Crush Your Money Goals founder: 5 rules I followed that helped grow my net worth to over $1 million

5 rules I broke that helped me reach a net worth of $1.2 million
Key Points
  • Bernadette Joy Maulion-Cruz, 37, and AJ Maulion, 40, have accumulated a net worth of $1.2 million after starting with $300,000 in debt in 2016.
  • To get to this point, Bernadette , who is first generation Filipino-American, says she had to unlearn several things her parents taught her about money growing up.
  • Here are five key rules Bernadette broke, to achieve a $1.2 million net worth by age 37.

Married couple Bernadette Joy Cruz-Maulion and AJ Maulion were burdened with more than $300,000 in debt between student loans and two mortgages, after Cruz-Maulion graduated from her MBA program in 2016.

They committed to a plan to pay off their debt as soon as possible, and three years later, thanks to big lifestyle changes, they met that goal. Today, the couple has accumulated a net worth of $1.2 million, including cash, investments in stocks and real estate, retirement accounts, and the home they live in.

Their next big money goal: Bernadette, 37, and AJ, 40, who are based in Ashville, North Carolina, aim to retire in their forties.

Bernadette Joy Cruz-Maulion and AJ Maulion.
Courtesy Bernadette Joy Cruz-Maulion

To get to this point, Cruz-Maulion says she had to unlearn several things her parents, who immigrated from the Philippines, taught her about money growing up.

"A lot of our parents moved here to the U.S. for security and safety," Cruz-Maulion says. To that end, her parents taught her to avoid taking risks in order to lead a stable and secure life. But that mindset wouldn't have allowed her to build the net worth necessary to retire early.

Here are five money rules Cruz-Maulion followed, instead of the ones she was taught, to achieve a net worth of $1.2 million by age 37.

1. She invested instead of focusing on accumulating cash

The Maulions have about $1.1 million invested in stocks, real estate, and retirement accounts. Their net worth has grown significantly over time due to their investments increasing in value.

It wasn't until three years ago that Cruz-Maulion learned that she needed to invest in order to accumulate wealth, so that her money could work for her instead of losing value due to inflation.

"As first-generation Americans, a lot of my friends and myself were taught, 'You should save money, you should save money, you should save money,'" Cruz-Maulion says. "And so when I was in my early 20s, I literally spent most of my money either going out and eating or putting it away in a savings account." 

The Maulions purchased a four-bedroom home in Charlotte, North Carolina for $230,000 in 2014, and sold it for $495,000 in 2021.
Courtesy Bernadette Joy Cruz-Maulion

2. She left a stable job to start a business

In 2016, Cruz-Maulion quit her 9-to-5 job as a recruiter. A few months later, she started her own personal finance coaching business, Crush Your Money Goals.

"That was really challenging to have those discussions with my parents because they couldn't understand why I would leave a very stable company, a very stable job for something that wasn't secure," she says.

Cruz-Maulion says her income today exceeds what she was earning as an employee and starting a business has meant there's no limit on how much her income can grow.

3. She lived beneath her means

The Maulions recently downsized from a four-bedroom home to a two-bedroom condo, in order to invest some of the proceeds from the first home, reduce their living expenses, and travel more.

Cruz-Maulion's family expected them to move into a larger home, rather than downsizing. Growing up, her family emphasized the importance of living in a big house. "A house is a symbol of the American dream," she says. "And if you have it, then you can show people… in your home country that 'look, we made it.'"

However, Cruz-Maulion later realized, "just because you have a big house doesn't mean that you're financially stable."

The Maulions are building toward $2 million in net worth so they can lead a more enjoyable retirement.
Courtesy Bernadette Joy Cruz-Maulion

4. She decided against having kids

The Maulions would rather be "rich aunties and uncles" to their nieces and nephews than have their own children, since raising kids can be very expensive. This way, they're minimizing their expenses and focusing on retiring early.

Not having kids was a difficult decision, due to external pressure. "As a first generation American, I think it has been really challenging to navigate the expectations of family, especially as a woman who is often told, like, the one reason you exist is to have kids," Cruz-Maulion says.

5. She talks openly about money

As a personal finance coach, Cruz-Maulion is transparent about her own finances, which she say helps build trust with her clientele. "One of the challenges that I had even for myself growing up is I didn't know who to trust in terms of advice, because I didn't really know if they were doing it or not, right?" Cruz-Maulion says.

"When I first started sharing my story of paying off $300,000 of debt, my father actually reached out to me and said, 'Why are you telling people this? Doesn't this make you look bad?' That was very foreign to my family, because you don't talk about money," she adds.

Before he passed away, Cruz-Maulion's father began clipping out news articles about saving money and paying down debt. "It was it was his way of showing me that he was looking out for those kinds of things. And he was learning about it too."

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