They say the first $100,000 is the hardest to save. Wunderkind personal finance guru Tori Dunlap says, “Challenge accepted.”
Kitty and I have known Tori since BGR’s inception. She virtually forced us, through sheer tenacity and brilliance, to adopt her as our little sister—our more knowledgeable, successful, savvy, and funny little sister who in every way exceeds the promise of this very blog and inspires us every day.
Like, just look at this motivational young feminist do her thang:
So when Tori announced that she was emerging from the chrysalis of rebranding into a new feminist financial coaching venture, Her First $100K, I knew I had to pick her brains about it. I just didn’t realize I was simultaneously going to be schooled on the greatest animated movie of our time.
Knowledge is power
Piggy: Ok I’m gonna get the important stuff out of the way first.
Tori Dunlap: Do it
Piggy: If you could have the super power of flight or invisibility, which would you choose?
Tori Dunlap: Invisibility. Eight-year-old me would have said flight, but twenty-four-year-old me gets it. The amount of spying I would get to do. Oh my goodness. Sneaky, sneaky!
Piggy: Yassssss! Even though I know the question is completely invalid because you already have a super power: being able to quote the entirety of Emperor’s New Groove from start to finish.
Piggy: … so I should probably just copy and paste the movie transcript here instead of actually conducting an interview, huh?
Tori Dunlap: Probably, that movie needs more promo than I do, it’s a gd classic.
Piggy: Damn straight. Ok so feminism: it’s what’s for breakfast. It’s also a big part of your work as the world’s youngest and most talented financial-coach-slash-marketing-consultant. Tell me about why you think it’s so important to work the empowerment of women into the world of personal finance and financial literacy.
Tori Dunlap: Having a financial education is a woman’s best form of protest. And having funds means having freedom. When you have money, you can change your life and the lives of others. You can quit that unhealthy job, you can leave that bad relationship because you can afford your own apartment, you can donate to causes you believe in, you can retire early. Money is power.
And although I get the intent around the “e” word (empowerment), you’ll never hear me say it or use it on my site. The definition of “empower” is to give power. I don’t need someone to give me power. Someone doesn’t need me giving them power. We already have power. What we need are the tools and resources to harness that power.
Piggy: Girl, preach. I fucking love that mentality, and until I met you and got to know your financial philosophy a bit, I never thought to look at it that way.
Tori Dunlap: And I didn’t come up with that take on the word “empower.” I wanna give props to one of my heroes, Sallie Krawcheck, who said it first. I heard her talk about it a few years ago and it changed everything for me.
Piggy: THE Sallie Krawcheck?
Tori Dunlap: Hell yes. That woman is my everything.
Using privilege as a force for good
Piggy: What are some of the tools and resources you use to help young womenfolk harness their power?
Tori Dunlap: I come at money from a nonjudgmental, priority-based method that focuses on actionable resources. There is too much, as the lovely Melanie Lockert says, “inspiration porn” out there. Think, “hustle harder,” “dream your big dreams,” “have the life you want.” Those are all great sayings, but none of them tell you how to get there.
I grew up with a privilege many didn’t have: a great financial education. I started my first biz when I was nine, and watched my parents balance their checkbook and negotiate their bills. I thought everyone knew not to, say, overspend on credit cards and negotiate their worth. Only when I graduated college did I realize that wasn’t the norm. I was the friend all my friends were going to for financial advice. And I realized I had a responsibility to pass the gift of financial education on, especially to women.
And I didn’t want to just tell them, “save money!” Because that’s just not helpful. Instead, I offer specific strategies in my speaking events, my one-on-one coaching, my online communities, and my blog.
Piggy: In a way, it sounds like you’re using your privilege of financial literacy to help pull up people who don’t have that privilege.
Tori Dunlap: Exactly. I acknowledge that privilege and know how lucky I was. And when you see people struggling and you have a solution, you cannot not act. You’re obligated to give your knowledge. And my favorite thing in the world is supporting women.
Piggy: Gawd yes. This is why we’re friends. And also your ability to make me snort milk out my nose with your John Mulaney impression.
Tori Dunlap: STREET SMARTS!
Tori then literally launches into the following John Mulaney bit from memory because she is a weirdo savant and I love her:
Piggy: But speaking of strong, independent Asian women: Why is it so important for young women to BE AGGRESSIVE B-E AGGRESSIVE when it comes to their finances?
Tori Dunlap: I’M A TIGER MOM.
Piggy: Or maybe not aggressive, but confident and direct. Bitchy, if you will.
Tori Dunlap: You have to be your own hype woman. In money, in your career, in your life. I always say there’s two attitudes for managing money:
1. It’s all me. Holy shit, this is terrifying. What if I make a mistake?!?!?! I can’t believe someone is trusting me to manage all of this. I can’t do it. It’s ENTIRELY MY RESPONSIBILITY AHHHHH!!!
2. It’s all me. Holy shit, I have complete control over my money—where I spend it, what I spend it on. I feel confident enough that I can make what I need to make. This is all on me, and it’s going to feel damn good when I see that I single-handedly [INSERT DOPE MONEY GOAL HERE] and accomplished that.
The cool thing is that you’re not alone. You’ve got me, you’ve got Kitts and Piggs, you’ve got your communities online and offline. There are about fifty women I could name immediately whose resources can help you with your personal finances
Piggy: Insert Captain Planet by-our-power-combined reference here!
You’re talking about this amazing community of feminist financial bloggers invested in the growth of young people, economically, career-wise. You’re like the best hype woman in that community.
But let me ask this: why do you think so many people fall into that first attitude of managing money? Why are they so intimidated by money and scared of fucking up?
We get asked about the recession and stock market crashes a lot, and I think that just reflects an overall hesitancy and timidity about getting involved in investing and more serious forms of money management than just penny pinching and stuffing it all in a mattress.
Tori Dunlap: I think it’s a few things, but my blanket answer: it’s all psychological.
We feel so much shame around money. Shame if we have too little and have made “stupid” choices. Shame if we have too much. And for women, this shame we feel around money is the same shame we feel about our weight and the food we eat.
So when I’ve eaten terribly the whole week, I say to myself Saturday night, “What’s another pizza?” If we’re already $10K in debt, we go “What’s another $2k?” And then we feel guilt and shame around that, and then we buy stuff to make ourselves feel better, and it’s a cycle.
Conquering the stigma
Tori Dunlap: Talking candidly about money helps conquer shame, by the way. As the incredible Brene Brown says, voicing things out loud and getting vulnerable conquers shame.
Piggy: That’s one of your big things: talking about money with anyone and everyone to erase the stigma and move on to useful resource-sharing.
Tori Dunlap: As far as being worried about the next disaster, that is also psychological. It goes back to us as humans being cute cave people. We’re wanting to protect our cave, our favorite berry bush, the best rock to open stuff with. It’s this constant fear of the unknown.
And whether we like it or not, something is coming. Always. Maybe that’s personally like a job loss or a flat tire. Or maybe it’s economic downturn. That’s why an emergency fund is so important
And yes, talking about money is so important. The name of my brand, for goodness sakes, is Her First $100K and was inspired by my journey to save $100K before age 26. If you were to ask me how much I make (and you’re the kind of person who will and should challenge me to do so) I’ll tell you.
Piggy: TELL ME.
Tori Dunlap: I make $70,000 pre-tax at my 9-5, and I just got a 10% raise at my annual review. Talk in hard numbers. And men, if you’re reading this, that is one of the most helpful things you (yes, you, Chad) can actively do to help your women coworkers and friends.
Piggy: You’ve been called out, Chad. Stand and deliver! I love this. Because you’re being honest about the hard numbers, but also because you got a raise at your annual review!
Tori Dunlap: Heck yes.
Piggy: As you know, we the Bitches are MILITANT about asking for raises.
Tori Dunlap: As you should be.
Piggy: And a lot of the times when people ask for advice on how to ask for a raise they’re like “Well I dunno if I deserve it or if it’s the right time…” Like, NO. Shut that shit down. Why do you think young people and young women especially are so intimidated by the thought of asking for a raise?
Tori Dunlap: I wouldn’t be on the path to six-figs if I hadn’t negotiated.
Bitchlings, take note! Tori teaches how to negotiate and other bad-ass financial skills online. You can learn at the feet of the master in Tori’s upcoming Budgeting + Savings 101 workshop.
Tori Dunlap: We (women) are taught to be grateful. Always. Grateful. Especially in a post-2008 world, when jobs out of college weren’t guaranteed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about gratitude. But being told “you should be grateful” and believing it will implode your self-worth and want/need to negotiate.
And we also face more penalties than men. My partner is incredible, so good at his job, and a fantastic support of me and all women. And when we spoke about negotiating, he was like, “Women need to just go in there, demand what they want, and walk if they don’t get it.” So I had to say, “Babe, it’s not that simple.”
Piggy: I see where this is going. And I relate.
Tori Dunlap: Women walk this horribly complicated tightrope. You have to be confident, but you can’t be seen as aggressive. You have to be firm, but can’t be seen as pushy. You have to be grateful, but not so grateful you’re willing to take shit you don’t deserve.
So many women feel that, and don’t even want to bother because they’re worried for their futures.
There is a way to do it, if we want to get into that. I have an exact script I use with clients.
But to answer your OG question, it’s not easy. It’s never comfortable. I did it recently and I was a wreck ALL. DAY. And I coach people how to do it!
Piggy: Girl, same!
Saving $100K by age 25
Piggy: But speaking of your coaching… you just started a new business! Tell me about Her First $100K.
Tori Dunlap: I did! HFK is inspired by my journey to saving $100K, and I wanted to help women get their first six-figures too—whether it’s $100K debt paid off, saved, earned, invested, etc. I built Her First $100K to be a platform chockfull of resources, actionable strategies, inspiration, and a community of people ready to get their money together.
I wake up with this fire in my belly to crush financial inequality. Not just the pay gap, but the wealth gap. The opportunity gap. The investing gap. All of it.
I’m a money coach—doing workshops and personalized coaching with hundreds of women across the country—and a speaker. And it’s my favorite.
Piggy: It’s my favorite too! I’m heckin’ inspired!
Tori Dunlap: And then I have a 9-5 job in financial tech too called Tomorrow, and I love the work I do there too. So much financial goodness.
Piggy: What separates Her First $100K from your granddad’s financial/career coach is that you do care about financial inequality. I feel like you’re approaching financial advice not one individual at a time, but within these wider contexts: investing gap, wealth gap, etc. I don’t have a question here, I’m just hyping you up because I’m so gd impressed with you.
Tori Dunlap: Right. I’ve had about four clients say to me this year, “Oh, my dad’s financial advisor Steve is doing something with my money but he doesn’t help me understand and I have no idea why he’s managing it or what’s happening, and I want to.” We need women helping other women in their money journeys.
Btw, Steve is always an older, straight, white gentleman. And I’m sure Steve is nice. But I’m no Steve.
Piggy: Omg, my dad has a Steve too! Who he insisted I talk to right before we bought our house!
Tori Dunlap: Steves are a privilege in and of themselves, don’t get me wrong, but also ugh.
Piggy: It was a useless conversation and I wish I’d had a you instead.
What’s the importance of community to the philosophy of Her First $100K?
Tori Dunlap: Having a safe space to talk about money is incredible. The support that happens there is magical. We all think we’re alone on our journeys. We all think that it’s only happening to us. It’s nice to know there are others out there. And I’ve found that others will ask questions that you’ve never thought to ask. Super helpful.
Piggy: I’m gonna end on what we’ve all been dying to know. What’s your signature lipstick shade?
Tori Dunlap: Blackberry Sorbet. It’s a lip stain at Sephora. I’ve been hunting for that shade for about eight years. I buy tubes and tubes of it when I go. So many people started to associate me with it, that when I rebranded, I knew exactly what HFK’s colors were going to be
Piggy: Your persistence is an inspiration to us all.
You can connect with Tori on the Her First $100K Facebook community, or access all her wisdom, knowledge, and Emperor’s New Groove quotes over at her website. You can also sign up for her next Budging + Savings 101 workshop online. She really is as brilliant, funny, and stylish as she seems. And I really am obsessed with her.