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Interview: Tori Dunlap of ‘Her First $100K’

Interview: Tori Dunlap of ‘Her First $100K’

Welcome to my Interview Series! This series features amazing female entrepreneurs & digital influencers that are breaking ground in their space. This week I am featuring Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K!

Today's interview is all about taking charge of your finance and financial freedom. I am excited to introduce Tori Dunlap, a nationally-recognized millennial money and career expert.


After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over 50,000 women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.


Tori is sharing her financial investing tips on how she saved $100K. She breaks down the most important reasons why you should be investing in your retirement and why time matters more than money! She is also addressing what to with your finances with the fallout from the coronavirus!


Keep reading to see how you can get control of your finances and 401K.


 Thank you to Tori for taking the time to answer all my questions. 



How did you get into investing and finance?

One of my biggest priorities in life has always been to reach financial independence — I owe much of that to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age.  Having that great financial education — which included starting my first business when I was 9 — I thought everyone knew how to save, invest, and negotiate.


It wasn’t until after college I realized most women, are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to their money and career knowledge. I watched female friends get paid less than their worth. I read stories online about women being denied career opportunities because they were seen as “less.” I had sexist, negative comments said to me at work by male colleagues. So I knew that I had to fight back.


What was your first Savings/Finance Goal?

My earliest money memory: I was saving up for something I really wanted — to see Annie the Musical at the local community theatre. (3 BUCKS! TWO BAGS! ONE MEEEEEEEEE 🎵) I was probably age 4 or 5, and I had saved up all my change in an Altoids tin. My pennies I had found on the ground, an extra quarter from my quarter collection (remember the state-specific quarters?!)


And then, the sudden, absolute dread the moment I realized I left my tin at home. I started crying in the backseat on the way to the theatre. I full-on thought my parents were going to turn the car around and say, "we can't go now."  But I still remember my mom's face, smiling at me, and saying, "We've got you." 


This money memory taught me that you need to be prepared to pay for something you really want. Sneaky, sneaky, parents. My "savings" probably wasn't more than $4 or $5 in change (much less than the actual cost of a ticket; like, what, did you have $30 to go see a musical as a pre-kindergartener??) but it was the act of saving for something I desperately wanted that stuck with me.

How did you get your goal of saving $100k & what steps did you take to accomplish it?

Three years ago, I made a deal with myself: I wanted to have $100,000 saved at 25. For the past three years, I’ve never made more than $80,000 pre-tax. And about a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments, and realized that if I pushed towards it, I could save $100,000. And in September of 2019, I successfully hit my goal of saving $100K at 25


I want to acknowledge that privilege is a key part of my story. I was able to graduate college without any debt – I earned tens of thousands in merit scholarships and worked three on-campus jobs. My parents were also able to financially contribute, but we paid for college collaboratively. I know I wouldn’t have hit my $100K this quickly if I had student debt.


I’ve been fortunate. But it also takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and responsibility to save and maximize your earnings. Feeling motivated and knowing that I’ll be prepared for whatever life throws my way fuels my drive to keep making smart financial decisions.


Regardless of your current financial situation, use these 4 financial tips to help accomplish your own savings goals.


How I saved $100K:


I side-hustled

This kick-started my journey towards six figures. In addition to saving over 20 percent of my 9-5 salary, I was able to successfully earn tens of thousands side hustling that I could put immediately into savings. I was able to establish both a SEP IRA and a fully-funded emergency fund with my earnings (a SEP IRA is a retirement account, while an emergency fund should be your #1 financial priority to give yourself financial security).

And then I turned my successful side hustle into my full-time business as a money speaker and coach for women (fighting the patriarchy through financial education!).


I started investing early

Knowing that compound interest is so important, I wanted to start investing early to have my money work for me. Once I started my first corporate job, I opened my first Roth IRA (an independent retirement account.) Starting to save for retirement at age 22, I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to a SEP IRA and a non-retirement investment account. My first job out of school had a 401(k), but you couldn’t contribute until you were there at least a year. Knowing I wasn’t planning on staying long — I was at that job for a year and a few months — I opened a Roth 401(k) and then rolled my earnings to my Roth IRA. (Here’s an in-depth explainer of different retirement account options.)

If you don’t feel confident enough to start investing on your own, one of the easiest ways to get started is by using a robo advisor like Ellevest — a women-founded, women-focused investing platform. 


I negotiated salary offers and raises

Negotiating should be a collaboration, not a confrontation. When I was offered my first social media side-gig, I negotiated over $10k more than they offered. And after achieving a 20 percent bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20k more than what was offered at my next job. And $10k more at the next job. 

Start by researching your market rate using a tool like Payscale. Knowing your market value is the best way to know if you’re being underpaid (spoiler alert: you probably are). 


I’ve automated my savings

PAY YOURSELF FIRST, Y’ALL! Automating your money not only makes your life easier, but it makes you feel like the percentage you’re saving just doesn’t exist. At my savings peak, I had 26 percent of my take-home pay automatically deposited into a high-yield savings account. This “set it and forget it” level of financial freedom was something I worked hard for — through money diarying, budgeting, and conscious spending. 


Log in to your payroll platform at work, and set up an automatic transfer to your savings. You can start with just a few percentage points, and then increase it over time.


What should I be doing with my finances (savings, investing etc) in light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the markets tanking?

  1. Don't Panic! Nothing about your financial strategy should change. We’re in this for the long haul. There’s going to be booms, and there’s going to be busts — and we just need to ride it out.
  2. Unplug from the News - Turn off news notifications (and maybe not just about the stock market but about the panic over corona, and Trump doing stupid things.) The media does a great job of sensationalizing what’s actually going on — it helps with sales but does not help your mental well-being.
  3. Review Your Investement Options - Many of you have been asking me if “this is a good time to buy.” Legally, I cannot tell you what to do. ON A COMPLETELY SEPARATE UNRELATED NOTE: if a coat costs $200 and now it’s on sale for $175......We also do not know what the market will do next. Keep in mind stocks could recover (or they couldn’t.)  At the end of the day, stick to the plan and stay steady.



 A study by Fidelity showed that women invest 40% less than men. Why do you think women have a harder time talking and taking action around finance/investing?

We talk about the pay gap a lot. 77 cents to a man’s dollar; it's even worse if you’re a woman of color. But what we’re not talking about is the investing gap. We know that the number one reason women don’t invest is fear — fear of doing it wrong. 


Women either wait longer than men to invest, or do not invest at all. They are told investing is scary, or risky, or just not for them. And then, women live 7 years longer on average than men do.  So we’re taking less money that grows at a slower rate, and then we’re expected to live longer on that money. On average, we need to save $1.25 for every $1 saved by men. How the hell does that make sense?


Retirement is the most costly expense of your life. It's more expensive than college, a house, or paying for your kids' college. Investing your money in a tax-advantaged retirement account like a 401K or IRA is the only way the average woman will be able to stop working someday. The ONLY way.  So this is your kick in the pants — if you keep telling yourself that investing is something you’ll get to eventually, it cannot wait. And because of the power of compound interest, TIME matters more than the amount of money. If you only contribute $50 a year for 30 years, suddenly you have over $5400. It’s all about how much time you have for it to grow. 


What has been the most important business decision you have made for yourself?

Hiring help. It was such a game-changer, to have someone take care of things that were important to my business but didn’t need me doing them. I have contracted marketing assistants who help with so much of my business – writing blog posts, scheduling social media, handling my inboxes, writing marketing emails — and it helps me do more without burning out.


What does a typical day look like for you? 

Every day is different as an entrepreneur, but I almost always get 8 hours of sleep, go to barre, and post on Instagram. Those are my constants. Some days, it’s a speaking engagement. Others, it’s an online workshop or a coaching session.


Do you ever experience imposter syndrome? How do you deal with that?

I used to. It’s easy, especially being a young woman in the financial sector, to feel alone. But I know that my work changes lives — every time I remember that, it’s easy to overcome imposter syndrome.


What is in store for you and your businesses moving into 2020?

This is my first year of full-time entrepreneurship. When I started the year, I wanted to hit $100K in revenue. As of March 12, I’ve already grossed $73K. I’m so thrilled to continue growing my business and fighting the patriarchy in the process.  Make sure to check out my favorite money tools, and I’d recommend my “Personal Finance 101” workshop to get a game plan together for your finances in 2020. 



If you are new here - make sure to check out my Work Series where I share personal stories, interviews, and career lessons to empower women in the workplace.

Know any amazing female entrepreneurs or boss ladies? Email me and tell me who you think I should interview next!

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