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Crush Your Money Goals founder: 3 strategies helped my husband and I build a $1.2 million net worth

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How this millennial couple built a net worth of $1.2 million
Key Points
  • Just six years ago, Bernadette Joy Cruz-Maulion and AJ Maulion were living paycheck-to-paycheck while burdened with $300,000 in debt between student loans and two mortgages. 
  • The Maulions made drastic lifestyle changes and paid off their debt in 2019. But they didn't stop there.
  • Today, the Maulions have built a net worth of $1.2 million. They share three key strategies that helped them get there.

Just six years ago, Bernadette Joy Cruz-Maulion and AJ Maulion were living paycheck-to-paycheck while burdened with $300,000 in debt between student loans and two mortgages. 

The Maulions made drastic lifestyle changes and paid off their debt in 2019. But they didn't stop there.

"Once we paid off the debt, we're like, 'Well, if we kept doing this, but we actually saved money and it grew, that seems way more exciting and not as hard as just putting the money in a black hole like student loans,'" says Cruz-Maulion, a personal finance coach and founder of Crush Your Money Goals.

Today, Cruz-Maulion, 37, and Maulion, 40, have built a net worth of $1.2 million — including cash, investments in stocks and real estate, retirement accounts, and the home they live in. The couple, who live in Asheville, North Carolina, aims to retire in their 40s.

They share three key strategies that they say helped them build a $1.2 million in net worth in just a few years.

1. They followed a strict budget

The Maulions became very disciplined about budgeting over the course of their debt-free journey, during which they lived a minimalist lifestyle and took on extra side hustles.

Even though they're now debt free, they continue to follow a very clear budget to allocate as much as money as possible toward investing.

That doesn't mean the Maulions never have fun. Nowadays, they splurge on things they really love, such as travel and BTS concerts.

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. They invested in real estate

The Maulions credit buying and selling real estate as a major factor in their financial success today. They have owned three homes over the years, and sold two of them. The homes appreciated in value, allowing the couple to turn a profit with each sale. They also paid off their mortgages as quickly as possible in order to reduce interest payments.

The Maulions purchased their first home, a two-bedroom townhouse in Charlotte, North Carolina for $101,000 in 2013. A year later, they also purchased and moved into a four-bedroom home in Charlotte for $230,000, while renting out the first home.

The Maulions paid off their first mortgage during their debt-free journey. They then sold the two-bedroom townhouse in 2019 for $150,000 and used the proceeds to pay off their second mortgage.

In 2020, the Maulions bought a two-bedroom condo in Asheville, North Carolina for $170,000, where they live now. They sold their second home in 2021 for $495,000 and used some of the proceeds to pay off their condo. They invested the rest in the stock market.

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

Despite seeing real estate as an investment, they stuck to their budget: "We've always ended up buying smaller homes or less expensive homes than we were approved for by the bank," Cruz-Maulion says.

This way, the couple was able to reduce their expenses, while freeing up more money to put into other diverse investments.

3. We invested in the markets

The Maulions have focused heavily on investing in their retirement accounts, due to the tax advantages. They maximize annual contributions to their IRAs and 401(k)s.

"We always started out with the basics around retirement investing first," Cruz-Maulion says, before funding a brokerage account and delving into alternative investments including NFTs and real estate. "The amounts between the retirement accounts and the brokerage accounts is probably about 50/50 now."

The Maulions have about $900,000 invested in retirement accounts, their brokerage account, and a real estate investment fund.

The couple is now working on building toward $2 million in net worth. That way, they can lead more comfortable lives in retirement, including taking vacations and attending concerts. "The beauty of compounding interest, the beauty of continuing to grow our income — we really are excited that the next million is going to be a lot easier than the first," Cruz-Maulion says.

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