From $300K in Debt to $1 Million in Investments w/ Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion

Episode Number: 374

Episode 374: From $300K in Debt to $1 Million in Investments w/ Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion

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From $300K in Debt to $1 Million in Investments w/ Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion

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Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion is a first-gen Filipina-American joins the Journey To Launch podcast to share how she paid off $300,000 of debt in three years and invested her first $1 million in her 30s. Today, Bernadette works only 20 hours a week in order to focus her financial freedom on joy: K-Pop, yoga, karaoke and spoiling her nieces and nephews as their traveling rich auntie. She understands those who feel like they missed the money memo, and is dedicated to educating others on financial topics with strategies in a way so simple anyone can understand it.

In this episode Bernadette shares: 

  • Her experiences growing up in New York City as an immigrant child of Asian descent, emphasizing the pressure to excel academically and socially.
  • How she had to make tough choices, such as saying no to friends’ events and being honest about what she could afford, to achieve financial freedom.
  • Why she and her husband sold their paid-off home and chose to rent instead
  • Where she invests her money from real estate sales and rental income including high-yield savings, CDs, treasury bills 401k, IRAs, and real estate investment trusts. 
  • The importance of being present in life’s moments and embracing authenticity in both personal and professional aspects + more!
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Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 0:02

People often ask us like, why are you doing events? And first of all, I'm like, Well, regardless if you read or you buy, you need a place to live. So shelter is not a waste of money. But also I'm happy. I'm just happy like that's my answer for you. Minus 10 seconds.

Intro 0:17

Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host Jamila souffrant. As a money expert who rocks her talk, she helps brave juniors like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real Whoa. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom 321.

Jamila Souffrant 0:47

If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journey to or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. In the show notes, you'll get the transcribed version of the conversation, the links that we mentioned and so much more. Also, whether you are an OG journeyer, or brand new to the podcast, I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes, so listen to stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources and so much more. You can go to journey to launch that comm slash jumpstart to get your guide right now.

Okay, let's hop into the episode.

Hey, hey, hey journeyers Welcome to the journey to launch podcast today we have a special guest, Bernadette joy, who was a first gen Filipina American and founder and CEO of crush your money goals. She paid off a jaw dropping $300,000 of debt in three years. Oh my gosh, and invest in her first million dollars in her 30s. I'm so excited to have you on the podcast. Bernadette. Welcome.

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 1:53

Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to finally have a conversation with

Jamila Souffrant 1:57

you. Yeah, so what's cool about having a podcast for all these years and then just being online is that, you know, you see people like kind of know each other. It's like the the personal finance streets or the social media streets, you see each other passing and you support each other. And I appreciate your work online, but I don't think we've ever had a conversation. And so when I was looking for some more guests, let me reach out to Bernadette and get to know her a bit better because I do recognise that you really come from a truthful and raw place that sort of seems like with your content. And I love that. And so I'm excited to learn more about your journey. So let's kind of go back a little bit. I always like to ask people about kind of the beginning journey. So you are a child of an immigrant immigrant like what was that like growing up? And how that shaped your money identity and get you where you are now in terms of getting into personal finance? Yeah,

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 2:52

yeah. So like you said earlier, first generation Filipino American I grew up in New York City. My mom was my father's second marriage. He had seven kids in his first marriage, and then two kids. Yeah. Two kids in his second marriage, we my younger brother. So there's nine of us. And honestly, all of the memories I have about money were not great. And I don't think it was like, anything that my parents had wrong. I think they were just living that immigrant kind of story, right? Like we have to make it we moved from a country that didn't have a lot of economic mobility. My father was the oldest of his nine siblings. And I only learned after my father passed away. And this is like such an interesting thing is that I always grew up thinking that money was super scarce. And my father, his next oldest brother, there's only two of them of the nine that moved to the US from the Philippines. He shared the story that my father was the first one to go to college in the Philippines. And then he paid for his college education. And then my uncle paid for the next person. And each sibling paid for each sibling to go to college until all nine went to college. And they grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Philippines, right. But me growing up as a kid in New York, like my parents didn't ever want to talk about money. And they always made it seem like, oh, we have money, but then also we don't have money. And so it was very confusing. And what was really interesting about that was that my father was actually an accountant. My mom was a bookkeeper, my brother ended up growing up to be an accountant. And I said I wanted nothing to do with accounting or finance or anything like that. And then I find myself in this career, and I figured that out my father was actually great at Money in business like he actually worked himself up to a CFO one day for for a company but personally he was not great at finances at all and and we'll maybe talk more about it but you when he passed away like a ton of debt, like a ton of stuff that was left kind of like not in a great state. And so I really realized that education is definitely a big piece of solving Is money puzzle but there's so much more than education that's involved in it.

Jamila Souffrant 5:02

Yeah. And it's always fascinating how we can compartmentalize skill sets that would translate, you would think it would translate easy for maybe professionally and what you could do for a company or someone else, versus for your own personal finance. So growing up in New York, which which borough Did you grow up in? I grew up in Queens, Queens, okay. So growing up in Queens, I mean, having so many siblings with just like a big family, and it sounds like being together, or at least, education, like most immigrants was probably a big part of what was pushed to you. How did that then help you make decisions about going to school? So was it that you were going to go to school to be what? And you went to college to do that? Did you know that? Or did you figure that out as you went?

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 5:48

Yeah. So very stereotypically Asian was like, you have to get good grades. And you have to be the best until I was salutatory. In for my middle school. And then I went to a public high school in New York called Townsend Harris, which like you have to apply for. And it's for a bunch of nerd kids and went to that school. And it was funny, because the school is very competitive. Like you put a bunch of your kids together in a smaller school, it was it was about 1000 Kids total, which is small for a New York City public high school. And people were very competitive. And I remember, somehow, one day someone got a hold of like the rankings for for the grades, like who was in the top 10%, basically, the top 25 kids in the school and I was like, ranked I don't know, like number 18 or 19, or something like that in the school. And so many people came up to me and they're like, We thought you were dumb. Or we thought you weren't that smart, or I don't know what they there's like, so surprised to see me on that list. Because I was also in like, I played varsity volleyball, I was captain of the handball team, like I was like, kind of very, like socially active and stuff, too. And I didn't let off that I like studied and stuff. And so once college stuff came around, like, I realized the competitiveness that that young adults can have, because the thought was like only so many kids from the school like you don't usually get like one or two kids that go to Harvard, or one or two kids that go to college. And but everybody wanted to go because it was a nerd school. And so I remember I applied for like, 14 schools, way more schools than I needed to apply for. Because my father, like had this mindset. He's like, Well, what if you don't get into anything. And then in hindsight, I was just kind of like crazy, because it's like, I was gonna get in somewhere I didn't need to apply for like 14 schools. So imagine me like writing all these essays for like, every single school, and I ended up getting into some really great schools. But when it came time, and most of my schools were based either in New York or in Boston, like I either wanted to go to like NYU, or Cornell or I wanted to go to like tufts was actually like my top choice. And my parents took me on a tour to all of the Boston schools. And then after the tour, I was like, Oh, my gosh, I really want to go to Boston College, or tufts. And they're like, well, we can't afford that you're not going there, you're gonna go where you get the most money. And so I ended up going to Boston University where I had a scholarship to go to, and I was so resentful. Like, I was so mad. I remember telling my parents like, why did you even want me like goes toward the school if you knew that we couldn't afford it. And it was such a weird place because my father made a decent amount of money as a CFO on paper. So we didn't know we didn't qualify for any financial aid. But like, if you actually looked at our assets, he didn't have any assets. There was no money. So then we and then my father was like, very adamant about not taking out any debt for my student loan. So the only I mean for school, so my only option was to go to a school where I got, like, some money. And then we got into an argument. Um, this is the first time I've actually talked about this on any any video thing. So this is interesting, you asked this question, but it's relevant is I said, Well, fine. If I don't get to go to school, I want to then I just want to go to CUNY, I got a full ride to CUNY honors, which like, at the time was like, pretty prestigious, like, you get like a few that paid to go to school. And my parents were like, no, because that's not good enough of namebrand. Like it was, it was fascinating. Like, they're like, we're like, we want to send you to like an a decent brand name school, like Boston University. But we don't want you to, like, get this like, what would be the most financially advantageous thing? And so that's what I realized, just like what is what is happening here like this, this immigrant mentality of like, oh, we must succeed, also is so much rooted in like, we want other people to see us succeed too. And that's where I really started getting challenged with the idea of just like all financial decisions or not just math, it's like very societally sculpted.

Jamila Souffrant 9:56

Yes. So So what did you end up doing?

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 9:59

So I ended up going to Boston University. I hated it my first year. Then I actually joined the Filipino American Association. And I started doing like a lot of cultural dances and started kind of getting more into my roots, which was really fun. And then I ended up. So I initially applied to be a pre med and then realize like, I can't look, I can't stand the sight of blood, like there's no way that I would could be a doctor. Yeah. And because I was an agent, I was like, I guess I should be a doctor or a lawyer and a doctor seems school. So and I was good at science. So I ended up studying psychology. And my family was just like, that's not a real degree. My dad said, That's not a real degree, like, what are you going to do with that? And so he said, you need to do like a business degree or something that we understand. So I did both a psychology degree and a business degree. So I graduated with two bachelor's degrees in four years. And that's what I that's also when I realized, like, I'm the type of person who's just like, I spent so much time on my junior and senior year of college, just trying to figure out how I can fix like, get all these classes done and still graduate in four years, which my my guidance counselor's were like, This is not, that's not doable. And I was like, Oh, watch, right? Watch me do that.

Jamila Souffrant 11:12

Yeah. What about loan? So you did you weren't able to go through loan free or took you took out loans? Because I do want to jump to now when you're working in the real world and how you now are applying or your personal finances? What does that look like for you to move ahead?

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 11:27

Yeah, so in hindsight, my parents actually did me a huge favor that we I was able to go through undergrad without any loans. But then when I decided to go to grad school, I took out a lot of a lot of loans. And it was interesting, because when I graduated from college, I had no idea what to do with a psychology and a business degree. And I tried clinical psychology, like I entered as a clinical psychologist. And I was like, this is I can't, it was too heavy for me. So I had a mentor who worked in HR. And she recommended me into this rotational program at a fortune 100 company to learn how to become an HR person. And I was like, Oh, great. Like, I love recruiting. Like I love helping people get jobs like that sounds really fun. Like, let me do that. And so I did that program. Not knowing so it was 2007 in financial services. So then 2008 hits. And I, if you've ever seen the movie up in the air with George Clooney, and Anna Kendrick, have you've heard about this movie, like it's basically Anna Kendrick as a 20 something year old, like flying around to different offices and like telling people, they don't have a job anymore. Like I was Anna Kendrick, like, I was 22 years old, flying around to all these different offices across the country saying like, Hi, I'm Bernadette. I don't know what I'm doing. But you don't got a job. So like, here's your severance package. And I don't fully understand what a severance package means either. But here you go. And I specifically remember like the fear in people's faces, like I remember, I was in Columbus, Ohio, and this guy, twice my age said to me straight in the face said, I have been working at this company longer than you've been alive. Why do you have a job and I don't, I didn't know what to say. And I share the story. Because I realized now like early, very early, like two years into my career, I realized that working for a company is not the ticket to wealth. Being loyal to a company doesn't guarantee your financial future. And I saw firsthand like how they picked who got laid off. I saw firsthand like the legal proceedings of that I had to work through all of that paperwork like very early my age. And there was like clear also like very clear correlations between gender and race, as well. Right. So like, I remember, like going to these different offices, and they consolidated all of the branches to say, we used to have a sales manager, and we used to have a customer service manager. And so now we're just gonna have one manager. So basically, half of the management team is going to get laid off across the country, well, eight times out of 10, they would always pick the sales manager to be the branch manager and lay off the customer service manager. But guess what gender most of the customer service managers were, and guess what gender what most of the sales managers were. So over and over and over again, I'll just see getting women laid off, laid off laid off, you know, and it was eye opening.

Jamila Souffrant 14:19

So you now have this job. It's so ironic to you at any thinking thinking you're going to be helping people but that your first job was actually like destroying their dreams, like the opposite, total opposite. So how are you now thinking about your career and money? I know that you're on the the financial independence, you're in the financial independence world, which we'll definitely get to. Right. Right and talk more about, but at this point at that age and thinking about your money and where you are, did you know about financial independence? Were you astute to your money? Like when did you come around or get on board to this idea of financial independence? Yeah,

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 14:52

yeah. So the major kind of turning point was I left that company thinking that I would find it a company that I could actually help people. And then I ended up joining JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs who are also laying off about, like, if you remember 2008, like Occupy Wall Street, like, they were outside my window. So I remember be actually being kind of ashamed to tell people I would work, I worked at those banks, I was like, I'm not evil, I promise. Like, I'm actually one of the good people. So, long story short, I had what I call, like, my quarter life crisis, where I was 25. At the time, I just had met my now husband, we had gotten engaged, I was making six figures, which I never thought I would make ever. My mom like, never reached that milestone. And I got the kidney stone to the point where like, I thought I was gonna die. Like I was, I was like, in the car and was like my stomach really hard tonight, oh, it was happening. And, and I really couldn't get up anymore. And then my family had sent me the hospital. And the hospital said, like, if you had waited like another day, like this could have been really, really bad. And I had gotten this kidney stone because I was working so much that like, I wasn't drinking water. I wasn't like taking care of myself. And that was like, kind of the moment I realized, like, this is not, this is like I can't, I'm 26 I might die, which is a little dramatic. But I might die if I'm already like this. And I'm only 26. So I ended up quitting my my job at the bank with no job lined up. And I started to look for other roles, I still wanted to do HR. So I thought like maybe you know, if I joined a different type of company, not in the bank, like that would make it easier. But I had such a hard time finding another role in HR, because they're like, oh, because you're the bank, like, you have that experience, like you won't be a culture fit when I tried to go for these tech startups. And so I went on this like, two year journey of like working at different tech companies, and eventually became the head of HR at this tech company. And I realized when I was at the tech company, I was like, Okay, so basically working on all these companies are kind of the same, like, we say that we're trying to help people, but we're really looking out for the company first. And that's not really what I want to do. So I decided to go back to grad school because I really had no idea what I want to do next. And if I'm being totally honest, I went back to grad school because I was completely lost. And I was like, Well, I don't want to look like a loser. Like that was literally the rhetoric that went in my brain. And so like, rather than being unemployed, I can tell people that I'm getting a degree like that makes me sound smart. And I thought, well, if I go for this degree, then like, by the end of the two years, I will know what I want to do. So fast forward two years later, I not only still did not know what I wanted to do, but now I had so many $2,000 of student loan debt that I didn't know how I was going to pay off. And that's really what started the financial freedom journey. And

Jamila Souffrant 17:43

so you graduate, and I actually love the honesty there that you rather, like you said, like a lot of what we're what we do is this perception, it's what other people are perceiving of us, especially our family and friends. And it's just like, Oh, what are you doing with your life? And you're like, I don't know. So it's like you wrap like you said, You'd rather say something rather than I don't know, when there's so many people like that, who are spending more money than they need to or just not comfortable with being in a limbo state and getting to know themselves. But with that you graduate, you have these loans. So what next, so you know that you now have to get ready to manage your finances better? What's that transition into? What you're doing now look like? Yeah, yeah.

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 18:25

So I remember very specifically as January 2016, I had 10 weeks left before I was gonna graduate from my MBA program. And I was like, Oh, I have no idea how much I've been like paying towards student loans. Like I know, I've been making significant payments towards it, like along the way, so it can't be that much. And so when I opened it up, and I saw it was $72,000. And it was accruing interest daily. I was just like, hold on. I did. What's What did I sign up for? And also, I did not get the result that I wanted as in like, I still don't know what I want to do. And I just had complete meltdown. Like literal, like crying on the floor. What have I done like, I'm so dumb. And I go over to my husband, he was sitting in his his room, and I was just like, I think I messed this up. I have all the student loans. And I'm like, so terrified, because now at that time, he also had a mortgage. And we had a rental property that I thought I was mature enough to manage which I was not back in the day. This is like when HGTV was like Joanna and chip from fixer upper. We're just like, all over and I was just like, that sounds like I could do that. So now we have like 300 like we had $300,000 in debt, including these student loans that I had no plan on how to pay off. And oddly, my husband was just like, what's the big deal? Like he saw how physically distressed I was. And it's not that he's insensitive. He literally was just like, everyone we know has debt. Like, and you had a good job before you can just go back and get another job. Like it's not he was just like, What are you stressed about? It? And, and I literally I remember saying to him, Well, I don't want to be like everyone else, because everyone else I know is also hella stressed. And that last job almost killed me. So we ain't going back there. And so that's when I started, like any normal person would do, like started Googling, how do you pay off student loans, how to pay off student loans fast, how to get out of student loans, like, like anything I could find. And so I just started this voracious kind of next few months, just learning as much as I could about finances. And, and at the time, like, the biggest name there were was Dave Ramsey. And there were some pieces of it that I was like, that logically makes sense. But I don't really like how he says it. Or actually funny enough, my husband hated it. Like my husband was just like, I really don't like how he talks. And for some odd reason, for me, it didn't rub me the wrong way. Or as much in the sense of just like, I was so used to listening to older white men, like in my in financial services, and in tech, that I was just like, oh, that just sounds like normal to me. Like it just, it didn't like hit me that as much but my husband, we've eventually met him when Dave Ramsey one day my husband told him to his face, like I don't like the way that you talk. So what really got me interested in financial education specifically was like, Who can I learn from who like, I actually resonate with who is actually saying things that also take into account like my really, you know, bad boundaries of mental health, about being first generation, like also shuffling. So I found all of these other women let including you that I was like, okay, there are people out here who are doing this in ways that feel resonant to me, but also feel very impactful. And then I felt like that was really even another turning point where it's like, okay, there's more to this than just this debt piece, like, what does financial freedom look like? And what does financial freedom look like for someone like me? And that really started turning the turning the corner in 2019?

Jamila Souffrant 22:01

What were the strategies that you started to implement to help you pay off that debt? You know, in the buyer, I just read you $300,000 In a short amount of time. So what did you do? And what did that debt consist of?

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 22:11

Yeah, so the debt was the $72,000 of student loans, the two mortgages and then kind of like the everyday bills that you would see like credit cards and car loans, and, you know, in cars and stuff like that. So, I mean, the short version of it is a lot what a lot of what you'd hear from other folks who kind of gone in this, like aggressive debt journey, like AJ and I just sold as much time as we could be side hustle a lot. And we, we got really, really rigorous about budgeting. But I think the most specific thing that probably turned the corner in terms of like, aggressively paying off that debt, like we paid up that $72,000, in a year after I graduated, which was really, it was not even my plan. But I had this, like bubbling up inside of just like, the sooner I get this done, then the sooner it can be over with and I can just like, move on with my life. And during that time, I was and I am, I'm sure you can relate to this. Like, during this time, I, all my best friends were getting married, I was a bridesmaid and like, like, literally like for weddings, like in the state, like in the same two years. And I had to have some really honest discussions with my friends of saying, You know what, like, I know you guys think that, like, I had a job and an MBA and like, you know, we have a house and like, we seem like we're financially stable, but we're not. We're not. And the biggest turning point for me in that financial freedom journey was starting to be honest with people of what I felt like I could actually afford at that time. And I had to make some really tough choices. Like I had to say no to, you know, some of my, you know, my, my best friends, like, you know, they're like, Oh, my engagement party and my bachelorette party and my wedding. And you know, this, like, I was like, pick one, I just can't do it all like I literally cannot afford to, they're all destination. I remember like, you know, to my one of my friends was getting married in Mexico, and she was having all this other stuff. And I was like, Well, I really want to be at the Mexico thing. But that means I can't go to X, Y, and Z. And so those are really hard because I felt ashamed that I couldn't afford it. But I was like really dead set on not building up more debt in order to do it. And then in 2019, like we went so far as to pay off both more like we ended up paying off the lower mortgage, we ended up selling that house, which was another big, like thing for me. Like I remember, I remember thinking like, Oh, this is supposed to be rental income and all this other stuff. We ended up selling that home. And then we paid off our primary home at 30, which was 2019. So how old was that? Like 32 Something like that. I was debt free, including my home. And that was the first time in my life that I felt like safe, right?

Jamila Souffrant 24:54

Makes sense. So just to go back a little bit so you paid off. It was tough, but you still had that one mortgage It's your primary home. It sounds like in 2019, we paid off that mortgage to. Okay. And that was through selling the both properties, just just that one. Just the one property one. Okay, I want to go back a bit to saying no, and turning down big events. Because I know that's a big sticking point for some people were, even though they're uncomfortable with their financial situation, like even now I know there are people listening right now, they are behind they are really in debt. But there are these life events happening that they want to be a part of. And for them, like saying no to that is almost just like, there's no way they can say no to that. So I don't know, I know that's gonna be different for everyone. Because I've spoken to people where they say, You know what, I had to say no, because I needed to get out of this situation. Is there any I don't know, words of advice or encouragement for people who don't feel like they should be giving up these big moments? Right? Like, because money is money. And, you know, but the moments we have with people are so important. So how do you reconcile that for people who don't want to miss out on things, but it is putting them in a financially bad place?

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 26:01

Yeah, yeah. Well, it's easy for me to say now because of hindsight, to look back on, but those things that in the moment feel like, oh, my gosh, I don't want to I have this FOMO, right, like this fear of missing out on it. And yes, some of those things were like big things. But the trade off that I have now has been so much greater that I didn't really envision it at the time. Like I was saying no, at the time, because I honestly, I was just so stressed out. But like, I just, I was like, even if I go I don't know that I'm going to be like that fun when I'm there. But I'll give you a prime example. Like one of my close girlfriends, right, who I had to have this conversation with. And here's the thing, she was very understanding, like, both of them were like, I got it. The main thing is for you to be at the wedding. And I understand that, and I would mean so much to me, for you to be there. Right. And so I prioritize and budgeted. And luckily, for me, my two best friends were very understanding, like, when I was being really honest with them, and they could hear how stressed I was, they were like, No, that makes sense. Like, do what you can do, and, you know, wait things, we want you to be there for the wedding as an example. So like, fast forward a couple years later, so those two best friends, one of them was having her first baby. And by that time I was completely debt free, my business was doing great and all the other stuff. And I was able to go on vacation with her for like for her baby Moon for like several days, right and to completely be 100% Present. While some of my friends were still having to like log on to their computers, like while we were there or whatever, right. So like, the trade off I had with her was just like, now I can be present with you. Holy, you know now, versus just like kind of be there. And then even kind of more dramatic what my one of my other best friends, she got divorced. And when I got the call that she was looking, you know, she needed help, like I was first person on a plane there helping her move her stuff. And none of my friends could help because they all had to go to work. Right. And if you want to take any kind of stuck more dramatic, like my father passed away very unexpectedly. And first plane out. Like I found out that morning, I was there that afternoon like I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, they live in Las Vegas, I was there that afternoon, I stayed until he passed, I stayed for several weeks after to help take care of my mom, none of my other relatives could do that. And I paid for the funeral. That sounds a little bit like oh, look at me, like I'm so awesome. Like, that's not really the point of what I'm saying. I'm saying like, you know, there are going to be even bigger moments down the road that people don't even like visualize or can realize that are gonna happen. So like these things that you might be feeling like you're giving up in the moment, the trade off is that you could be present, like holy, potentially for the rest of your life.

Jamila Souffrant 28:44

Oh my gosh, I love that. And I do think it's you know, a matter to of how you say it. And I mean, this is different, because sometimes you can say things as nice and sincerely as possible. But if the other person is either being selfish, or they also are not being a good friend, it doesn't matter how you say it. But I do think it's a difference in Hey, I can't go because I you know, it's not in my budget versus listen, I really want to be there for you. But this is what's going on with me, you know, so I just I love that you shared that perspective of this event life event. But there's so many more other life events in the near future or future that you're going to be able to experience with that person or in general because you're making the sacrifice now.

I Jamila here, host of this podcast and author of the book your journey to financial freedom, a step by step guide to achieving wealth and happiness. Just a few years ago, I was in a job I didn't like with a long commute. feeling stuck. I knew there had to be a different better way. Then I found the pathway to financial freedom and financial independence. Today I have more money, options and freedom than I ever thought was possible. And in my book, Your journey to financial freedom. I'll show you how you can achieve that too. You will learn how to spend and save responsibly, all while enjoying that spicy Margarita and extra cider guacamole to determine where Are you are on the journey and evaluate your spending and saving goals accordingly. Quit your job, retire early, or reach financial independence. My book, your journey to financial freedom a step by step guide to achieving wealth and happiness is out now and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and more, you can leave and listen to the audiobook narrated by me, go to your journey to financial to get a free bonus when you order the book and see all the places to buy it. Once again, go to your journey to financial

Now, let's talk a bit about your paying off debt. It sounds like you start your own business. So are you working at the time that you start your business? Or what made you decide to have your own platform? And then we can talk a bit about your specific financial independence journey from there? Yeah,

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 30:51

yeah. So I started sharing on Instagram. So yes, I was working a full time job at the time. But I started sharing on Instagram, like how I was paying off student loans. And I'm obsessed with posts here. And so I would have posted on my refrigerator with the amount my student loan had. And even if I paid like $1 towards it, I would write a new post it and it felt like I was making progress. So then people started noticing that the numbers are going lower and lower and faster. And so I started getting DMS from people who surprisingly, are the people that I thought were successful, like it was my friends who had really high paying jobs who were just like, hey, I have a ton of student loan debt to like, how are you doing this. And so I would have coffee dates or, you know, hop one call with them and kind of share these things. And at some point, it just got a little unwieldy, like I was having six or seven coffee dates a week. And I was like, I don't even drink coffee. And I need to do my day job. And so I go home to my husband and I say, you know, it would be great if I could record like these steps. And I could just send it to people. And he just like, you know, that's called a podcast, right? And I was just like, oh, okay, I'll do that. And so I recorded a 10 episode podcast of like, specifically laying out how we paid off debt. Interestingly, the most popular episode was the one about saying no to friends. And then I started getting asked locally, like, Oh, can you come on TV and share this Debt Free Journey? And like, can you and then some other creators are reaching out to me like, can you share your, your journey with me, and it just kind of snowballed from there. And so in 2020, I decided to launch crush your money goals. The intent was to be predicated on mass speaking engagements, like workshops, and speaking, you know, keynote speaking and all that stuff. That was January 2020. And then march 2020, happened, I was like, Oh, well, that's not going to work. So I pivoted into starting, like my first online community. And at the time, I was charging, like $29, or something not expensive. And just listening and learning and, and teaching what I could to all these women who are genuinely terrified about what might happen. I remember people saying, like, not my husband, just got, you know, like, his job might be on the line, or now we have to ask for forbearance on our mortgages, like all sorts of things like what's gonna happen to our student loans. And so it was the best time but also the worst time, at the same time to start a financial education company. And from there, it grew into what is now crushing when he calls.

Jamila Souffrant 33:20

And what point did it become full time for you? Well,

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 33:24

I had jumped, I jumped the gun, and it was full time with for me on January 2020. And then there was no backup plan. But the reason I was able to do that was because I had paid off my house. Right?

Jamila Souffrant 33:35

So you who are able to take more risk? Yeah, so I had no debt. At that time. Yeah. And so this is why I always tell people like to, to embark upon the journey of financial independence, even if you don't reach your end target number as soon as you want. But you've started whether that's investing in your retirement accounts or taxable accounts paying off debt is that you're able to take advantage of opportunities and realize freedom a lot sooner, even when you can't even imagine how much sooner because you're in a safer place. And you can take more risk, because you don't have as much debt payments, or things tying you down. You can be a little bit more flexible. So where are you now on your journey to financial independence? It sounds like since you have no debt, no mortgage, and you do have a partner. Right? So I know for me, like having a partner is very helpful. You know, he still works traditionally, because so we don't have to pay for insurance, you know, out of pocket. And there's just certain things where his income doesn't cover everything. But at least it covers like a baseline of something. So for you, where are you on that financial independence journey? And what does that feel like?

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 34:39

Yeah, yeah. So as you mentioned, we're debt free. We ended up selling all of our real estate and people are very shocked that we my husband, I decided to go back to renting which has been like a whole journey of explaining to people why we're doing that. So like, yeah, and even for me, I'm just like, wait, I'm gonna sell my paid off home and go back to renting because why? Well, let's

Jamila Souffrant 34:59

Talk about it. Let's talk about why he made that decision. And then the renting. Yeah, yeah.

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 35:04

Well, the the paid off home that we had, you can Google Berta Joy paid off home, you'll see what it looked like it was a, it was like a 2200 square foot ranch home. And my husband and I, we love to travel, we hate doing chores. We don't have any kids, nor do we plan on having kids. And so we're like we one day we said, Why do we have like four bedrooms for two people. And we don't want to do any of this stuff. So we, we test it out. We bought a condo in Asheville, North Carolina, which is like two hours outside of Charlotte to test out if we wanted to one live in the mountains, like are we done with city life? And to see if we could actually downsize and be happy? And the answer was, yes, we could be happy with less square footage. And, and then we came back to Charlotte. And you know, the real estate market is what it is right now. Like everything was so overvalued. Charlotte has consistently been in the top five cities have overvalued real estate. And for the prices here, I was just like, I might as well move back to New York City at this point, it doesn't make sense. So we said, well, let's rent and just see, you know, like if the prices go down, or whatever it is, and then it turns out, we freaking love renting. We love renting, we don't have to do anything like garbage. We don't have to, you know, like, the toilet paper roll thing on my thing in my bathroom broke. And I call them like, can you fix this? And they're like, Yeah, and when I came back, it was fixed. I was like, this is gray. And you know, and here in the building that we rent in right now for the same location in terms of like, where we are in the city, we're five minutes from everything that we want to do shows and music and concerts. You know, like, I went to Kpop concert, which very rarely come to Charlotte and I was able to walk home, which is like that never happens if I go to LA or Atlanta or New York, I have to like take three trains to get to MetLife or whatever. Right? So. So we're like, oh, my gosh, this is great. What were we doing? And so we've been renting ever since. But what's been really interesting, I wrote an article about this. And CNBC recently, is that people often ask us like, well, you're wasting money or what you know, like, why are you doing that as a first of all, I'm like, Well, you regardless of you rent or you buy, you need a place to live. So shelter is not a waste of money. But also I'm happy. I'm just happy, like, that's my answer for you. I enjoy it. I love it. I have a pool, I have a rooftop bar, you know, like I have free coffee downstairs like I'm good. Like, we're fine.

Jamila Souffrant 37:36

I'm assuming there was like a lump sum of money from selling the properties. How did you manage that? And this is more just like, logistically, are you living off of income now that you and your husband are earning? Or are you living off part of the money that you've invested? What does that look

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 37:50

like? Great question. Yes. So we've taken all of that money that we have invested and also from the sale of our real estate, and we've reinvested it across a lot of different things. So we have, right now we have a lot of things, we have money saved up set aside for what that next one might be whenever that is. So we have, you know, the high yield savings, you know, that anyone can do we have a lot of CDs right now that are earning like over 5%, then we have treasury bills that are owning over 5%. And then we do have both of her 401k Because my company, I find my own 401k. And I match myself and I do the profit sharing on that. And then we both fund our IRAs in full and and then we also have like a small portion. But maybe 5% is in like real estate investment trusts that we have. So we have like money kind of spread out all over the place. But it's all all of it is earning something. And so I actually did the calculation recently of just all of the kind of dividends and interest that we're earning. And it's enough to pay for our rent right now. But it a lot of it is going into retirement accounts. So we're not pulling it. But it's nice, because the thought in my brain is like okay, the more money that's growing within those retirement accounts, the less I have to contribute later over time, because it's doing its contributing unto itself. And then I have a decent amount like I would say like $150,000 right now that is sitting waiting to be invested into my own business and into the businesses of the of the clients that I coach right now. So I just started a business accelerator program, where I have seven companies who are all actually former students of mine from Crusher money goals, who have become debt free, who have started investing on stuff, but they all have businesses that I would personally put my own money into. So we're spending a year to like get them proper bookkeeping and helping them understand operations and fixing their lead funnels and all this other stuff. And the idea is by the end of the 12 months, either they will be confident to invest more of their own money into their businesses or I would actually invest my money into theirs,

Jamila Souffrant 39:53

right is that also then you becoming a percent owner of the company? It depends,

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 39:58

like they're all They're all very different. So I have, for example, I have a luxury interior designer, I have a company that does HD HDPE, plastic welding, I have a company that does Eevee charging stations. And so like they're all they would all have different structures.

Jamila Souffrant 40:14

Right? Well, I love that. Because also like, you know, almost see your own business accelerator, slash investing into different companies and giving back to also your community. Sounds like amazing. Yeah,

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 40:26

well, I'll say this, right. And this is what I teach in Crusher, money goals, which I think is important. It's just like, I'm all for traditional investing, right? Like, I have a lot of my money in traditional investments. But when you really boil it down, that money is essentially going back to the patriarchy, you know, majority of those companies are still, you know, like, owned by a certain type of person. And I was just like, I, you know, my money will be there. But I, I'm at a point in my, both my professional and personal life where I want to see more women and communities of color owning, not just small businesses, but scalable, larger businesses that could one day be on the stock market, right? So it's very scary for me. And when you're asking, like where I am in my financial independence journey right now, like, I'm still very much battling this idea of, can I be that person? Can I be an angel investor? And how can I be someone that can take that kind of risk? financially? I could, but my mentality hasn't quite caught up yet.

Jamila Souffrant 41:24

Yeah, well, how is it translating to how much you work? So outside of you wanting to give back and do well and kind of invest in other women and communities of color? But for you, like does that impact the way you want to work? So you can just use your money or take your money and continue to invest or, and pull back and work less, and live a financially independent life, whatever that looks like, but what do you envision that to be? Yeah,

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 41:50

so here's, you know, where I'm going to be really honest, I'm having a really hard time with it. I'm having a really, really hard time unplugging this idea of, Wow, I actually don't have to work. And what's really interesting is that before, it was easy to say no to work, because it was stuff I didn't want to do. Like I don't want to go work at the bank anymore. I don't want to like lay people off anymore. Like all their stuff. I actually did a talk at fin con, which I know you've spoken at also where I think you were the state one of the stage speakers a year before me. And then I was a stage speaker. And, and in that talk, which is so funny, like the thing that people gravitated towards in my talk was the fact that I showed them my calendar, and I worked 20 hours a week. And everyone was just like how, like, how, how are you doing that? And I was really proud of it. But then what was funny was that that stage talk at fin con actually led to a lot of new opportunities that I started getting requests to be a contributor on Forbes and a contributor for CNBC. And I got a a proposal to become an author like all of his other shop that just was not expecting. And so it all just kind of like snowballed. And now I'm at this point where it sounds like a little bit of a humble brag, but it's like all this work is coming and stuff that I want to do. So how do I say no, when it's all the stuff that I actually want to do, and it's going to be helpful. So I've been really challenged lately, with trying to get back to that kind of work schedule. Right now. I am very protective of my Fridays and Saturdays. But still, some some Sundays I work because I coach on Sundays, and Thursdays are usually my day off. But then Thursdays has been a great day to do things like podcast, interviews, and, and media type of stuff. So I looked at my calendar recently, and I was just like, Okay, it's gone awry. Again. And I will say no, for what what I think has been interesting, though, there's been this shift for folks who have been in like this fire mentality, like, numbers wise, like I like intellectually understand that I could take a break. But I'm still, I'm just not I'm not there yet. Like I just I'm like, I don't want to say no to things that I feel like are going to be helpful to people. And some of it is also, again, a little bit of that scarcity mindset. Like if I say no to this, like, for example, back in the summer, last year, my mom had had a kidney transplant. And it was like, very unexpected, like, we never thought that she would actually get off of the waitlist. And so I was on my way to a speaking engagement when my brother called me and said she's going into surgery. And I was so overwhelmed, like emotionally and like all of this other stuff. And so I had to like figure out how to reroute myself to Las Vegas from LA and stuff. And my Forbes editor called me and basically it was just like, hey, you know, we want to continue your contract really like the work that you're doing. And I said something like, I just can't right now. Like I can't, I can't do it. I'm so and I said that to them. I'm like my mom is about to go into kidney transplant. And I feel overwhelmed. And I was scared to say that that I couldn't do it. And they were very understanding but then what ended up happening afterwards? Is that my contract at scale back like when I was ready to come back, Mike my contract got scaled back and then I was like, Oh my gosh, like there's a consequence to saying no All right,

Jamila Souffrant 45:00

well, let's talk about that a bit. Because I feel like that is so true. Like, yes, you can say no and turn on opportunities. And I know the sentiment of what's for you is for you and say no sometimes gives you bigger yeses, which can be true. But also like saying no, like you said, there can be a consequence. And you have to be okay with what that looks like. And so I definitely feel you on the idea of, what should I turn down what so I say no to, I always say that when you are forced to have boundaries, because of things that maybe are more important in your life, maybe whether it's taking care of family or kids, you kind of have to say no to certain things, because like your time is constrained. But I think like the true test of understanding if you're making decisions from really what you really want to do, versus like you need it financially is when you don't have those constraints. And you can really have to deal with yourself as the person that says, Why are you saying no? Or yes, this thing is because you don't want to disappoint someone else. You want people to like you, you want people to be mad at you, or it's what other people think, like, there's so much of that happening, I think, in our world of showing up and showing up in the world with that to a corporate job, or in just entrepreneurs spaces, figuring that out.

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 46:14

Mm hmm. And, you know, like, I've been really fortunate, and I am sure you felt this to where people are genuinely excited about the work that you're doing that I'm doing like, and you know, I see it on your on your profile to where, you know, people are like, yeah, like, awesome, like, keep going. And you know, I get that. But for people also who like, who tell me especially, there's some times where I will get discouraged. On like, certain points, like I, I actually wrote a Forbes article about how to start your side hustle as a paid speaker. And I had several seasoned speakers, basically telling me like, shut up, like, you shouldn't be encouraging people to join the speaking world at this rate, or whatever. And they all happen to be of a certain age, and I'll happen to be of a certain look, right? And I remember thinking to myself, like, Am I like, I actually doubted myself for a second because it was like, in a number. It wasn't just like one comment. It was like, a pattern. And then I was like, oh, no, no, no, no, actually, that's exactly why I need to keep writing these articles and exactly why I need to double down. And I'm sure like, you've expressed this to just like, there are days when this is really, really hard. And so then I have to choose between like, Okay, I'm doing this because I really want to and because there are something that I really am passionate about, particularly again, women and communities of color, like, I'm not a gatekeeper, you asked me like I will tell you, but the volume of it sometimes is, you can't control it. And then how do you manage that without losing your like, have your mind meld.

Jamila Souffrant 47:51

It's also this idea as an entrepreneur, as a creator of how far you can go like if you know, I know that I talked about this a bit, I know I can grow during its launch to be bigger and like, even more impactful than it is. And I could do a lot more than I'm doing now. But I you know, I just, I don't like the idea of being a martyr. And like I understand, like, if you have a gift to give, you should give it to the world. But I do think sometimes we're hard on ourselves that we're not giving enough when it is just the idea of even if you do nothing else, even if you were to like, stop what you're doing now, even if I'd stopped what I'm doing now, no more podcasts, like nothing like I'm retreating. I'm like taking a break. I'm not coming back for like a year or ever, that you've done enough. You don't have to keep proving your worth that yourself. And I know that that's hard. It's hard for me, I'm saying it like I totally like 2% can do it. But part of me does feel that way where you get pushed, like if you have something to give the world you shouldn't stop, you owe it to someone else, you owe it to people, but I'm like we owe it to ourselves. First to be a bit selfish. And you know, I think there's so much power when I hear people like ours get inspired. When I reach out to people who are financially independent, like truly, like they don't have to work. And they have platforms and you know, thinking of one person in particular, and I'm like, Oh, this, you know, let me reach out to them. Maybe they'll be interested in this thing. And they're like, I'm actually not doing interviews for a year. You know, check back next year.

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 49:16

I love that. Yeah,

Jamila Souffrant 49:18

I want to be like that.

Like, I truly do want to get to that point. And so you know, I don't necessarily have it all figured out. But I am leaning more towards this idea of there is a balance between I want to live a certain lifestyle and have income come in to do things I want. But at what point do and can I step away and not feel pulled to do something because of what it looks like or what other people expect me to do. That's

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 49:43

right. That's right. And that's so like just hearing you say that like I am going to have a different vibe today on that like that was so helpful for me to hear from someone like you and I just hosted my first client Summit. My main my main source of income right now is coaching And, you know, I've struggled even going to things like fin con, where they're like, Oh, this is the YouTuber route. And this is the podcast, right? And this is the coaching, right? And this is the speaker and I'm like, but I do all of them. So like, which one do I go right? And then just like I shouldn't be doing all of them. And so I have this, like, forever hamster wheel in my brain. But I just hosted my first client summit in my office here in Charlotte. And so, you know, 13 of my clients came and like, traveled in and I had this like, moment of just like, oh my god, I can't mess this up. Because, you know, people pay good money to be here. And it was, it was the best affirmation of me realizing like I did this to actually connect with human beings and it honestly got a little lost. And last couple years were like, you know, seeing all these people like blow up on Instagram lowball Tik Tok, like, have a million followers now, just like, I don't have any of that. So I'm such a failure. And I was just like, oh, no, wait a minute, if I do nothing else, but help these 13 people in this room that I have looked at in the eyeballs, right, and I help them change their financial future, like materially change your financial future, which I like, you know, we have already done a lot of great work, I would be good for that. I would be good with that. And the other thing I and I'll shut up after this, it's just like, you know, a big part of of my, my changes this last couple years is like, I really embrace the fact that I'm an introvert, like, a lot of people don't know that about me, because they see me online or see me in person. And I'm like, Ah, but then when I'm just like, blanket and like not talking to anyone. So I'm a very strong introvert. Before I thought that was such a bad thing. And now I realize like I have to build a lifestyle that that honors that.

Jamila Souffrant 51:32

Right. Well, Brenda, that you are, I had a couple of interviews so far this week, and content creators who are also very front facing, you go to their page, and just like energy content, and they're just like, I actually don't like being in the spotlight or in their real life. They're very much reserved, and I'm actually that way too. I don't like to be around a lot of people who aren't very better one on one, like, you know, like the friends I have have had for a long time, like, so I think it's more of realizing that a lot of us aren't like that. And it's not a bad thing to be like that. But like to then think about how you're creating your business for yourself. Because the other thing I'm noticing as our own bosses now is like not to create the hamster wheel in prison that like we tried to escape from from ourselves. Like I saw someone the other day, say like, they were just taking a break from Instagram, like, they were like, I'm not posting here anymore.

I'll come back and like, you know, a few months I'm like, or a year, I forgot what they said, I'm like, you know, that inspired me. I'm like, You know what, maybe I should just like, like, what's gonna happen? I mean, there's a couple of things that can happen. But am I okay with the worst case scenario? Or what's the best case scenario like and can I live with that? But that empowered me to think through? Like, do you really need to do all the things that we're doing? Do we need to do it that way? Who says it needs to be done that way?

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 52:44

Yeah, I've been following Vanessa Lau do have you seen her at all? She she took like a whole year off basically this last she's a YouTuber he did she's like a creator, you know influencer type of person. She says it in like interviews. Like she basically had a meltdown, like, shut down her business for a year, like paid out separate. And so people like she made $8.6 million, or something in her in her business. And then she realized that, you know, she got on this hamster wheel. And this is she didn't like who she wasn't anywhere else, other stuff. So she left for a year and came back. She just started posting again. And so I was watching a video that she said yesterday that just like let people miss you. Let people miss you like that actually might do more for you. If you're not around all the freaking time, like in people's faces all the time. And I was just like, What a novel concept. Makes you

Jamila Souffrant 53:30

like that? Let people miss you. Okay, Bernadette, my gosh, this was such a great real conversation. Please tell everyone where they can find out more about your work and follow you.

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 53:42

Sure. So I'm on social media, but maybe not as much anymore after this interview. I put in a joy. But if you want to learn more about how we can work together, or even if we never work together, I have a free guide. It's my no cost roadmap. It's called My touching checklist. I give you 30 different resources that I think will be helpful and your financial freedom Actually, your book is one of those resources in that checklist. And so is that crushing money guide I

Jamila Souffrant 54:14

love that and I will link all that in the episode show notes. Thank you so much Bernadette for this wonderful conversation.

Bernadette Joy Cruz Maulion 54:19

Thank you so much for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 54:23

Don't forget, you can get the episode show notes for this episode by going to journey to or click the description of wherever you're listening to this. And you can still grab your jumpstart guide for free to help you on your journey to financial freedom by going to journey to

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