Haiti. We have a big thing in the Haitian culture, like you always are gonna see the flag somewhere.

Jamila Souffrant 5:21

Go hard. Let me tell you something, y'all go hard. So I am married into the culture. But you know, I represent for Jamaica, like always, but the reason why I wanted you on the show Lawrence is because one, you have a really, I think, nice way of breaking down numbers and finance your, your page very educational. And then even when you sent me information, like your background, I was reading through it and we're gonna get through all of that, guys. I was like, you do so much you've done so much. And so we're going to talk about how you went from a negative six figure like in debt, like net worth, to positive like net worth, your background, how it lends itself to your auditor, you work in the community, you have all these things about you that I think help you explain and talk to people when it comes to money. So I can't wait to get into with you.

Lawrence Gonzalez 6:04

Definitely excited to do so too.

Jamila Souffrant 6:07

All right, so let's hop into just when you started the Neighborhood Finance Guy, because you have such like a history and like in the community, you were in the military, and you have a full time job, like what made you decide to start like a personal finance, component or brand, as a part of what you do, because I feel like you seem so busy already.

Lawrence Gonzalez 6:26

Well, I guess in the Marine Corps, we always kind of busy, but we really have more time to actually do a lot more, I think we just naturally just do more than a lot of people, you just like to get engaged, we'd like to stay active. And this is something I like to do. And I started the Neighborhood Finance Guy probably way back in 2012, when I really realized that I had a problem with my money. And that happened at one point, it was one because I saw that I had $125,000 of student loan debt, that's on top of on top of everything I was dealing with as far as credit card debt of like $5,000, because I was at the max, they couldn't give me any more. So that's the only reason I was there. So I was having problems and I went to mit.com. And I pulled up my guess the expense ratio, you start seeing how you spending out your money all all over the place, and you start noticing the pattern, then I did the math yet again, pull out excel sheet, use the math looked at it. And I realized I was spending about $375 a month on average on food by myself. At the time, I was living in a four bedroom situation, in Tallahassee, you know, basically college town. So that's kind of how we, we all kind of have our spaces. So we're there and all the other guys while I'm cooking generally for everybody else, and everybody's eating, everybody's having a good time. And I'm calculating their money because they all eat out in different ways. It turns out, we were spending about $2,400 a month on food. That was the average that we were pulling off when I told those guys that and they just kind of looked at me like, Ah, you're crazy. And they really went on their merry way. Because I couldn't express to them how much money we're spending, I had to figure out a new way to I guess educate them on what was going on. So that's how I got into this little financial literacy space. Because I was like, I need to know enough for this information. So I could teach them what's going on. So they could understand a little bit more. So every time I said something like a 401k. They're like what? So I had to go figure out some other way to figure it. So to do this, either excel sheets didn't work. I started doing like drawings, if I had to, I started calling them on the phone I had to is literally telling them anything and everything.

Jamila Souffrant 8:34

Okay, so let's go back then. So at that point, you were in $125,000 worth of debt at that point when you started to realize how much you were spending and that was mostly student loans. So what did you go to school for?

Lawrence Gonzalez 8:46

I went to school for a master's in accounting specializing in taxation. Wow. Okay, it sounds fancy, but I never really finished. Because I literally was coming up with so much money that it just felt like there's something wrong and I needed to start working to actually pay it off.

Jamila Souffrant 9:01

You mean you are accumulating a lot of debt?

Lawrence Gonzalez 9:04

Yes, it was too much that it was way too much. And there was no end in sight. I think I had like four more credit hours, or almost like a whole half year to complete. And that I didn't know exactly how much that would cost. And I was like, I need to figure out how to get a job as soon as possible.

Jamila Souffrant 9:18

Okay, and I'm gonna go a little bit back deeper into your story, because I feel like a lot of people can relate. So you actually grew up in Haiti, right?

Lawrence Gonzalez 9:25

Yes, yes, I was born in Miami, but my mom was a single mom and she couldn't take care of us. So she sent me and my older sister was like two years older than me at the time. I was 11 months. So they sent me there. I had, I still had no idea who my mom really was until nine years later. That's how long I spent in Haiti. So and even when I was coming to America, it was actually funny cuz my aunt told me her you want to go on vacation? And then she pointed at like Florida, and she said, Oh, go to Disney. Where I'm like, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a lie. She packed everything I had and sent me back home.

Jamila Souffrant 9:55

So sent you back to Miami?

Lawrence Gonzalez 9:57

Yes.

Jamila Souffrant 9:58

Wow, it's so so interesting. It's like the reverse. Kinda like way because typically like, so I'm also child of immigrant but I was actually left behind in Jamaica while my mom established herself in the United States. But I guess it was cheaper for your mom to have you in Haiti. And that's, I mean, that happens often a lot to like and sent you probably back money and things to help raise you from afar.

Lawrence Gonzalez 10:18

Yeah, I didn't have I had no idea who she was for, until like, maybe at eight years old, she came to town kind of visit. And I was like, Oh, this is our mom and my sisters. Like, yeah, that's our mom. So she had to confirm, like who she was, cause we never saw her the entire time.

Jamila Souffrant 10:33

So when you came here at night, so I'm going back to like, kind of get your money story and how you got to the point where you went to college, which a lot of us do, like, you know, you're entering college, and then you're getting advanced degrees. And you're, you know, you're trying to change the cycle of whatever it is with your family and wealth. And so you're gonna do as whatever you can to get ahead. But then we're not taught about student loan debt, or maybe making the best choices when it comes to like the school versus the tuition costs. So at what point, you said that you realize it was like too much money, but like that you were spending. So like, you never finished that degree, you just said,

Lawrence Gonzalez 11:06

I never finished that degree. That's something I had to come clean with everybody all the time that even though I learned enough about it, at some point, it just the debt becomes so much it's suffocates you, and you realize there's something has to give you like, do I take on the additional 10? More, maybe another 20? More thousand dollars? Because graduate school credits are a lot more expensive? They're about $1,000 per hour,

Jamila Souffrant 11:28

right? Where are you working at the time, we're going to grad school full time,

Lawrence Gonzalez 11:31

I was just going to grad school full time at a time.

Jamila Souffrant 11:33

So then, on top of that, you had to like have loans for your living expenses. It's not like you know, and no income. So okay, what do you do? Because at this point, like six figures of student loan debt, you don't have your finished degree. What were you thinking at that time, like to get out of this

Lawrence Gonzalez 11:48

Impure genius moment, I decided to take out my 401k, from my military time that I spent overseas, so I was like, Oh, I have $5,000, I'll use that, to get me a CPA degree. So by by studying for the license, and I spent all that money. So I took on that initial fee, which when you're withdraw for 401k, you're gonna get that fee, and then eventually, the year after they hit you with another fee, because that's when you see it in your taxes again, so you see it twice. So I took that money I tried to study but I was still so frazzled with everything. I was trying to live my life trying to pay off bills, trying to really just focus, couldn't do it. And I had to go get a job. And the first job or the only job I was able to get was paying $23,000 before taxes.

Jamila Souffrant 12:33

Wow. And what Job was that?

Lawrence Gonzalez 12:35

That was at the Florida Department of Agricultural, basically the admin Secretary job. It was a glorified admin secretary, but I was there. And it was the only job and I was grateful for it. It was one of those days, especially in Florida, if you know about it, like we don't we sometimes have like roll down windows and no AC while it's raining. So even that day was happening. Everything was that was worse. That was happening. It was happening at one time, right. So I just took the job. And I thought it was the best job I could ever, I guess achieve at the time and started working from there.

Jamila Souffrant 13:07

So what year was this?

Lawrence Gonzalez 13:08

This was back in 2012. Shortly after in the fall, I got that job making 23. I worked there for six months, I started tweaking my resume at the same time learning the language of a resume. So how do you express this in just one page, and almost to a point of mastery, I sent it to somebody else, and I got a job, I guess another job an elevated job paying $32,000 a year. Okay. Then shortly after that, six months later, I did the same thing as I was kind of like, you know, doing my documents working my paperwork. And I did my resume again. One of the ladies says, Hey, you should apply for the higher level position. Okay, all right, cool. I applied for it. I got rejected because I was there for such a short amount of time. So I went back to my desk and apply for a job working for the government. And lo and behold, I got this, I got a job making $64,000, six months later,

Jamila Souffrant 14:02

from the $32,000 job.

Lawrence Gonzalez 14:04

Yes.

Jamila Souffrant 14:04

Okay. So that's like, double of what you were making before. And I want to like just point out things for people because I always like to, like, have people think, Okay, how does this apply to me? So you were able to take whatever skill sets you were bringing on or having and using at your current situation, your job, put that in the resume form. So you have to understand how to like write your resume in the proper way. And you probably have to tailor it to the places you were sending it to. So you know, you knew exactly what they were looking for. But I think that's that's incredible that you doubled your income.

Lawrence Gonzalez 14:34

Yeah, I don't think during that process, too. I'd learned it's not just I was doing my own resume. I started learning these techniques. And I started saying, guys, do you know our techniques, like our resume suck, we need to actually fix them because nobody was actually reading their their resumes. There's a lot of grammatical errors in there. There's a lot of just bad information. Let's say if you were majorette in high school, I'm like, Why is this here? It was like because I did it. I worked at McDonald's when I was in high school that was in there at it take that out, I had to literally learn what's important on the resume. Even if it goes from a three page to just a one page. If a one page is more effective, that's what you need, right? So I started helping everybody that I can with their own resumes as well. So they'll just send me their resumes, I'll review it. And that helped me process you know, almost language better. Like what can I do better about my resume? What can I do better on a, an interview? How can I actually help other people as well? So as you help other people, sometimes, it also helps you?

Jamila Souffrant 15:29

Oh, yes, I love that. So what was this job that you started making? $64,000 in

Lawrence Gonzalez 15:35

this job...64 are the current job that I have right now as an auditor? Okay, so I stayed up there. And now I guess now they promoted me to $109,000.

Jamila Souffrant 15:46

Okay, so six figure income at this point, starting from in 2012. A $23,000? income?

Lawrence Gonzalez 15:52

Yes, yes. So it's definitely not the end for everybody. It's not the end.

Jamila Souffrant 15:56

So it sounds like to like so you still found your way, Seems like you were always good at math and numbers, because you still find your way into like, the auditing field. So you had tried and you know, I think this is interesting. So you tried like the degree you tried to CPA, so the CPA thing never worked out? From what I hear

Lawrence Gonzalez 16:11

the CPA thing never worked out? Not yet. Still need to work on it.

Jamila Souffrant 16:14

Okay, so I find that interesting, because sometimes people have this like one way of like, Okay, if I had a vision of being a lawyer, and so they thought that lawyers only way to go, but then these skill sets that it takes to be an amazing lawyer that you can use in other areas of the field, or just totally separately. And so some people would have like, given up and they're just like, Well, you know, I have an interest in math, but like, I can't complete these things that I'm starting. But you still found a way to use what you love and this passion you have for numbers into your job that you have now. I would love to talk through that a little bit.

Lawrence Gonzalez 16:46

Yeah, part of it is really trying to figure out what works best for you. So for me, testing might not be the thing. But I'm very creative. And I'm very much like, if anything happens, you know, as far as like, critical things are happening around me, I'm very much very relaxed. So I could actually come up with solutions very quick. It's not as valuable on the test. But as far as in, you know, work conversation, different people, or what I need to do at work at a how I need to think about something creatively, that's what I do. So I do understand anybody that feels that, hey, this didn't work out, that didn't work out. And it's true, maybe it's just not your style. But even at my job, currently, my HR makes more than me, my HR Secretary makes more than me, that's because you don't have to be the auditor at the job. You don't have to be the accountant, you don't have to be the lawyer, you just have to, you know, basically seek a better life for yourself that actually works. Sometimes your skills and what you have innately might be different from what you perceive your life should be.

Jamila Souffrant 17:44

Hmm.

Right, right. Because I think too, like the construct of where we live, it is you know, especially kids, I have kids in school, it's all about, you know, like right knee, get the test, you know, sit straight, get the hundred on a test, and not everyone learns and displays their gifts in that way. And when you're conditioned in this manner, and you're not succeeding in the ways that society wants you to succeed, and I think it can lead you to discount what it is that you're actually good at. So it takes like the understanding of really Alright, like, what are my strengths? And how can I still use that to earn me more money and live my life?

Lawrence Gonzalez 18:20

Yeah, that's exactly right. Because for me, it's about being a strategist. I think that's really my passion. This is what I do. I understand some things schematic wise, that could bring into something I can actually use. And what really sparked me a little bit was my grandmother, because thinking about her, and it's like, okay, I can't make $23,000 work. I was like, Lawrence, you have seen somebody that that done that your grandmother never made more than $23,000. She had six kids. She lived a great life. And so how did she do it? How did she pull it off? I started thinking about what was my grandmother doing? What's her daily routine, like? They did meal prep all the time. We didn't call it meal prep back then it wasn't his fancy term. It was just the way that they were doing it. That's how they live. They live below their means because they didn't have a lot. So they were very economical about how they do things. They even bartered a lot. They bartered services, they always did side hustling all these new terms, right? These new like ways of life that were there. My grandmother did all of those things. A lot of Caribbean parents did all those things all the time.

Jamila Souffrant 19:19

Yeah, it's so crazy. It's just like sometimes with like, personal finance, especially the financial independence movement like that, you know, you're coming up with all these hacks, and it's like, Listen, this is what we like, our family has been doing this like, I didn't necessity not because of choice and I think it puts us in such a unique opportunity and perspective. Like I know like living in today's world with today's you know, nice dog niceties we can have and then just like especially if you live in a high cost of area living like the standards are a little bit different. And I find like there's two things happening there is that well, my like my mom grew up at some point she didn't have running water like we're, you know how she grew up and she grew up very poor. And so are a lot of people you experienced that were your parents or your grandparents. experience that so then to come and to a place where you're saying I'm choosing to actually live really below my means. They're like, we didn't work this hard for you to like, not look like you don't have anything like, you know, you buy the house like drive the nice car some something right? Like they want you to they don't want to see you struggle, because they equate kind of like what they came from and something that you shouldn't have to do. And then I feel like it's the people who are like doing this, and they don't have a choice. So how can we use that to our advantage?

Lawrence Gonzalez 20:27

I think part of it is to trying to find out what you really love to do. I don't know if it was one of your podcasts you're actually speaking on, cause I typically run. Well listen to these podcasts, I can't write any notes. But ultimately, it's a matter of finding what you really love to do. Some people think that they need a big home, but you have to think, Okay, how do you clean this big home? Some people think that they want to entertain, it's like, I want to go find a home so I can buy it. So I can entertain people, but then realize you have kids and you don't entertain anybody because you're just at home, and you're enjoying your life. So there's all these different things that we need to start dissecting away from our understanding, even if my mom calls me and says, Hey, you need to buy a, a four bedroom home and like with what kids, I have to start, like, you know, defining those parameters, not to say that I don't want to live up, you know, against a better life all the time. But in the end of the day, but this is the life for me, I love it. I have a fridge with food in there. And I'm very grateful for that. So sometimes it's not as like, crazy, you do not have to be the Joneses to actually live a life that you deserve and that you love. Every day you wake up with your soul relax, you're so stress free. This is exactly what people really want in their lives.

Jamila Souffrant 21:33

Yes, it's that yes, that feeling that security the options like so if I choose to, you know, live poor, right, I'm just like, quote unquote, poor you know, like, really on less like, that's my choice. But it's to have the choice, I think is from what most people want. So okay, now you're making Well, we've kind of skipped ahead to where you're like making six figures. But like even before that, now, you're not paying off your debt. How long did that take you?

Lawrence Gonzalez 21:57

still paying off my debt. So I think there's still that's happening all the time, I'm getting married. And turns out as of like, two days ago, my fiance told me cuz I literally thought we're done paying for stuff. And so she said, Oh, we got an additional 10 grand to pay, you know, November, I almost died in that chair. I was so shocked. Wow, I didn't know where my money was coming from. But ultimately, debt is something for me I live with, it's very manageable. And certainly very simple. I have enough assets that cover me. But ultimately how we process it is, first we tackle the credit card debt that we have that are 24%/25%, we start knocking that down as soon as possible. If we could get a credit card with zero APR that could afford you a little bit more time as you figure things out. We also me and my fiance we tackled on undergraduate student loans, so we she's basically debt free. Technically, she could she could say that, me, I still have the $90,000 in graduate school debt, that's under public student loan forgiveness plan. So that's a little bit more time that's up like five more years, and then I'll be done with that. But everything else that we have, we maximize that we make a fair use of it, we do a lot with our 401k or IRAs or HSA are maxed out and are even taxable brokerage accounts are also max as well.

Jamila Souffrant 23:13

So I think this is actually a great example of still having debt and investing at the same time and reaching your financial goals. Because there's some like experts that are just like pay down all your debt, but you know, it's okay to strategically hold debt, especially if it's like a low interest rate. Or if you're in a like a public loan forgiveness program where you expect it to, you know, from some of it to be forgiven. There's a strategy to that, and it's okay, so I love that you're saying even though you have debt, you have found a way to manage it, which I feel like some people just need to like work through just living with it while they're paying it off. But also, while they're investing and accumulating wealth,

Lawrence Gonzalez 23:47

yeah, because if I only focused on paying down all the $125,000, I would not be as far as I am today, I actually own a home, I have a rental property, I also have a small business starting up. So all these little things would not have happened if all my focus was just on paying down the debt, I'll likely be in this year, done paying it off if I actually did it just straight for. And I would never accumulated anything in my 401k nothing of the matching contributions, none of the tax savings associated with the matching contributions. None of that would be there. It just be I'd be debt free. And I guess I'd be happy. But I wouldn't have anything to actually even purchase a home after that. It would take me some time as well. So I'll learn throughout the process that is just not as great for everybody.

Jamila Souffrant 24:34

Yeah, and I and that's the thing. There's some people who being debt free at all costs, like that's all that matters, and they'll worry about building the assets on the other side, right? And I'm more probably like you were even if I had debt, or you know, I have my mortgage now. Like I'm still gonna aggressively invest at the same time, if I can. So I love that this is a unique journey is everyone's journey is going to be unique. So you may be listening and you're just like, Well, no, I need to pay off my debt. I can't like sleep at night. With this debt, but you may be thinking, you know what, like, I know I have this debt, but I also want to, like buy a home or invest in something else. Like, you can do that, too. You just have to figure out what works for you.

Lawrence Gonzalez 25:10

Yeah, I think anytime you if you're like $20,000 worth of student loan debt, yeah, that's a lot of money. But that's doable. When you start thinking about people carrying $80,000 $100,000, that's really, it's gonna take you a lot longer than that, to actually knock it down. And that's what gets a lot more difficult and could actually spiral people down the wrong path. I've worked with somebody that had the same debt story that I had, she had 80,000, I had, you know, the additional 80,000. And we're just both on there and eventually capitalize it to the 90. So we both have this and she decided to go on a debt free journey. She froze her, her credit cards, she said, You know what, I'm gonna get a personal loan to get all my credit cards, that's what she did. And a year later asked her what you know, almost like we're coming back together and try to figure out what happened a year later, I was on my way to owning a home, she actually, I guess, unfroze her credit cards at some point because she wanted to use it because she hasn't dealt with herself and what she really loved. But she really wanted to just use a credit card, she has now the credit cards, on top of the personal loan, on top of the debt. So for some people as much as we see online, the the photos, the debt free journeys, and screams and all the what the glitz and glam is, there's a lot of people that do almost fall back, and have to start all over again.

Jamila Souffrant 26:30

And this is why like the emotional and mindset part of it is so important to uncover. Again, it's a deep journey. No one can tell you, you know, we can give you our journeys. And you can see like what resonates, but no one can tell you exactly what's going to motivate you what's going to have you stick to like the goals you set, you know, the underlying even issues just from our childhood and how we were raised about money like that impact how how we are today as adults, I think it's just fascinating how two people can walk the exact same path or have the exact same maybe tools and have totally different outcomes because of their mindset and how they perceive and view things.

Lawrence Gonzalez 27:06

Oh, God, that'd be fascinating.

Jamila Souffrant 27:08

Yeah, okay, so you still have debt, but you're making progress. Like with your investments, you own a home, I love since you mentioned that you're getting married, like how your partner and you talk about money? Because you've been on this journey for a while now, when you met her was she also very financially aware or was that something you had to work together here to do?

Lawrence Gonzalez 27:29

She started off kind of like me, that we were aware that we have an issue we are we want things to get better. But for the most part, if you don't have the income level, is just gonna take you a long time. So she was living with, you know, almost like fixing the issues, but she was just still living, she was still enjoying herself. And we met at a Friendgiving, like, I guess in 2016, or something might have been 2016 2017. I'm wrong. She's gonna kill me for this. But either way, we met at a Friendgiving. And she started following me. So she see that talk about financial literacy. She didn't know a lot about it. But every time that she has a question, she'd just ask, and that to me was always kind of I guess that was the tell sign that she was the right one because she was the person that just like she went to ask, he wasn't afraid. It wasn't something that she had to hide behind. Because she had her debt. I think she had 40,000. By the time we we met, and this year, we tackled it down all the way to nothing. So it was just us talking through and understanding what matters, because all the interest that you're accumulating on the credit card or even the student loans, we could tackle that together very easy.

Jamila Souffrant 28:33

Yeah, that's the thing when you have a partner and you can get on the same page, and there's additional income, you are combining your forces together, like you can do a lot together, especially if you're on the same page about spending and cutting back or being you know, smart about things.

Lawrence Gonzalez 28:47

Oh, come on the same page. Sometimes she takes off, at least at the very beginning. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it may seem like it was all rosy. It wasn't bad. It was just like, sometimes I'd be sitting at home, you know, working from home, whatnot, she goes, she she goes to the grocery store. But then she goes to other places, on the way back. If I go to a grocery store, I go to the grocery store, and I come back, she stops every other location that she needs to. And that works out and then then I see something in our personal capital, like what was this thing? I think we got robbed. But oh, it's something that you did?

Jamila Souffrant 29:21

Well, listen, this is that's a reality for like a lot of couples. So even you know, on the same page doesn't mean like every day you're reading from the same page, it just means you know, you're generally in the same direction and you will be reading the same book, but you could maybe be on different chapters. Because you know, my husband and I like you know, while he's not as financially aware, or like of our budget as much as I am, right so we can probably even save more, if he was more like me, but he's not and he's human and that's life. And so I think for a lot of people it's important to like acknowledge that because then they think of your partner kind of goes out and does something or even you you know, you want to just enjoy or do something outside of Have the budget that maybe pushes things back a bit that you failed? And it's like, no, no. This is life, for most couples, like it's hard to just keep yourself in check. So two people, and if you have kids on top of that, that's a harder task. Don't beat yourself up if it's not perfect all the time.

Lawrence Gonzalez 30:16

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. Because sometimes I think the money nerds excel sheet, people, there tend to be like, oh, we're gonna count everything, we're gonna like line item, everything down the line. But everybody else is different. And that's why we have a different partner, sometimes our partner brings in that life that that looseness that we need anyways, so we could enjoy it. So it's not the end of the day, if something happens in that line item, I'm not really worried as much if we get robbed on the credit card, that's more of my concern. And then we work around that we have to work together to actually go to where we're gonna go.

Jamila Souffrant 30:45

Right. So what are some things that you you're doing as a couple to help you get to your goals? I know like on your account, I think one of your other posts was about like, you save or invest? Is it 50% of your income?

Lawrence Gonzalez 30:57

We're almost at 50%. Today, I actually did the the breakdown with like, 48.6% of our investment. So we're investing very aggressively. But I think at the same time, we're still living even last year, we went to 14 countries in 12 days, or was it 12 countries in 14 days? Sorry, reverse. So it's not that you cannot enjoy your life, we just have to front load what's important front loading the actual investments, putting all that money, so you could reap the the tax savings, as well as the benefits in the long run? And then you could still do what you want to do.

Jamila Souffrant 31:30

Right? Right. I love that. And you just brought up tax savings. So I did want to bring that up with you. Because So one of the ways that you guys are aggressively investing is in your pre tax retirement accounts. So you're, which is I mean, it's a game changer if you have the income to support that and even though you still have debt, so you don't have any more credit card debt. It's more just a student loan.

Lawrence Gonzalez 31:51

No, we're coming, we're coming back with some credit card debt in in November for the wedding

Jamila Souffrant 31:56

Oh, because of the wedding. Okay, but I'm sure you guys have paid that off once you focus on paying it off. But I think it's interesting because people think about investing in their 401k and maxing it out eventually, you know, as a goal. But how much tax savings that you get, not only are you investing for your future, but like you're paying less taxes because your taxable income, like decreases. So you did have a post that I wanted to just like talk through, and I'll link it in the show notes for the episode. And we don't to get too technical, because I know like it goes into the numbers a bit. But the average income for most people, like if you want to retire comfortably, like you need to make $78,000, like invest up to $9,000 a year. Do you want to talk to that?

Lawrence Gonzalez 32:37

Yes, I call Well, I'm not quite sure where I got the term, but I think they call it the magic number and think somebody hinted at it, but they never really developed it. So I ended up writing about what it is the magic number and doing the mathematical formula to prove it. So in I guess when I grew up in Haiti, that was the point of math, like you have to prove, you know why the solution is a solution. You can't just say that one plus one is one you have to say why is one plus one is one. So I have to understand that broken apart. And the US Census Bureau, I believe they do an annual survey that they release almost like every other year. So the if it's 2019, you'll see the 2017 numbers. And from those numbers, we could see that majority of the average family itself, average retirees they spend about $50,000 per year, because they spent about $50,000 per year, you could use the math to work your way back to figure out how much would you need in order to survive let's say 25 years, they say is that that's the outcome if you want to if you and your husband, your spouse, or however you want to go about it, if if you want to survive for additional 20 years and not be a financial detriment to your family, and you just want to kind of give back and actually provide. If you want to do that, then you'd have to be around $50,000 a year as price inflates themselves. So because of it, that number ends up being about if you saved it, if you did the math to $50,000 times 25 is 1.2 million. That's what you need for retirement. It sounds like a lot, but you wouldn't have to do all this heavy lifting. That's the big thing. When you take the numbers back to what it is you really just need 875,000 because the rest of that would come from Social Security. The average Social Security, I believe, is $15,000 a year. So you could work that math back and you only really need $875,000 that means an aggressive savings of about $580 per month for 30 years.

Jamila Souffrant 34:37

Okay, let's pause there because I know like we're getting into the numbers and people are like, Okay, I get that. Maybe I got that. Maybe not. But I just want to just recap what you said. So essentially, if you're thinking about averages right now, the average person based on this study spends $50,000 a year in retirement. Now if you did the math, the quick calculation and you know this how you can calculate how much you need to reach financial independence. With your portfolio, your investments have enough money to support you, you'd multiply your annual expenses by 25. So multiplying 50,000, by 25, gives you 1.25 million, that's how much you would need to then be able to support yourself ongoing. But what Lawrence is saying is that Social Security, if it's around, hopefully it is, typically is $15,000 a year. So that reduces how much you need annually to live and survive, which is a good thing, if you get social security, which then decreases how much you need to save. So I'm doing this exercise with, you know, everyone just to think through like, because we talk about reaching financial independence, and it sounds good, but like, what about the numbers? Like, how does one actually do that. And so what Lawrence is saying is, if you can, like get that down to only being 875,000, because you'll also can depend on either Social Security or maybe a pension, then you need to save like, around 500, what was the number a month,

Lawrence Gonzalez 35:59

or $588 per month for 30 years,

Jamila Souffrant 36:02

so $588, that's how much you need to invest over time to get to this number of being okay. Now, I know some people are just like, Well, I'm not anywhere close to maybe being able to invest $580 a month. But I think even investing half of that, or a quarter of that still gets you further along than not doing it and to understand the numbers and how compounding interest works. Even if you have a shorter timeframe. So maybe you don't have like as long as 30 years you have 20 still puts you in a better position.

Lawrence Gonzalez 36:34

That's basically it. That's the idea is like, once we hear a lot of financial experts, they just drop the word like $1 million. Let's say you're making $35,000 a year, it sounds astronomical. But I wanted to break it down into such a way that we find out exactly what do we need to start off with? Where do you need to just figure out, Okay, can I invest? Can I start, you're gonna start noticing that your money compounds, so it's not you doing all this heavy lifting to get to the $1 million mark or $875,000 mark, this is something that compounds in your interest itself would actually pay you even more. So if you actually took this to the extreme and really focused it down to maybe even 800 a month, that will actually net you in 30 years. $1.3 million, but that 1.3, 1 million of it would would have been accumulated through interest alone. Yeah, yeah, that's reassuring, to me, it's not to say that this is the perfect thing, it's the reassurance that you could get into this situation, you get into this market, start actually investing in yourself, and then it can actually work out for you. So it doesn't have to be this zero sum game where nothing ever works, it can work, you just have to invest in yourself,

Jamila Souffrant 37:42

right, and you have to if you have to start out small, because you're in the process of paying off debt, fine, but just start because the time is gonna pass anyway, like, that's the thing, like, you know, in my early 20s, when I didn't really care about investing in my 401k. Like, if I would have did that not like, I would have had that money now, I would have had more money. So you know, God willing, will be here in 20 years, and you're gonna wish that you would have started. So when it comes to just like, where you are now, how do you view your future goals? So I know you know, you're getting married, which is an exciting time, you are looking ahead to your future? How do you first see like your money journey? Is financial independence, something that you're going towards? Are you more like, you know what, I like my job, I have no intentions of ever quitting, I'm good with where I am like, how do you see things?

Lawrence Gonzalez 38:32

Okay, two terms, I would say one, in five years, we're gonna reach million dollar status. That's the first thing million dollar net worth

Jamila Souffrant 38:41

invested. So in your portfolios together,

Lawrence Gonzalez 38:43

all everything all totality will be a million dollars plus. That's where we want to be justice. The whole point is to show other people that is very much possible. If you put some effort in it, I'm not gonna say is the easiest thing. It's not impossible. It's, it's, I guess it's a, it's improbable, but not impossible. So there's still a chance, there's still a little bit of an odd in there. And you can actually pull this off, and it doesn't have to take that long. So we're trying to pull it off in five years. And after that, in 15 years, we're going to retire. And in the retirement stuff, obviously, I guess they would call it financial, fire, you know, part of the fire movement, but me, I'll actually just tried to do a little bit more for the community try to even open up small business spaces so I can get smart businesses come in, and also provide even more services to the community because the more we, the more I feel that I can help other people, the better the community's going to be anyways, and the more it's almost like the more happiness around me. So no matter what it fulfills my own purpose. And all this at the same time that I know that my money is gonna keep growing as is invested at wherever it is. So part of what I'm doing now or part of what me and my fiance are doing is really suring up that boat, figuring out what we need to do. And for her, she's actually gonna start doing a little bit more discussions about Type one diabetes because she has type one diabetes. So there's a lot of different people that don't talk about it. So she just, that's what she wants to do to kind of share a little bit more. So gives a little bit more advice for people facing that, she was diagnosed when she was like a teenager when she was 16. So it's hard enough to be a teenager was harder, even more than thinking about, Hey, your mortality all day, every day.

Jamila Souffrant 40:22

Right, right. And that's the beauty of getting your money in order in this way. And you having money and being wealthy and financially independent and secure, allows you to one, to live a good life yourself, but then to also impact so many people around you, in a way that really makes a difference and through just like you showing people like you just went from saying, you know, in 2012 you're making $23,000 you know, you didn't finish your master's degree, you didn't finish your CPA, I don't mean to like run down all your like, worst parts. Like I just felt like and this was only what that's eight years ago. Yeah, it's not that long ago, and you able to transition now someone who was like earning over six figures, in five years projected to have a net worth of over a million dollars like this is possible for people. And I want to say just like, oh, if I can do it, then you can do it, or Lawrence can do it. You can do it. It's more of this quote. And I said earlier in the talk I did today that I just love it's like this concept of "If none can do it, you can be one. If one can do it, you can be two." So it's like, yeah, of course, your situation may be completely different, different starting point, but it's possible. And I just I just love your story, Lawrence.

Lawrence Gonzalez 41:38

Yeah, that's the whole point about it for me is, throughout the process, what I found more rewarding throughout the journey, exactly what it is, is the first part I learned about resumes and how much we need to develop our resumes, especially in the black and brown community, we have a lot of talented people, a lot of very smart and coherent people. When you look at the resume, you're like, ah, the resume got problems. And we need to tackle that. So the next thing I started to see, oh, we need to actually do a little bit better with our savings. Let's do a money challenge. Let's do that, oh, we need to do better with our 401k, we don't talk about it enough. So let's talk about it. Let's share stuff on Instagram, let's share whenever we see why not just share the podcast, let's share listening opportunities. On top of that, you just continue to always evolve to the next thing. So you think about taxes, what does that tax do? I help other people with their taxes. So we continue to do this, and I even help one of my buddies get his first home. So that was also like the money came to me. But I was also able to help directly with my own funds to help my other friend where I was the best man at his wedding, I ended up you know, helping him buy his first home. And now he also has a second art and things on his third rental property. Yeah, so it was almost like everybody can help each other could have this synergy. It exists. You don't, it doesn't have to be an actual number, I'm just gonna use the number to show people as possible. But the number almost, it could have been 500,000 doesn't matter to me, it's just I need to show you that it's possible. So you can actually start putting your foot to it. And then even if it takes you 30 years, but at least you've done more than nothing.

Jamila Souffrant 43:10

Yeah, and some of the things you just said brought up in me was one, I know what's going for the big goal, right? Like, okay, I want to like reach financial independence, I want to reach that million dollars, I want to pay off all my debt. But even the small things you're doing now, which you don't think you know, or that like, amazing. It's like, it is amazing, because like you talked about just like read your resume like this, like these are these are little pebbles, and little things that are little rocks that create the mountain. And you're talking about just like focusing on a resume, which seems so small, but is the catalyst that got you a better job and focusing on all these other things got you to the position you are today. So it just I think it's hopeful because wherever you are right now, you working on the small things, right? You're just working on that budget right now, you know, you're working on just learning and understanding the fees of your 401k. All that matters. And then on top of that you don't have to wait to reach financial independence and have all the money in the world to be of service or helping to help others. So you can help yourself, you can still do that on the journey. Like as you go as you teach you teach. Or as you learn, you teach what you're learning

Lawrence Gonzalez 44:12

I think part of a lot of people they don't know that they have their own story to tell. So I've listened to teachers who messed up on the public student loan thing. I'm like, you could teach other teachers how to not to mess up and that could become your bread and butter. I've seen other I ran into one kid, I guess I was doing a speech on a college tour, something that I went to one kid he said that he I guess he failed at the job and he filed for bankruptcy. And yeah, I didn't know exactly what that means for him. But I told him like he has a story now. it no matter how he crashed it no matter where he goes with it. He could go he could teach a course in college right now about what it is like to you know, at least file for bankruptcy. Yeah, it's a shame. He might feel shame from at the very beginning, but that might help him that might be the course correct. That creates the next book. I remember one story of a woman. Elizabeth White. That was her name.

Jamila Souffrant 45:04

Oh, she was on the podcast.

Lawrence Gonzalez 45:06

For whatever reason, she was faking normal. That was her big thing. She was faking normal. I was like, Oh, I think Yeah, she might have been a podcast then, I found online and I found her story. And that was her thing. She was faking normal and then one day she woke up, she wrote, you know, almost in the shame she just wrote, like, almost, yeah, to PBS or something like that. Yeah. And from that point on, her story became something else. Like she ended up being the author of that story going around the country giving tours, all these little things matter. So instead of hiding yourself, hiding the failures, hiding the things that are not so good, or even hiding the journey that you're on, share it, you never know, that might be the thing that helps you get out your journey faster.

Jamila Souffrant 45:50

Absolutely. And that was Episode 59. With Elizabeth White, she was on the podcast, and she talked about her story of like, like not literally not waking up to her finances and fixing things until she was 55 years old. This was amazing. Lawrence, I want everyone to know where they can like follow up with you and find you. So please share,

Lawrence Gonzalez 46:07

you could find me on IG primarily, @theneighborhoodfinanceguy, and also online at the neighborhoodfinanceguy.com, I basically try to share as much information as possible. If somebody has a question in the comments, or even a concept, I literally take that concept, go to Canva create a whole new thing. So I could actually teach not just yourself but everybody else about things that we all individually learning from. So that's what I love to do. That's what I'm about. And if anything, if you learn nothing from here, Stay Stay tuned and watch Journey to Launch. It actually helped me a lot helped me in the run. I hate running.

Jamila Souffrant 46:43

Same here. I don't know. Like why do we run then I don't understand why I go out and run if I hate it so much. It's an efficient way of getting workout

Lawrence Gonzalez 46:52

That's what they say. I wish I was one of those people that you know, I guess do the committal thing. But he's on I can't zone out.

Jamila Souffrant 46:59

Literally he has it when I'm writing. I'm just like, wait, why am I here? But then afterwards, I'm like, Okay, this is good. This is great. So all right. If you love this, it's something stood out for you tag myself, @jounreytolaunch, and @theneighborhoodfinanceguy on Instagram and your stories are in your post so we could see it and see what you liked about that episode. Thank you so much, Lawrence, again for coming on the show.

Lawrence Gonzalez 47:17

Thank you for having me. And thank you for doing what you're doing for the community.

Jamila Souffrant 47:25

Okay, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Lawrence. I always like talking to people who are in the journey. So talking to someone who's within the journey, but also very transparent, right with their numbers. And what they're doing I think just hopefully will encourage you, no matter your starting point that things are possible. And I hope from this episode if you did gain anything let me know so tag journey to launch @Journeytolaunch and @Neighborhoodfinanceguy on Instagram. So share it on Instagram maybe your biggest takeaway or aha moment so we both can see it and respond and promote basically what you learn so others can know to check out the podcast.

Okay, it's time for DCU's Tip of the Week. Now, holiday shopping is upon us. The holidays are right around the corner. So if you in past years have been scrambling last minute for gifts or overspending. Consider shopping now. Use this early fall to prepare a gift plan and budget to shop earlier and smarter and spend less, there are lots of places right now giving lots of discounts and deals, so be on the lookout for them. And don't wait to the last minute. For more help reaching your money goals, check out dcu.org

If you want to check out the episode shownotes that's where you can get links to anything that's mentioned, and even get a transcribed version of this episode that you can read. Go to journeytolaunch.com or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. Now you can also still grab your free journeyer jumpstart guide by texting, launch to 33777 or go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart.

If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show. One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen, whether that's Apple podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you are not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this and Apple podcasts, rate review and subscribe there I appreciate and read every single review. Number two follow me on my social media accounts. I'm @journeytolaunch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with journeyers. They're three support and check out the sponsors of this show. If you hear something that interests you, sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So show them some love for supporting your girl. Four, and last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker so that we can spread the message of Journey to Launch. Alright, that's it until next week, keep on journeying journeyers

(This post may include some affiliate links)

Lawrence Gonzalez had a choice to make: should he continue falling deeper into debt or get serious and make a plan? With 6 figures of debt, Lawrence decided it was time to make a decision: to be in control of his finances.  He made the decision to not finish graduate school, get a job, and ultimately, live the life he wanted. 

Lawrence is a proud Haitian-American and decorated veteran Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps. He grew up in Haiti until the age of nine and witnessed that his grandmother with six kids was able to make it work with a very low income.  

For Lawrence it all came down to having a strategy. One of the many strategies and skills that Lawrence was able to hone was the language of resumes.  He began working on mastering his resume and went from his first job in 2012 of making $23,000 to getting a new job a year later bringing home $32,000. He saw how much a resume mattered, so 6 months later he did it again but this time managed to secure a government position and doubled his income to $64,000. Now in 2020, he is still in the same government position as an Auditor but has since been promoted and is now bringing in $109,000. 

Even though Lawrence did not finish school, what helped him excel was that he knew his strengths, his passion and wanted to give back to his community.  His story also shows us that you can still have debt and reach your financial goals. Debt is something that he chooses to live with and is manageable for him because he has a strategy. Focusing on building assets and investing has allowed him to own a home, a rental property, and start a small business, which would have been impossible if he focused on paying off his debt first.  Now he is on the journey to achieving his goals of reaching a million dollar net worth in 5 years and retiring in 15 years.

Lawrence acknowledges that reaching Financial Freedom gives him and his fiancé the opportunity to do even more in the community and help people around them live their best lives. He believes there is a powerful synergy when we help each other out and show others what is possible. 

The main message here is to just start and put one foot in front of the other. We can all do extraordinary things when we just decide to put our foot on the gas. 

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How to increase your income  
  • How to calculate your magic number to reach financial freedom
  • The importance of having and owning your story 
  • How to have debt and reach your financial goals and much more…

Special thanks to DCU for sponsoring the episode! Learn more about DCU by clicking here.

I'm listening to Episode 180 of the #journeytolaunch podcast, How Lawrence Amassed a Six Figure Net Worth and Doubled His Income to Six Figures (while still in debt) Click To Tweet

Other related blog posts/links mentioned in this episode:

  • Check out Lawrence’s Instagram post of him and his finacé saving/ investing almost 50% of their income.
  • Elizabeth White was on Episode 59 of the podcast and she shared how she was faking normal until she owned her story.
  • Learn more about the 5 Journeyer Stages in this podcast episode here.
  • If you missed enrollment join the waitlist for my FI course.
  • Check out the other tools that help me with my finances and business here.
  • Check out the Journey To Launch Podcast index here which categorizes all of the Journey To Launch podcast episodes by subject. Now you can binge on your favorite topics or type of episode.
  • Join The Weekly Newsletter List
  • Leave me a voicemail– Leave me a question on the Journey To Launch voicemail and have it answered on the podcast!
  • Watch me on News12  Watch my latest segments on News12
  • YNAB –  Start managing your money and budgeting so that you can reach your financial dreams. Sign up for a free 34 days trial of YNAB, my go-to budgeting app by using my referral link.

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