She found financial freedom after rejecting her husband, home, and job

For Jannese Torres, a personal finance expert, podcast host and entrepreneur, life couldn’t be better. She lives in her dream home in Tampa Bay, has passive income, and just embarked on her first national tour to promote Financially Lit!, her personal finance book.

And to think a few years ago, she was burnt out and miserable.

Less than five years ago, Torres was living in a house she hated, stuck in a toxic marriage, working a job she didn’t love, and had thousands of dollars in student loan debt to her credit. Torres felt like she did everything right, but found herself disillusioned with the American dream that had been sold.

She only found true happiness when she turned her back on the milestones she felt she needed to reach.

It’s never too late to make a change,” said Torres. “The first step is usually the hardest. Your only regret will be not doing it sooner.

Making big drops in life can be scary—not to mention expensive. But staying in an unhappy situation can cost you even more. Torres knows this firsthand and wants to share the advice she wishes she had when her “perfect life” was dragging her down.

Buying a house doesn’t always buy you happiness

As many of us approach our 30s, we begin to measure our accomplishments and successes against our peers. This need to compare combined with pressure from our communities and society can cause us to make financial decisions that don’t match what we really want in life, Torres said.

When Torres turned 30, she found herself buying a house on autopilot. She didn’t stop to ask herself if she wanted to buy a house. She just knew she felt behind her peers and assumed that was what she was supposed to do.

She wasn’t even sure if she was financially ready to own the house. But the fear of losing out and the idea that buying a house was the next logical step convinced him to take the plunge.

“The pinnacle of success in my Puerto Rican family is buying a house,” Torres said. “That’s how you know you’ve made it.”

After three years, she realized she was living somewhere she didn’t want and sold the house for $10,000 less than she bought it for.

“It wasn’t a great financial decision in the short term, but in the long term, it definitely set me up for success,” Torres said.

Having the courage to make a choice that went against what society had led her to believe she should do changed her life. “Leaving my home was the single biggest factor in me being able to pursue financial independence,” Torres said.

“The most rewarding thing is being able to tap into my relationships and prioritize my happiness and health because money is no longer a controlling factor in my life.”

Torres traded her $3,500-a-month mortgage in New Jersey for her dream rental in the Tampa Bay area for $1,600 a month. Six years later, Torres is still renting and is in no rush to buy a home. She pays more than in 2018, but it’s worth it for her. She enjoys year-round pleasant weather and no state income tax — which is a perk of being self-employed with a high income, she added.

Don’t get married without protecting your money

As much as we want some life decisions to work out, they don’t always work out. No one goes into marriage expecting divorce, but so many marriages end. Keeping separate bank accounts and creating a postnuptial agreement allowed Torres to come out of her marriage financially unscathed. But it could have been a lot more difficult if she hadn’t planned ahead.

Combining finances can make sense for joint bills, but Torres recommends always setting aside your own money. It’s sage advice for anyone living with a partner or considering marriage.

“One of the advantages I had, especially in the divorce process, was that I always kept my finances separate.”

If you’re not sure where to start, Torres suggests growing an emergency fund in an individual savings account. This money can help you get out of a situation that no longer works for you. Keeping money in a high-yield savings account can help you earn a competitive interest rate, making it easy to access your funds when you need them.

If you don’t love your career, it’s not too late to change paths

Torres spent $55,000 in student loans to get a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a master’s in biotechnology, only to end up in a 9-to-5 corporate job that was wearing him down. She was getting a good salary. But student loan debt and an unfulfilled career made her question her choices.

At age 36, she decided to go into business for herself — a big change, but one she felt she had to try.

She didn’t quit her full-time job until she set up her new business properly. She took her time to build a bigger emergency fund — just in case — and reviewed her retirement and health care plans to make sure she was covered when she left her job. She also made sure to set up her business as an S corporation so she could pay herself regular paychecks, setting aside enough money for business costs and taxes.

And she has no regrets. “Taking the extra time to make sure those things were in place made me feel like I built something that’s sustainable versus something for the short term,” Torres said.

Now she is her own boss, makes her own schedule and is doing work that is rewarding. Some days, she’s training clients or building a new course. Other days it’s recording podcast episodes or creating social media content. And when she needs a break, she likes that she has the freedom to book an impromptu trip.

“The most rewarding thing is being able to tap into my relationships and prioritize my happiness and health because money is no longer a controlling factor in my life,” Torres said.

Lives too short to settle

Although Torres encourages her followers to get out of unhappy situations as soon as they can, she also emphasizes that you will take the time you need to prepare. Planning to leave a marriage or start a small business may require saving money for several months.

In the meantime, make moves to improve yourself, she said. For example, if you want to change roles in your job, think about how you can rotate without having to pay a significant amount in school costs. Are there opportunities at your current workplace to mentor in another department or shadow someone in a career that interests you? You may be able to rely on free online resources, such as a free or low-cost boot camp to earn a certification.

“It can put you on a path to make a pivot without having to go and get another degree,” she added.

It’s okay if you can’t make a change right away, but don’t be complacent. Before you know it, five to 10 years will have passed and you could be in the same situation.

You can never be 100% ready to take the plunge. But preparing as much as you can in advance can help you feel more confident, so you’re not tempted to stay in a situation that bothers you.

“The worst thing you can do is use money as the reason you’re going to stay stuck in the situation,” Torres said.

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