Bernadette Joy Maulion, a first-generation Filipino-American determined to become financially independent, has confronted the reality of debt and legacy and faced pressure to pursue a traditional path while amassing  her first million dollars of net worth through real estate. She is nationally recognized money coach and founder of Crush Your Money Goals paying off $300,000 of debt in three years and has built over a million in investments by 37 years old.

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  • How Bernadette Joy Maulion achieved her first million dollars of net worth through real estate and primary residence investments.
  • Strategies Bernadette employed to become debt free, including cutting spending, lifestyle changes, and renegotiating mortgages.
  • How Bernadette has created a platform to educate and empower women to become financially independent and savvy investors.







Welcome to the Real Estate Investor Goddesses Podcast. I’m your host, Monick Halm. On this show, I interview amazing badass women that are crushing it in the money and investing space. And I am super excited today to have with me, Bernadette Joy, who is a nationally recognized money coach, has paid off $300,000 of debt. She paid that off in three years and has built over a million in investments and she did that by 37 years old. She was named one of the top 25 New Influential Voices in Money by Next Advisor in partnership with Time Magazine. I met her a few months ago at this awesome conference called Fincon. She was the final speaker. She blew it out of the water, and I had to have her come and be on the podcast. I’m so excited to have her. Welcome, Bernadette.


Thank you so much for having me, Monick.


Thanks for being here. So we were talking a little bit before we started recording, and you were talking about what are your investments and you recently sold some real estate. Can you share a little bit about your experience with real estate investing and how you got started and what you’re up to now?


Sure. So, hello, everybody. Thanks for having me. I am Bernadette Joy, and I am the founder of Pressure Money Goals. And I’m mostly known for my money coaching and my educational programs. But what a lot of people don’t know about me is actually the main driver of my first million dollars of net worth through real estate and specifically looking at how I can… and I feel like there’s a lot of debate in the real estate world, like, is your primary residence an investment or not? And I always took the approach of my primary residence. I will always treat it as an investment if I can make it that way. And so my main experience in real estate has been buying and selling primary residences with the idea of turning them into rental properties, into airbnb’s and see if I really wanted to be a landlord over the last couple of years. And I’ve learned some pros and cons as to why I like real estate investing but I also think it’s a lifestyle choice. And most recently, I just sold my last real estate property and right now, don’t own any physical real estate property and inventoring into more real estate investment trusts and passive income from other companies who are specializing in real estate.


Yeah, that’s a beautiful thing. You can be invested in real estate passively. You don’t necessarily have to be the one doing the dealing with the tenants toilets, termites. You can be an investor without being the landlord. So that’s awesome. Going back into your story, how did you pay off $300,000 of debt?


Yes, $72,000 of that was student loan debt. The rest of it was actually mortgage debt from my first home. So going back to answer your original question, how did I get started? So back in 2013, I moved from New York City where I thought I would never be able to afford anything. Growing up in Queens, New York, I was looking around the neighborhood I grew up in where prices had shot to over a million dollars. When my parents bought it, it was like $200,000. And I was like, "I don't know if I can live in New York City." So I married a guy from South Carolina. I had no idea I was going to end up moving to Charlotte, North Carolina. And my husband and I decided to buy our first home together a year into our marriage. And it was a two bedroom, two bathroom like nothing special condo. And the idea behind it was like, "Let's make this our first rental property, but we're going to live in it for the first year or so of our marriage." And at the same time, I decided to go back to school, get my MBA, and accrued a lot of student loan debt on that journey. And so I started learning more about how to pay off debt and how to get really good with my own money. You can't see me, but I'm first generation Filipino-American, and I often felt overlooked by traditional personal finance from financial advisors. I'd often ask if I could learn in different places, and I don't know, I never felt like I fit into those spaces. So I started teaching myself about just money management in general. I started getting a lot more interested in real estate, and my husband ended up getting his real estate license as well. And then we realized what if we were to buy this home, paid off really quickly, and then use that equity to go buy the next home, right? And so, that was the idea, and that was the plan. I did not foresee the $72,000 student loan debt. So in 2016, which is when I graduated from my MBA program, I found myself with the student loan debt, the mortgage from the first place. We had then started writing it out and moved into our second place, the mortgage from that place. And I remember it very clearly. I was sitting at my desk thinking, "I don't know how people do this. Some people can be okay with seeing six figures of debt against their personal balance sheet, but I'm not one of those people." I was like, "Well, how can I pay this off as quickly as possible?" So we started with paying off the student loans. I paid off the student loans in about a year, $72,000, and can share some tips on that. And then we said, 'Well, what if we did something crazy and we started paying off the mortgages?" And we got so much feedback from people saying like, "Well, why would you pay off the mortgages? It's a good loan, it's low interest." And at the heart of my decisions behind that was I wanted to just have less stress, and I wanted to know that if I decided to change careers, find something different, then at least I would have a stable roof over my head. So we started with paying off that first place, which when we bought it, it was $101,000, which sounds crazy now in hindsight, and we paid it off in about four or five years. And then we sold that place at a profit for about 150. And then we took the money of that, put it into the second home, then we took another year to pay off that home. And then by 36, 37, I was debt free, including my house. And that really started opening the possibilities of like, "Well, what else can we do in the investing world?"


Nice. I love that. What did you do specifically to be able to pay it off so quickly?


Well, to start off with, we did a lot of things that normal people would talk about in terms of paying down debt, right? Like trying to cut our spending, kind of the obvious things, trying to get some side hustles, all of those normal, quote unquote, “things.” But for me, personally, especially as it relates to real estate, I started also looking and trying to understand like, “Do I really need a 30 year mortgage and what does that do for me?” And when I saw that, when I would study the amortization tables and say like, “Okay, I did not realize when I signed up for this at 20 something years old, that I was paying this much in interest versus this much in principle.” I calculated to myself, “Well, if I pay this off faster than I could technically save this much in interest.” And so, we started getting more creative with the first home. We ended up having it on a 10 year mortgage instead of a 30. On the second home, we renegotiated it from like a 30 year to a 15 year mortgage, and that accelerated some of the principal payment. And then aside from things like that, we also made some lifestyle changes. My husband and I decided to adopt a little bit more. I wouldn’t say we’re all the way minimalist, but we pretty much stick to what we know and like and want to do, and made some lifestyle changes. For example, we had two cars, and then we went down to one car, and that’s like I’ve heard of in Charlotte, where we don’t have great public transportation, things that seem really inconvenient for a lot of people. We said, “Let’s try it, and if it doesn’t work, we can always go back to the way that we were living.” And now, six years later, we’re still living pretty similarly to when we first started paying off debt and our life has been infinitely less stressful.


I love that. Yeah, I think it’s like those little decisions that add up over time to make that shift. So what are you currently working on that most excites you?


Sure. So right now, I am looking at rejiggering my personal finance platform. So, as I mentioned earlier, I’m a founder and I’m an educator. I run a company called Crush Your Money Goals and it’s primarily dedicated to serve women who are not just interested in becoming financially literate, but who truly want to become financially independent. And I think that financial literacy is a great place to start, but a lot of other financial education and services kind of stop at financial literacy versus saying, “You know what? We women, we can do hard things. We can do more than just pay down debt. We can get into complex investing. We can become real estate moguls. We can become millionaires earlier on than people expected.” And so I get really excited about working with women who are high potential, who are not afraid to say I want to earn a lot of money, and I’m good at math. I want to be able to be the manager of my money. I don’t want to hand it over to a financial advisor. I don’t want to hand it over to my husband. I want to be able to manage myself. And so up until this past year, I’ve done a lot of one-on-one coaching and classes and speaking engagements. But going into 2023, I’m really excited about building out programs that are dedicated to educate the next generation of accredited investors, primarily women and women of color. And it’s been very eye opening to me in the last couple of years as I have grown from having $300,000 of debt to having my first million dollars of net worth and not having been exposed to a lot of these things along the way. And how many women I meet who say, “No one ever told me this step before. I didn’t know what an accredited investor was. I didn’t know that I could invest in things other than the stock market.” I want to be able to teach women who want to learn. A lot of these, for me, nerdy and sometimes complex things, but who actually want to build independent wealth.

Speaking my language, my mission is to help 1 million women create financial freedom through real estate investing. Yeah. I love what you’re about. So I’m so excited you’re here. What would you say has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?


Oh, I can only pick one? I have so many mistakes. I don’t know if it was my biggest, but the one that’s coming up in my mind the most as it relates to this idea of becoming a savvy investor is I invested in things in the past just because I heard someone else doing it, or even if that person was reputable, or I thought they were good at it, but I didn’t really know their personal financial situation or what their risk tolerance was or anything like that. And so I assumed, “Oh, if this person did it and they’re smart, then I should do it too.” And this came up as a big mistake, really, for me. In the past, even the last year, as my husband and I were transitioning some of our real estate investing into equities, and I played into a lot of the things of what I hear. Even some of the people at Fincon that you and I met saying, “Oh, you should be doing put into the S and P 500,” let’s say for 20 years. And it’s like, “Well, that’s great for a certain subset of people,” but I realized, for me, I was just like, “One that doesn’t resonate with me from the perspective.” I used to work for some of those banks. I used to work at two of the biggest banks in the world, and I don’t really want to put my money back there. I didn’t enjoy working at those places, and they’re not aligned to me in terms of value propositions. And then I’m wearing a sweatshirt right now that says, “Screw the patriarchy.” And so part of the disconnect I had with traditional investing was that, okay, we want to support women, we want to support local business. There’s a lot of things I’m interested in, but putting it into the stock market doesn’t just sit with me. Well, I mean, there’s some portion of it I’m going to do, but there has to be other ways to also invest money. And so if I could go back in hindsight and say, “You know what, Bernadette, take your time. Store the money.” Don’t worry about people saying, “Oh, it’s losing value right now in terms of inflation or whatever it is.” I would rather you store the money right now and take some time to research and look for things that you’re actually genuinely interested in investing in and then start putting that money incrementally. And I would also say that I kind of fall and pray at times to… how do I say this? I fall and prey to the FOMO, I guess, of there was a while where saying that you want to be debt free or paying off debt, whatever, wasn’t popular, right? People were backlashing and saying like, “No, you shouldn’t tell people that they’re debt free because there’s good debt and there’s bad debt,” and all their stuff. But inherently, that is what I believe, and that is what helped me build my first million dollars of net worth by focusing on living a debt free type of life. And I wish I could go back in time and say, “Bernard, you know what? You don’t have to sound like everybody else. You can have your own way about this, too.”


Yeah, I love that. The biggest mistake then is trying to be a copycat, looking at trying to do what other people are doing without really putting into consideration what your needs are. I would say that real estate investing and I guess investing in general, but real estate investing in particular is not one size fits all. So because something works for you doesn’t mean it will work for me and vice versa.


And I would say just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I will say I had a particular part of the reason I got out of real estate investing temporarily right now. So last year, my husband and I, we took our second rental property and we started doing short term rentals, like Airbnb stuff to see if that’s something we like doing. And then it’s like, “Oh, Airbnb are so hot because everyone’s staying home,” and at COVID, and people can’t go on these vacations or whatever. So we were trying to capitalize on that opportunity. And then my father passed away really unexpectedly. And I remember getting a call literally the day of his funeral, and there was a person, someone who was staying at her place and saying she said something along the lines of, “I don’t know where to put my shampoo in the shower right now.” And I was just like, “Oh my God, this is literally the last thing I want to deal with right now.” And I remember thinking like, “You know what? Real estate… It was great for me when I didn’t have a lot of other obligations.” I could focus on that I was there locally. I also wasn’t dealing with health issues with my mom after my dad passed away. And so even though I could have continued to do it, I chose… you know what? At this point in my life right now, I want to have my investments be in something that is not going to require me, like you said, the tenants and the termites and the toilets and then I can go back and revisit it. So that’s one of the hard things. I hear a lot of people have trouble with making any sort of investment decisions. They feel like it’s permanent, like you have to do it because you started it. But there’s also times when you can say, “No, this is not for me right now. And that’s okay too.”


Yeah, we have seasons too. So there are different things. In one season, a super active strategy like Airbnb might work, and in another season, you need to be a passive investor. Great. Let me ask you this. What are you most proud of?

I will say the thing that’s coming up to me today, just because I just saw a picture of her, is I’ve chosen to be child free by choice. I had a lot of pressure growing up as an adult when I got married. I’m sure a lot of other women can relate to, just like, “When are you having kids? When are you having kids?” And then after my husband were married for ten years, people were still asking, “When are you having kids?” And I finally got the courage last year to tell people, “That’s not in my plan, and I’m happy with that choice and you can stop asking me.” And that was a really hard thing for me to do because I had to think so much of the messaging for us as women is your main job here is to take care of other people and to have kids and to do all these other things for everybody else. And I started choosing to do things that were just for me. And why I’m particularly proud of that is I’m not a mom, but my sister in law, she had a baby last year, and she asked me to be the godmother saying I want my daughter to have a role model like you to show that there are other ways of living life as a woman. You don’t have to follow the normal, quote, unquote “path” that other people chose. And that made me really happy. It reminded me that you can have legacy in so many other ways than just the traditional ways that people think about.


I love that. And it’s ironic that that needs to be to be able to say that as a woman, “I’m choosing not to have children.” It’s so brave. You need privilege to be able to do that when it shouldn’t just be, this is my choice. Men don’t have. I don’t think men are given that pressure.


Oh, yeah. There was a moment, I remember, I was at my in-law's place and we were there for Christmas Eve one year. And it was the first time I was going to meet a lot of my husband's family like extended family and stuff. And Filipinos are not shy about asking, "So what are you having kids? When are you having kids?" And I remember sitting there feeling all these questions from people, and then my husband was just like plain cooker sometimes. And I was like, "Y'all do. First of all, why don't you ask him?" He's the one who's actually part of this family or whatever. And second of all, it takes two to tango. Why am I the only one who's feeling all the questions? And ever since then, I remember thinking, I respect women's choices to have either way, whatever it is that they want to do. But it's been really interesting. I hadn't expected it when I became a money coaching. When I've been doing a lot of these other speaking engages and stuff, how many women have come up to me, even at FINCOM, and said, "You know what? Thank you for saying that. You're a child free by choice. That's not something that I hear very often." And so I wish we didn't have to say that in the year 2022, but it never hurts to remind people.

I know. It’s crazy, and I have three kids, but one biological. But after I had her and even after I had a baby when are you having another baby?




I was like, “I have three.” It’s like two step kids. And they’re like, ‘Yeah, but your child needs a sibling.” It’s like she has two siblings. It was so weird, but I kept getting that to be a woman. So I’m going to ask you some questions about advice. What’s the best life advice you’ve ever received?


It was actually this past week. It sounds so obvious, and even I say it to people sometimes, but it’s just a reminder to tell people no. If it’s not something that is an absolute 100%, like heck yeah, then it’s okay to say no. And I was given the advice. I went to do a TV segment here locally in Charlotte, and the host of the TV segment, I highly respect him. His name is Eugene Robinson. He was an NFL player for many years and now he does TV stuff. And he was one who had told me he’s like, “When I call you and ask you to do TV Seven, you can say no. It’s okay. You can tell me no.” And it was easy to say no to things when it was clearly something I didn’t want to do. Those became obvious, and over time, especially as it became more financially independent, if something was going to waste my time, obviously, I wouldn’t do it. But then I’d have to start making harder choices of, “Is it okay to say no to things that used to serve me well before? And they’re not really hurting me right now, but it’s preventing me from doing other stuff. And is it okay for me to say no to things that a lot of people would say yes to?” Right? It felt very odd when a couple of years ago, I would have been like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe I have to be on TV.” And now I’m like, “Oh, I don’t want to do a TV segment today.” It sounds so full of myself. But that’s where I think, especially for women who are going towards financial independence, it gets harder and harder to say no because they’re not so obvious anymore and they’re things that you should really want. So that was a good reminder for me that even if it’s something that I used to want before, but it doesn’t fit in now, you can let it go.


I love that. It’s definitely something I’ve been playing with, actually. I challenge myself to say no at least once a day. That’s my latest thing. I’m saying yes too much, though, every day like what did I say no to today? All right, and what’s the worst advice you could give someone that I could give to someone? 

That I could give to someone?

Yeah. What’s the worst advice?


The worst advice that I could give to someone is to let debt be a lifestyle. I think that’s something that I shied away from. Again, like I said before, there was a couple of months in the last year, specifically, where it just wasn’t in style to say that. And there was a lot of like, “If you have debt, that’s okay.” If you’re happy with that, then more power to you, right? But too often, I see a lot of people who say like, “Oh, the only way I can do this is by getting a mortgage is by getting it on the credit card or taking out a business loan.” And I just challenge people to think about rather than making debt a first priority, can it be a last resort? So the bad advice would be like, “Oh, go for debt first.” And hopefully, the good advice is like, “Yeah, debt is good if you don’t have any other options.”


And what’s the best advice you have for a woman? Getting started and investing.


Oh, my gosh. If I can say two things, I would say the first thing is don’t do what I did, which is just take the advice blindly and apply it without regard for your own context. And the more specific advice I would say is there is a lot of great things if you look up online, just like risk tolerance quizzes. I would tell any woman before you start any sort of investing is to take a quiz or take a test or talk to someone about understanding what your personal risk tolerance is before you go do any sort of investing. Because that’s the piece that I think a lot of people overlook is like, “Oh, this sounds like a good investment strategy, but maybe you don’t have the same risk tolerance as somebody else.” And that’s something that I implemented with a lot of my coaching clients. And even those who’ve had financial advisors have said that no one’s even never addressed that with them. So go have an objective assessment of where you stand in terms of what risk you can tolerate before you go into investing.


Yeah. And invest accordingly. All right, great. Well, before we get into our famed end of show Trinity, which is a brag of gratitude and a desire, let me ask, where can people connect with you, find out more about you and what you do?


Sure, you can find [email protected]. That is where you can see what I’m doing in my business and also for speaking engagements in classes. And then if you just want to connect with me for some daily inspiration around money, you can find me primarily on Instagram @bernadebtjoy. And then coming up in the new year, we’re going to be reviving our YouTube channel. So you can look me up at Bernadette joy on YouTube.


Awesome. Okay, so now it’s time for the Trinity. What is one thing you’re celebrating right now? What’s your brag?


My brag is… right now, next year is the first year that I’m going in with a really solid money plan that I don’t think I’m going to have to change very much unless something crazy happens. And what is a brag for me, is someone who gets very nerdy about money. I can spend a lot of time analyzing all the different routes I can take. And I decided next year that my focus is going to be primarily in health, and so that meant that I’m going to put a lot more of my money plan on autopilot. And right now, I’m looking at my giant board behind me, and it’s about 60% done. So by the new year, I’m basically going to have a plan that’s on autopilot, and then I can just focus more on health. And that’s the first year in my 37 years of life that I feel like I can say that.


Well, bragged. Very good. And what’s one thing you’re grateful for?

I’m really grateful for the women who have trusted me up until this point with their money journeys. I started crushing money goals in 2020. And this is fresh in my mind because just this past week, I gathered my clients locally here where I am in Charlotte to just have a night of gratitude, where I just wanted to get them together, to tell them how much I was thankful for them and also for them to share their success stories with each other. Because a lot of them haven’t met each other. And I came out like I was literally crying that night because they just inspired me, reminded me how brave women can be and how we can really do hard things if we decide that that’s what we want to do. And so I’m just really grateful that this community has let me be part of their journeys. I think that’s forever changed me as a human.

Beautiful. And last but not least, what’s one desire.


One desire is I just came back from Korea not too long ago. It was my first trip to Korea. It was my first international trip since COVID and I’m a big Kpop fan. I’m a big Korean drama fan. And my one big desire is I will go back to Korea next year, and I will actually meet one of my celebrity crushes.


All right, well, so shall your desire be, or so much better than you can imagine.


We’ll manifest it.


Yes. Thank you so much. Bernadette, like your name, this was a joy to be able to connect with you. So y’all you can connect with her, go to or @bernadetterjoy on Insta or find her YouTube channel, bernadebtjoy and you can connect with me at There you can find out about our passive investing opportunities, our investor club, our courses, our events, and our social. Also, don’t forget to subscribe, and, like so you don’t miss another amazing real estate investor goddesses podcast interview. Bye.



Connect with Bernadette:

Instagram: @bernadebtjoy

Youtube: Bernadebtjoy