How to Reach Your First $100,000 (in Salary, Business and Net Worth) – with Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap coaching

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Do you want to reach $100,000? This could be in your salary, your small business revenue, and even your net worth.

To help us achieve these big milestones in our lives, I’ve invited Tori Dunlap to chat with us today.

Tori is a millennial money and career expert. Her career started with landing a digital marketing contract worth tens of thousands, and a full-time position as the head of marketing for a global company — all before she turned 22. On track to save $100,000 by 25, Tori founded Her First $100K to give women actionable resources to get their first six figures too.

Andy Hill: You’re in your mid-20s and you have almost $100,000. Where did this drive come from for you?

Tori Dunlap: I had a really great financial education when I was growing up. That is definitely a rare thing to have parents who not only exemplified what it meant to be really good with money but lead by example. They not only talked about being good with money, but they showed me.

I saw my dad negotiate the cable bill almost every month. I saw my mom balance the checkbook on 1998 Quicken, which they still use, by the way. Doing it the same time twice a month, every month. And so I really saw them lead by example.

And then I also had a really cool opportunity to start my first business when I was 9 years old. I owned 15 vending machines by the time I graduated high school. These are the kind of, you put a quarter in, you get a handful of candy out vending machines. I ran that business for 10, 11 years and then later sold it to a 10-year-old who also happens to be named Tori. Because that’s how this crazy world works.

I was not only learning regular personal finance from my parents, but they gave me this awesome gift of starting my first business as a young person. So I understood profit and loss statements. I learned how to save money, how to pitch myself and had my first checking and savings account when I was 9 years old. I would go into Costco and write my check for a product and hand it to the attended at Costco.

Related Podcast: How to Raise Financially Savvy Kids

And so when I graduated college, I knew the business thing was rare. I knew that wasn’t normal, but I thought, “Oh, everybody knows to not overspend on credit cards. Everybody knows to negotiate your bills.”

And I realized very quickly that that was not the case. I was the friend all my friends were coming to you for money advice and direction. When I realized that a lot of intentional choices along with a lot of privilege I had was going to be able to get me possibly to a $100k by at least the end of my 25th year, I was like, “Why not do it?” Probably a year or a year and a half ago I realized, “Oh, this is in sight. I might be able to do this if I grind it out a little bit.”

So, yeah, I’m just inspired and was so thankful for my parents giving me a really great foundation. And I feel like I have a responsibility now to not only make smart money choices for myself but to pass along that knowledge to other women.

Tori Dunlap coaching

Women, on average, are not given the same financial guidance and advice that men are. We invest less or not at all. We wait longer. So we know about the pay gap, we know about that, but we don’t talk as much about opportunity gaps and wealth gaps and investing gaps. We’re making $0.78 sometimes less, to a man’s dollar. We’re either waiting to invest it or we’re not investing it at all. And then we’re living on average 7 years longer than men are.

So I wake up with this fire in my belly to be able to pass along this financial knowledge about how to get your first $100k to women all over the country.

Let’s say someone wants to earn $100,000 as a salary. Where is the best place for them to start?

It’s tricky because it depends on your job, it depends on your skills, it depends on where you live. But these are all things that can be used to your advantage.

So let’s say a hypothetical scenario, you know you’re being underpaid at your job and you’re ready to go in and ask for a raise. I actually guide clients through a specific script I use that I’ve used to make 10, 15, sometimes 20% more than what I was making before.

1. Do Your Research

The key is to first do your research. You need to figure out what is someone like for me with four years of experience as a Digital Marketer living in Seattle … I bring this unique skillset. So once you’ve done your research around that and you can figure out, okay, what is my market rate?

And you’ll get a couple of different numbers. It’s very rarely going to say like $82,500 every single time. But you can kind of take an average. Also, ask other people in your field. If you have trusted colleagues, either at your job that you feel okay talking with that you know is not going to negatively affect you, or colleagues outside that you can say, “Hey, what would you pay for a job with necessary skills X, Y, and Z?”

You can get a great understanding of what the kind of market salary is using tools like Glassdoor and Payscale, but also just having conversations with people. So first, do your research.

2. Craft Your Story

The second thing is if you’re asking for a raise, chances are you’ve been there six months or a year or some sort of milestone. Maybe this is a conversation that you know you’re going to have around salary. Maybe you’re bringing it up organically, which is more daunting. But the best thing you can do is look at everything you’ve done for the past period of time that relates to your original job description that you were hired on.

So I literally print out my job description, I highlight stories, or specific metrics, percentages that I’ve grown in … “Really killed my job in everything that they hired me on to do originally”.

I print that out, have a plan around that, and then I make a second sheet, which is a bulleted list of every project I’ve implemented in addition. Or every task I’ve taken on that was not in my original job description. Basically everything I’ve gone above and beyond that. So you can see I not only knocked it out of the park for what you hired me to do, but I’m also bringing value in all these other ways.

Related Article: How I Took My Salary from 5-Figures to 6-Figures in 7 Steps

3. Ask for a Raise

Step three is to understand that it’s going to be scary. Like it’s never going to be easy. I recently had my annual review at work, and I coach negotiation, and I was a wreck all day. Like I was sweating. I was terrified.

So understand that the more prep you can do, the more comfortable you’ll feel so you don’t go in and your mind doesn’t draw a blank trying to figure out what you’re going to say or do next. But also understand that that nervous energy can be used as excitement rather than panic or anxiety.

As far as the script, I call it a “gratitude sandwich”. And so you can follow the script very closely.

First, offer gratitude.

“I’m so thankful to work here. I’m so thankful to work under your leadership. I really love the mission of the company. I am excited to continue to grow here.”

The meat of the sandwich is all of that we just did, the market research, the job description, as well as anything you’ve done in addition. Then you’re going to drop a number.

You’re going to give a range that’s higher than what you actually want to make. Because if you want to be making $85,000 and you ask for $85,000, and you’re at $70,000, you’re going to be put at $77,000 or $75,000 as opposed to where you know you need to be. So ask for $90,000-$92,000 or $90,000 to $95,000, because negotiations are collaborations.

You’re going to get to a number in the middle that makes sense for you, and then you’re going to end it in gratitude. You’re going to say, “I know there’s a number we can collaboratively work on together. I am excited to continue learning and growing here. And I feel like, in order for me to do that, I want to be compensated fairly. I’m so thankful for this job. So thankful to continue growing,” all of that fun stuff.

So “gratitude sandwich” with the meat in the middle.

What is your net worth and why is it important to track it?

Net worth is your assets minus your liabilities. Your assets are basically any savings, or like a house you have, or a car or you have. Basically, anything that’s of value.

Your liabilities are debt, basically. So your credit card debt, your student loan debt, a car loan, all of the things that you want to eventually get rid of. The goal is to have a positive net worth, for many Americans. For most Americans, I think that’s just not the reality right now.

One of the things you can do is start tracking your net worth. I know Andy’s a big fan of Personal Capital. I love that tool. That’s something I check because I’m obsessive, but I check it every day. I probably don’t recommend you check it every day, but it’s just a great check in with, “What is my financial picture? Where am I at?”

I work with a lot of clients who have no idea what their numbers are because of what I like to call the ostrich effect, which is burying your head in the sand, not acknowledging it, because you’re too scared to look at your financial life. And you’re too scared to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The first step is to just really say, “Okay, what is the lay of the land here?” Because you can’t start making really great choices or start shifting those numbers until you know what they are. So that’s the first thing is to just kind of get honest with yourself. I mean, if you have to, make yourself a lovely cocoon with a glass of wine, like that’s what I recommend all my clients do, of like make yourself super comfortable, put a face mask on, if that’s your thing. But understand that you have to kind of grin and bear it, potentially. And sometimes it might not be as bad as you think it is. At least looking at those numbers is your first step.

Related Article: Why You Should Track Your Net Worth (And How to Do it Easily)

The second step is to start tracking it. Figuring out, “Okay, if I spend even $20 fewer a month and I put it to the principal of a loan payment, how many fewer months am I going to be in debt?” That’s a great way to look at it.

It doesn’t have to be this lump sum of money. Incrementally is so important not only for your financial life, because it’s going to take you a while to get to that $4,000 or $5,000, whatever that big number looks like. But psychologically it’s a lot easier to keep going once you see progress.

I talked to a friend yesterday and she has debt on three different credit cards. And there’s one credit card that she has that’s higher interest. And so she’s like, “Okay, I’ll put $60 to that credit card and I’ll put 20 at the other two places.” And I go, “That’s great. I would suggest putting a $100 instead of $60, $20 and $20 on to that one piece of debt. First of all, it’s costing you the most money. Second of all, it’s going to be a lot easier to see progress when that debt starts going down more exponentially than when these three start kind of going down at a slower pace.”

So understand that you can do it in incremental steps, but just start tracking it, get honest with your numbers, and understand that you can do this. It may take you a while, but get a plan together and understand that you can increase your savings or your contribution as you go. It doesn’t have to be this huge lump sum of money.

What assets are you working with to increase your net worth?

I don’t have a 401k through work. You hear about a 401k a lot, but if you don’t have that option, there are other retirement accounts out there.

For a previous job, I had a 401k and a Roth IRA. I’m younger. That was probably a smarter decision for me personally. And then I also have a SEP IRA, because I have my business outside of my 9 to 5. A lot of people don’t realize that you can multiple retirement accounts just like you can have multiple savings accounts that achieve different purposes.

Right now, with no 401k, I have a Roth IRA and a SEP IRA, and then I have a non-retirement investment account. All of those for me are through TD Ameritrade, who I just love. That’s not sponsored anything. I just love their platform.

Related Interview: Simple Millionaire Investing Strategies with 401k, IRA and 529

And a lot of my investments for my big $100k are going to be in those three areas because my money’s working for me harder there. Outside of that, in my emergency fund, that is going in a high yield savings account that is specifically a different bank than my normal day to day checking account, for a couple of different reasons.

I’m getting way more interest on that. I’m getting upwards of 2%. There’s one account that has like 2.45%, which is awesome. So I’m funneling all of my money for my emergency fund there. And it’s also at a different bank, so I’m not tempted to take money out of that account and move it to my checking account so I can go blow it on something.

The majority of my money will be in investments for that $100k. And the rest of it is in a high yield savings account which is still working for me but I need to keep that liquid should something happen.

You’re in your 20’s. How do you motivate yourself to invest for your retirement (something you can’t touch for 30 or 40 years)?

I honestly think of 65-year-old Tori. She’s the cutest little thing. She’s walking around in her walker, she’s got her handbag that she loves and she’s just living her life. And I think of that. And I think of saving for future me.

I do this a lot with clients, like, as you said, a lot of people are like, I’m either a spender or a saver. And for “spenders,” what I say to them is I go, “You’re going to spend this money. Like pretty much all of the money you save, you’re eventually gonna spend it on something, right? It just may be in 30 years. And then 65-year-old you, who’s living it up in Florida or Arizona or wherever she’s at, gets to spend all of this money that you worked so hard for.” I think of it psychologically as investing for future me.

Related Podcast: Strategies for Becoming a Young Millionaire

I also, again, am one of those weird people and I just love saving money. Like I get the same sort of rush a lot of people get at spending money in saving money. So it’s kind of fun.

If you can gamify it and you can say it’s like a personal challenge for you. The $100k, no one imposed that goal on me. I just said, “Oh, I think I can do this. Let’s see if I can do it.” And if I don’t do it, if it’s 26 or 27, should something happen. Like that’s not going to be the end of the world. But it’s this fun game I can play with myself.

Challenge yourself, okay, “I’m going to save $50 this month. Okay, next month I’m going to say $75. A month after, I’m going to save $100.” There are so many awesome things that you can do psychologically to keep yourself moving through your financial journey and to keep yourself motivated in a way that makes sense for you.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a profitable side hustle?

I would say there’s kind of two side hustles, really. There’s one where you’re like, “My goal is to make money”. And the second is like, “I just want a project outside of work. If it makes me money, great. If it doesn’t, so what?”

There’s a lot of people I know who are the latter who, maybe it’s crafty or more creative, and they just need an outlet. And that hustle is kind of like more of a passion project than going and getting money. If somehow you can make one and two work for you, perfect. For me, that ended up being the case, is my side hustle happens to make me money. And I also really, really love it and find that it fuels me in a really unique way. So as far as getting started, start analyzing what skills you have.

For me, I work in Social Media. In my 9-to-5, I work in Marketing. So naturally, my first side hustle was doing contract work. In addition to my 9-to-5, I’d find contractors who needed me to run their social media or establish social media strategy or whatever that looked like. So that was a natural extension of what I did in my 9-to-5.

Again, for some people, they’re like, “My 9-to-5 is my 9-to-5. I don’t want to do data entry, sales, accounting, whatever that is, beyond the 8 hours I have to do it normally. So find what skills you have that are not typical to your job.

Maybe that’s painting, maybe you really love cheese. There was like this woman I talked to one time at a conference I was speaking at and she’s like, “My biggest passion is cheese and I want to figure out how I can monetize that.” And that’s perfect because there are so many niches out there. Somebody is looking for a cheese blog. Like somebody’s looking to find like what the best kind of cheese is to pair with this wine and that like one cheese in France that you’ve ever heard of. And so her biggest passion was cheese.

And so there are things out there that you can always monetize even if they seem ludicrous to you. I promise you that there are at least a hundred people out there somewhere who have the same passion that you do. So figuring out what your skills are, what brings you joy. And then I think one of the smartest things I did is to not sell too early. Like, understand it’s going to take a while. It’s going to be, the trust building that has to happen, does take a while.

And especially if you want to do it in a non-expensive way. There’s a lot of people who run businesses where they throw a bunch of money at Facebook Ads and they make money off of it. But that costs you a lot of money. And it costs you a lot of time, too. So the organic thing takes longer.

It may not make you as much money in the first, maybe year. For me, it was two. But realize that when you get those people and when you get those customers, they will be yours for life. They’ll bleed for you, they’ll follow you anywhere because you’ve built that trust and you’ve served them first. So yeah, largely there’s kind of two kinds of side hustles, the passion project, and then the side hustle of like I want to make money. If you can somehow merge those two, awesome.

But understand that you have so many skills that you don’t even realize that you can either monetize or grow in a way that brings you a lot of happiness and joy. And start exploring what that means for you. Understand that there is going to be some balance, understand that some side hustles are going to be more demanding than others.

Get an understanding of what time you have available, as well, and then understand what your motivations are. Again, if it’s to make money, understand it’s to make money, and then if it’s just “No, I just want to do it for fun”, that’s totally okay, too.


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Author: Andy Hill

Andy Hill is the host of the Marriage, Kids and Money Podcast which focuses on helping young families build wealth. This 5-star rated podcast was nominated as "Best New Personal Finance Podcast" by Plutus. Andy's advice and personal finance experience have been featured in major media outlets like Business Insider, MarketWatch and NBC News.

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