Today Marks a Very Important Day in My Life – I AM FREE.

It all started in 2004. I lived in the US for only a year and I just started my new job as  a teacher. I was making $2200  a month and I thought I was the richest person in the world (Ha! $2200, you’re kidding. Remember, I came from the Philippines where we make an average of $300 a month.). I just moved into my very first apartment, I bought a new car, I felt like the world was my oyster. What do I do with all this money? It all started with small things. Fancier shampoo, new furniture, new clothes, frequent visits to the salon, new electronics. Later, I started going to nicer restaurants and going out more with my friends.

In the process of working and spending, I started developing the mentality of “I worked hard for this money. I deserve to reward myself.” I bought a timeshare (15% interest – 7 years to pay), started buying the newest TVs, home decor, newest Apple products and other electronics, more purses, more shoes, new watches, more clothes. I fell into the trap of materialism. As soon as I get my paycheck, I was already broke. I was not getting along with my family and other people. I hated my job and wanted to quit.  I was just depressed.

Then in November 2012, I went to First Step to Success. I was forced to look back and see what I had acquired in all of my years of “working hard.” I had nothing to show for. I had no assets. All I had were “things” and they had NO value. My mentor Dani Johnson asked me how much I had made in the last five years and how much money I had in the bank. The numbers were astounding. I made so much money but I had nothing left but $800 in my savings, which was quickly getting depleted because I kept dipping into it every month. Disgusting. To top all of that, I was in debt (timeshare, student loan, car loan, and I even owed some cash). I was devastated.

That was the moment I decided I was not gonna be that person anymore. 

So I listened and followed directions. In fifteen months, I was able to pay off $16,000+ by changing my spending habits.  I stopped caring about keeping up with Joneses. I improved my relationship with my family. I am so much happier at work because I am less stressed. My students are awesome and we enjoy our time in class. I have become an inspiration to my family and my friends. I have been able to travel to Texas, New York, North Carolina, and Portland with expenses paid in cash. I always wanted to travel, which was one of my top goals in life.

I am now able to dream big and actually know that I CAN do it.

The past year has not been easy. Some relationships were strained, but thankfully recently restored. I have been able to teach my son and my students about money. I wish someone taught me how when I was younger, but that doesn’t matter because it is NEVER too late.

This year, I am celebrating my freedom so I have already purchased our plane tickets to the Philippines to visit Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Island Palawan and I am taking my family this summer. My next goal is to make smart investments (which I was afraid to do while focusing on just paying everything off). I am going to get involved in charity work that is close to my heart. I am also going to do better at blogging by being more consistent and not being all over the place. I want to pursue my makeup career even further. I also plan on exploring photography this year, another hobby of mine. I will not question myself anymore and trust that I have the skills that I have always been insecure about.

I have another chance for a new beginning. That starts today. I am free. My life will never be the same again.



  1. Dwayne

    Joanne. This is a great post. I’m so happy for you and so glad to hear that you are pursuing your dreams and hobbies. What an amazing accomplishment that you have done in the last 15 months. Wow!!!! :-) Keep up the great work. I’m so blessed to have you as a friend. You inspire me to do the same thing with my savings. That’s why I can now go on a cruise in March and in June. All expenses paid in cash. Thank you Joanne for all that you do. I look forward to hearing more of your successes. :-)

    • joeyhl

      I’m just happy you guys introduced me to this. If it weren’t for awesome friends like you, i wouldn’t be anywhere close to this. Thank you!!!

  2. Sammy D.

    I am So So proud of you. It’s one thing to understand how important financial management is, but it takes a much greater commitment to pay off your debt and discipline yourself to live within your means. Although once you feel the sense of relief and accomplishment like you have, you’ll never go back. Trust me, if you live within your means and make saving and investing (wisely) a priority, your financial independence will pay off in so many ways. Congratulations!! You are well on your way to a live well lived.

    • joeyhl

      Very true. There have been sleepless nights just thinking about smart investments and i am so excited to see what happens next. :)Thanks for reading my story.

  3. darrellrforbes

    Joey, I commend you for what you have done! Truly amazing story displaying hard work AND determination! Life without debt is SO much easier and liberating! The good thing is you have all the shoes, clothes, etc… Every now and then it’s good to ‘treat’ yourself to something. Looks like you’re on the right path! Here’s to your continued success!

  4. Jules

    Wow, this was so inspiring to read! It made me ask myself the same things that you’ve posted about.
    I wish to get to the point where I can say that I’m also free.Thank you for sharing this. :)

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