This Accountant Shares How He Taught Himself to Pay Off $116,000 in Debt

Welcome to our latest Personal Finance Spotlight where we share relatable stories from people like you–the reading audience–who discovered life after debt instead of paycheck-to-paycheck til debt do us part. This week we introduce you to Lawrence Gonzalez.

Lawrence went from a net worth of -$110,000 to +$116,000 in four years. Now 36 years wise, Lawrence’s goal is to share 50 money stories with his peers and mentees. This week, we help him share his story with a few thousand more.

Where Does $115,000 in Debt Come From?

Lawrence describes himself as a proud Haitian-American and Brazilian man. However, he didn’t have a lot of financial mentors to look up to when he was younger. Although he had a job after college, it only paid $21,000.

Checking for lower student loan rates won’t affect your credit score.

On the other hand, his debt ballooned to the following intimidating totals:

  • -$105,000 in student loans (principal, plus interest)
  • -$5,825 in credit cards
  • -$5,000 in moving fees

Read More: From -$110K in Debt to $115K+ in Four Years

A Financial Goal of Increasing His Net Worth Defined His Personal Finances

Lawrence realized that while there is a lot of great personal finance advice out there, the best advice is the advice that works. This meant coming up with his own personally tailored financial plan.

I’m a young Black male with no male mentor/father figure and no fallback plans. If I failed, there is no bailout and no reset plan. Translation, “figure your life out”. Against the grain, I would maximize Debt Reduction and Asset building at the same time. I would later dub it the NET/MAX FINANCIAL PLAN.

Although he didn’t have a father figure in his life, he recognized the importance, inspiration, and beauty of his heritage. “My family is from the Caribbean. No one ever made more than $40,000 annually. My mother flew to Miami and haven’t made more than $27,000 all her life.”

However, he refused to be defeated by these limited opportunities. Instead, he references the tenacity of his grandmother and grandfather for their inspiration. Against the odds, they raised and provided for six kids. For example, his grandmother–a farmhand in the Dominican Republic–showed him the importance of hard work.

He wanted to ‘break the wheel’ his family was on by learning how to reach financial independence for himself and others. He credits his family, our podcast, and his belief that with hard work anything is possible. His latest financial goal is to reach a net worth of $1 million by 2025.

The Net Max Financial Plan

Lawrence believes refining his resume, lowering his tax burden, maximizing investments over debt, house-hacking and giving back to the community helped him find his way. He also realized that his purpose won’t always result in a financial reward. In fact, some of his greatest accomplishments have been free. For instance, he now loves the feeling of teaching others the steps he followed to find financial independence.

The following quick tips have proven to work for him.

  • Redesign Your Budget Use Mint, Personal Capital, or other free financial tools to track your budget.
  • Match Your Company’s 401k – Don’t leave free money on the table.
  • Use the Debt Snowball to Pay Down Your Debts – “While the Avalanche makes more fiscal/math sense, I still took the liberty to pay off smaller cards every once in a while to give a psychological boost.”


  • Take Advantage of Other Tax-Friendly Options – In 2015, he added a traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and Health Savings Account (HSA) to his portfolio.
  • Consider Loan Consolidation If you qualify, loan consolidation might be an easy option to lower interest rates and/or centralize payments into one loan. Depending on the types of your loans, and how many loans you have, you could really benefit from consolidating them. Consolidating them allows you to lower your interest rates, make manageable monthly repayments, and even seek legal advice from your lender if you need it. If you have a few payday loans, Payday Loan Consolidation is a great way to minimise your interest rate as it’s common knowledge that payday loans have ridiculously inflated interest rates, and you can have just one monthly payment compared to multiple.
  • Lifestyle Deflation – On average, just three expenses account for 60-70-percent of household’s budget: home, transportation, and food. Taking on a roommate in 2015 cut his rent in half and after creating a buffer in his budget, he was even able to take on a rental property with his mom to help improve his family’s finances as well. Realizing one of his grandmother’s dreams for him and the family was infinitely personally fulfilling.
  • Maximize Income Opportunities – He also credits income increases for helping accelerate his journey. With solid performance at the 9-to-5, he was able to grow his income from $64,000 to $100,000.


Today Lawrence’s finances look a lot different from the struggles of his past. He has become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and Certified Public Accountant (CPA). His day-to-day financial struggles are gone but not forgotten, and he knows his journey is far from over. Once you’ve got your own financial house in order, your ability to help others is limitless!


He now writes and delivers actionable financial literacy plans to young minority millennials. He focuses on areas he used to struggle with himself, like financial awareness, overcoming accountability issues, building real networks, fostering unique hobbies, educating family and friends, and supporting your community. You can read personal finance insights in his own financial literacy articles which he frequently shares on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Lawrence


We highlight people like you in our Personal Finance section. Think you have a unique financial story? Send me a pitch here for a possible feature on Paychecks & Balances to reach thousands more.

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  1. I enjoyed reading Lawrence’s story on how he beat all odds and turned successful with all his hard work and tenacity.

    Good luck Lawrence, on reaching your goal by 2025.

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