From broke to investor

By Randell Tiongson on March 1st, 2017

A few years ago, I met Arnel Pepito in a small group in our church. He was shy and timid then and now but he has an amazing journey towards financial empowerment. Today, Arnel is a colleague in the financial advocacy environment and I am truly proud of this young man. I am sharing you his story in his own words…



“I was so broke that countless times I skipped meals and didn’t pay Jeepney fares.”

My story is not a bragging right to share but perhaps it will inspire those who experienced and still experiencing lack in life.

A few years ago, I can still remember those times that I was enduring a tough life. I was caught off-guard! I had a job, I don’t drink, I don’t go to party but I was financially broke. I was so broke that I had to skip meals and never paid jeepney fares, countless times… 1,2,3, GO! (Commuters know that well)

I could not imagine the feeling of going to my destinations empty-handed. All I could do was just making “poker-face”. I was always praying that jeepney drivers would be too complacent so I can always sneak-out…If I was caught that time, my life would be in jeopardy. Many times I had to walk long distance to reach places and had to live with 10 people in one small room…

I dread those days! Looking back, I promise myself not to go back to that life, AGAIN!That was like a bad dream…

Finally, I found a way out and I was able to escape! I learned that being broke does not just happen overnight! It is a process and for us to escape it, is to really change our lifestyle and fill in the loopholes. It’s even so ironic that people who are broke today, don’t have any idea how they got there.

Money Mistake #1: I did not save earlier.

Saving is now my daily habit but few years ago that was just an alien to me. I hate budgeting before and saving was just an elusive dream. Only moms do that, I am single who would not care to think of it. That was my mindset back then but when unexpected expenses and emergency happened, it came to my senses. I suddenly realized the importance of Emergency Fund. I finally believed what Zig Ziglar said,” Money is not everything but it is relatively close to Oxygen”. We appreciate something when we needed it the most.

Action Taken:

I went back to basics and practiced saving starting from baby-steps. I only have one thing in mind, ” Do not save what is left after spending but spend what is left after saving”. I made it my mantra and made saving as my top priority. I always set aside an amount when I earned something, usually 30%-40%. Being “Kuripot” is not a bad thing as long as you will not deprive yourself with things that are very important.

Income – Savings = Expenses… and this is the right formula


Money Mistake #2: Unnecessary Spending.

I did not take seriously that little but misguided spending could affect my finances. I wasn’t even bothered to think if what I was going to spend is a “need” or only my “want”…

A little ticket in the cinema, a little amount for an expensive coffee, and few beers can sum-up to a big amount. I was a movie person and part of treating myself was to always go to the cinema every weekend. I love the sounds, the screen, the place! When I was in the mall, the door of the cinema was always calling me, “Hey Arnel, get inside”! Little did I know that it was already part of my destructive spending. Earning money takes 15 days but to spend it will only take few minutes.

Action Taken:

I identified “NEEDS’ VS. “WANTS” then I categorized them. ”Needs” most of the times are all followed urgently and “Wants” are all validated and given a timeline. When I got into investing, my saving habit orchestrated with it. I have something to look forward to. So the more I saved, the more I have the opportunity to invest. That excites me! I suggest you start investing the time that you start saving because the two goes hand in hand!

Money Mistake #3: I was a One Day-Millionaire.

I had an attitude of a one day millionaire, my mentality before was to treat myself first and treat others (splurge). For me treating myself means gadgets and more gadgets! I sold our property years ago and I bought it some gaming gadgets and computers.

After a year, I forcibly-sold it with very low price because I had to pay other debts. It piled-up and did not happen just once. It became a bad habit and resulted to chain-reactions.

Action Taken:

I just realized that “treating yourself first” and “Paying yourself first” are two different things. Treating yourself means, buying valuable things to make you happy and look good, or going to a vacation to feel good. Paying yourself first, on the other hand, is setting aside a small amount, to save for the future.

Money Mistake #4: I couldn’t refuse Borrowers.

That was my struggle back then! I did not know how to refuse especially if that is my relative or a friend (even though many times I knew for a fact that the money is intended for a week-budget). I just realized now that it was already a form of pride! Pride because I wanted others to know that I have more than enough.

Action Taken:

I decided to refuse borrowers especially if I am on a tight budget and at the same time I also made a commitment not to borrow if not necessary. Now, I am setting aside some extra amount for things like this for somebody who will borrow (for situations like emergencies). It is nice to help someone without thinking of when he/she will return it because those are only extra money.

Money Mistake#5: Poverty-Mindset.

I grew up in a working-class family and in a poor neighborhood. I was having hard time managing money. I did not think much of saving and investing. So when I earned something, I spend it to the last centavos. I wasn’t brought up in a financially-oriented family so I had already a negative impression on money. All I know was money is earned today and I will spend it tomorrow.

Action Taken:

I sought mentors and engaged myself with fellow investors. I found out through personal finance seminars that poverty starts from the mindset, so me being broke was just a limitation I put to myself. So things have changed since then. My entire character was transformed. I always believe that being in a very supportive small group helps me changed my perceptions from the inside-out.

I engaged myself in both Financial and Spiritual community. My Victory Christian Fellowship (VCF) family and my church-mates are always there to guide me and opened doors for me to have a harmonious growth in all aspects as I’m working on my real purpose which is to always bring back God’s glory.







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2 thoughts on “From broke to investor”

  • Nice, very interesting and very true, we can learn from the experienced, if followed religiously it can surely changed one’s life

  • Such a humbling journey this man went through. Millions of Filipinos face at least one of the mistakes he mentions. May you continue to share your experiences with those in need.

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From broke to investor