Smart Money Podcast: How I Got Here: Tori Dunlap of Her First $100K
Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions.
This week’s episode is dedicated to an interview with Tori Dunlap, founder of the blog Her First $100K and the “Financial Feminist” podcast.
Check out this episode on any of these platforms:
Think about money as a tool to get what you want from life. For some, that might mean buying a house. Others might be perfectly content living in an apartment and spending their money on travel and dining out. Understand that how you direct your finances is a reflection of what you value. Once you know what you value, you can set concrete goals for your life and your finances. From there, you can build the habits that will help you achieve your goals.
Saving a lot of money at an early age isn’t easy — or even possible for many people. While the privilege of not having student loans made saving $100,000 possible for Tori, knowing the best way to save money helped, too. And leveraging financial know-how is something that anyone can do. Start by learning how to save for retirement and which savings accounts might be best for you. And then dig into your budget to see how much money you can save monthly. Building up an emergency fund and retirement savings can help you weather financial challenges and set yourself up for success in the future.
If the financial industry feels unfair and stacked against you, that might be because it is. Inequity is baked into many aspects of the personal finance space, from gender pay inequity to the racial wealth gap. But taking the time to learn the best way to manage your money — including getting started with investing, saving money and building wealth — can help toward leveling the playing field somewhat.
- Know your goals: Understand what you value and how you can make financial goals that reflect what’s important to you.
- Save, save, save: Building emergency and retirement savings are paramount to having a healthy financial life.
- Understand the bigger picture: You aren’t managing your finances in a vacuum. Know how you fit into the broader cultural and social context of financial inequity.
Sean Pyles: Welcome to the NerdWallet Smart Money podcast, where we usually answer your money questions and help you feel a little smarter about what you do with your money. I’m Sean Pyles. You may have noticed that I said “usually” there, because this is a different sort of episode. This is the first in a new series called How I Got Here, where we talk with folks who have built their financial lives and, in a sense, made it. For some context, I’ve always found it really beneficial to learn from other people’s experiences and mistakes. It’s that whole learning your lessons the easy way versus the hard way kind of thing.
This episode, I’m talking with Tori Dunlap of the “Financial Feminist” podcast and the blog, Her First $100K, where she offers personal finance advice with a patriarchy-fighting, feminist bent. She also has excellent TikTok and Instagram accounts where she doles out super handy personal finance advice, often in meme format. In this conversation, Tori and I are going to talk about how she got to where she is today, the lessons she learned along the way and how you can improve your finances with the goal of making the world a more equitable place. So Tori, welcome onto the Smart Money podcast.
Tori Dunlap: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Sean: Well, I’m so excited to have you. So Tori, we’re going to talk about how you got to where you are, but let’s start with where you are now. So where are you geographically, financially, personally? Where are the vibes right now?
Tori: Yeah. Oh my gosh. A lot of change for all of us in the past couple of years, but especially for me. I am currently in Seattle, but in three days I will be in Los Angeles for a month. I’ve been doing the digital nomad thing since August of last year, of 2021. So, I went to Europe for two months with my best friend. I’ve been in Seattle — that’s my home base — for the past couple months, and then I’m off to LA and then New York and then probably Europe again.
Sean: How do you manage that with having an apartment or a house?
Tori: The answer is I don’t. I just rent Airbnbs and yeah, I packed up my apartment in August. My lease was up, and I put all of my stuff in storage except for a couple Tupperware containers and some suitcases. I’ll leave my car with a friend and then I’ll go to Los Angeles for about six weeks for some work projects, and then I’ll do the same in New York. And it’s been really fun. I am not married. I don’t have children. I don’t own a home. That was the perfect time to do it.
Sean: No pets?
Tori: No pets.
Sean: OK. It makes it a lot easier.
Tori: Although I want a dog very badly.
Tori: That was the perfect time to try it out, and I don’t want to do it for longer than this year. I feel like a year and some change is enough.
Sean: Right. But when else would you be able to do it?
Tori: Exactly. And the cool thing about owning my own business, and especially it being such a digital business, is I can run this business from wherever I am. So, I was writing my book for HarperCollins out of a Tuscan villa that was on a winery.
Sean: A dream.
Tori: Yeah. I was doing that in October. Just been so cool. And I talk a lot about how I want money for the choices that it offers me. Having a stack of government-issued paper doesn’t do anything for me, right?
Sean: It’s the opportunity that you can create for yourself.
Tori: Yeah, it’s the choices. And I think we’re told, especially as women, that you shouldn’t want money or that wanting money is greedy or bad. And the truth is, I want the options and the choices that money can buy me. And I think it’s so amazing that I’ve been able to see that change in my own life of becoming financially independent to the point where I can live my life how I want. I can go where I want. I can spend money on the things that I love. I can donate to causes I believe in. I can show up for myself and for others, not only financially, but now because my finances are stable, I can show up in every other aspect of my life.
Sean: It sounds like you’re in a great place financially, personally and who even knows where you will be geographically by the time this episode goes live. But you’ve come really far in the past few years. You graduated college in 2016, is that right?
Tori: Yeah, that’s correct.
Sean: So, describe to me where you were back then in all of these different realms.
Tori: Yeah. So, I graduated college in May of 2016 and I thought I wanted to do corporate marketing for my career for my life. I had this very grandiose vision of me in a pencil skirt and heels. And that’s how I knew it was a fantasy, is that I hate wearing heels. So pencil skirt, heels, stomping the pavement with my little briefcase.
Sean: Yeah. This archetype of the business lady.
Tori: Yeah, exactly. And I got into my first job out of school a couple months after I graduated, and it was great in terms of experience but I just — I didn’t like making somebody I didn’t respect rich. It was a very misogynistic work environment. I had weird sexist comments said to me at work. I had friends who were women identifying, who were being undercompensated and overworked. And as I was navigating this first job, I thought I would be coming into adulthood and into womanhood in a country with its first female president, as I think many of us did. And of course, that’s not what happened.
Sean: It did not happen. No.
Tori: Yeah. And I realized that the financial education I had from my parents — talking about saving, talking about how to use a credit card responsibly, learning how to invest — I realized that that was a significant privilege and with that privilege came a responsibility. And especially in a country where it was just overwhelmingly obvious, even more confirmed with the 2016 election, of how much of a gap there was in terms of knowledge and education around money. I really began to see financial education as a form of protest. And so, in late 2016, I started the blog that later became Her First $100K. So, I was working my nine to five in marketing and then growing my business on the side. I majored in theater communication. I don’t have a finance degree. I technically don’t even have a business degree. That wasn’t part of the plan, but it’s 100% what I believe I was put on this earth to do.
Sean: I feel like that’s actually a very great marriage. You can take the knowledge that you had growing up around personal finance from your parents and then also your ability to communicate in a very effective way.
Tori: Totally. Yeah, and be able to present it. I think that we see this with a lot of finance professionals, is that they’ve been in it so long that they don’t realize a lot of the jargon is jargon. They don’t realize a lot of the ways they try to explain concepts is — and that’s with every industry. When you’re in it for a certain amount of time, you just forget that if we’re going to talk about asset allocation, you first have to describe what a stock actually is.
Sean: Right. You lose a lot of people when you even say those two words. Eyes glaze over and they think, “This isn’t for me.”
Tori: Right. Or diversification — just fancy jargon for something that’s actually super simple, which I could talk to you about for hours about why that feels so wrong. But yeah, I think that that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so successful at Her First $100K, is really giving a non-judgmental, non-shaming space to ask questions about money, to talk about money. And in a space where I feel more like I’m trying to translate these money concepts rather than coming to you as the experts from on high.
Sean: Right. You make it more of a conversation.
Tori: Yeah. I want to make something that’s very inaccessible, accessible.
Sean: Mmm hmm. OK. I want to get into the name Her First $100K, because this goes back to how you saved $100,000 and this happened before you turned 30. A lot of people are going to hear this and think, “That’s just not something I could do,” or “She must have hit the jackpot or had some kind of help along the way.” So, can you tell the story of how you saved $100,000?
Tori: Totally. And I’m the first to acknowledge that privilege is part of that story. So yeah, part of the Her First $100K origin story was the fact that I saved $100,000 at age 25. And it was a lot of hard work, which I’ll get to in a second, but the first thing was I graduated without student debt. And that wasn’t because my parents wrote a huge check. I was working three jobs while I was going to school. My parents liked to joke that they attended more high school football games my senior year than I did because I was working a job. But my parents had savings for me for college, and so it was like a collaborative effort where we worked really hard to see if I could graduate debt-free. And so it wasn’t, again, like they just wrote me a check. But I want to fully acknowledge that if I didn’t have that parental support, or if I wasn’t even able to go to college — that’s a certain privilege for me — and so, I would’ve hit my $100K much later if I had student debt. So, I graduated debt-free. That’s the big privilege that’s part of that story.
Sean: But there are plenty of people who do graduate debt-free and also don’t have the focus and determination to really drill down and save $100,000.
Tori: Totally, and I appreciate that. Yeah. I think it’s privilege plus hard work. So yeah, I was really strategic in investing early. I opened up my Roth IRA when I was 21. I was running Her First $100K on the side, so I was not only saving a pretty good chunk of my nine-to-five income — I was also putting everything after taxes that I made from my side hustle into my savings or into my investment account. And I really found a way to be a mindful spender. I’m still living in Seattle, which is a very expensive city, and I didn’t deprive myself. I think a lot of people also think, “Oh, she must have lived at home.” I didn’t. “She must have eaten oatmeal every day.” I didn’t. There was a balance, and I think personal finance can be a balance. It doesn’t mean deprivation. And so, I was still traveling. I went to Costa Rica. I went out to eat plenty of times.
Sean: Yeah. Well, I do want to dig into the word “balance” because that’s something that I think a lot of people struggle with. They think, “Oh, I can either pay off this debt or save for retirement.” Both aren’t really compatible, and you really do have to balance both of these priorities. So, how did you balance things like going to Costa Rica, like going out, with this ambitious goal of saving $100,000?
Tori: Yeah. My lovely friend, Paula Pant, says, “You can afford almost anything, you just can’t afford everything.” And I really took that to heart, and I created a plan that I now teach called the “three value categories.” So basically, I identified the three areas in my life that I wanted the majority of my discretionary money to go. And I basically spent pretty unapologetically in those three areas, but I didn’t spend much money outside of those three because for me, if I want the return on my money — my hard-earned money — to go the furthest, I wanted to spend money on things that were going to bring me the most joy. So for you, that might be coffee, it might be makeup. I had a client — fancy cheese was one of her value categories. For me, it’s travel.
Sean: It can get very expensive.
Tori: Yeah. Yeah. But basically it was like, she could stroll into Whole Foods and unapologetically buy any cheese she wanted. I love that. So for me, it was travel, food out and nesting — basically buying plants and buying throw pillows. And so, the vast majority of my discretionary money — yes, I did buy a coffee every once in a while, yes, I did buy a sweater at T.J. Maxx if they had a crazy sale on sweaters — but it was really focused on the three things that were going to bring me the most joy. And so, this is what I do with community members and with clients is I really have them identify, OK, where do they want the majority of their discretionary or their fun money to go in a way that they can still achieve their financial goals?
They can still save an emergency fund. They can still pay off their debt. They can still invest for retirement, but they also, of course, are not depriving themselves. We know that 99% of diets don’t work. If you tell me I can’t have fried chicken, all I’m going to do is want fried chicken, right? So, if you tell me I can’t spend money, if you tell me I can’t go to eat, you tell me that that $5 latte is the reason I can’t afford a house — it’s just, it’s not accurate, right?
Sean: Nor is this sustainable.
Tori: No, exactly.
Sean: I think that’s also so important to this, is you have to focus on your values and then create these sustainable habits that you can work at on a daily basis — maybe sometimes just a weekly basis — to continue to make that gradual progress.
Tori: And again, I don’t want you to hate your life. I don’t want you to hate your life now because you’re trying to take care of 65-year-old you. You can take care of whatever age you are now, right? You, and 65-year-old you, and the you who wants to maybe buy a house or wants to start her own business someday. You can take care of both. And so, yeah, that’s really what worked for me, is finding that way to mindfully spend on things that I loved the most and then helping other people identify those for themselves.
Sean: Well, what challenges did you encounter along the way? I’m sure that saving that money and saying no to things while, of course, saying yes to other things wasn’t easy.
Tori: Yeah. I think the biggest challenge was I went through a period of unemployment. During that $100K journey, before I had really announced it publicly, I transitioned out of that first job and into another one, and I actually took that job for the money. I was able to negotiate $20,000 more than their original offer. And I was really excited by that and that was the most money I’d ever seen. I negotiated from $60,000 to $80,000.
Sean: It’s a big jump.
Tori: And I was like, “Oh my gosh. It’s so much money,” and I ignored every red flag that was so clearly obvious during this interview process because I got distracted. I was like, “OK. Well, even if it’s not great, the money will be worth it because I can reach my $100K goal sooner.” And then what ended up happening is I got in and the job was so toxic that I had to quit after 10 weeks without another job lined up, and then I spent three months unemployed. So, I was not only not earning money, I was spending the money that I had already saved, right? And that’s why we have an emergency fund, and I talk incessantly about the importance of that. But I had the flexibility to be able to leave the toxic situation, which was incredible. But I thought to myself, “I don’t know if this $100K thing’s going to happen anymore,” because again, I was not only not saving money because I wasn’t earning money, but I was actively spending my savings.
Sean: Depleting the money you did have.
Tori: Right. And it was a decision I’m 100% glad I made. My mental health was more important than the money I had in the bank account. And again, I had that emergency fund, so I wasn’t too worried. But yeah, it was a very stressful time trying to find not just a job, but trying to find the right job next, because I didn’t want the same situation. And then doing the math of, can I still do this? And I joked throughout the process that as long as I did it the day before I turned 26, it still counts. And so I hit my $100K — I think I was 25 years old and three months. And so, it ended up — yeah.
Sean: OK. Still incredibly impressive.
Tori: No, and it wasn’t ever by 25. I didn’t want to do it at 24. As long as I had — at 25, it felt great. So yeah, I ended up getting into — what I think will be — at my last corporate job ever. And then Her First $100K kind of blew up on the side. And so yeah, it ended up working out for me where I literally hit my $100K, was on Good Morning America and then quit my job three weeks later.
Sean: Love it. How did you bounce back after you did deplete your savings? When you got that next corporate job, you had essentially a deficit because you had dug into your savings and you weren’t able to contribute as much to your investment accounts. What did you do?
Tori: Yeah. Well, I have negotiated every job I’ve ever held. And so, I teach women especially how to negotiate. When I got into that new job, I negotiated a raise, and it was less money than I was making at that other job but I was willing to take a pay cut. But I negotiated that up and then ramped up my savings. So I think at the time before, at my corporate job before I was probably saving 15% of my income. I kept increasing it. So, I’d increased it a percentage point or two pretty much every paycheck, and then just figured out how that felt. So if I automated my savings — which is a tip — if you listen to anything I say today, automate your savings. Set aside an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account so that it happens on autopilot. And so that’s what I was doing, is I was setting aside a certain percentage of money and then would increase it until it got slightly uncomfortable. And I describe it as slightly sticky. For me, it meant that I couldn’t buy everything I wanted but I also wasn’t depriving myself, and that was the happy medium.
Sean: OK. So maybe getting the pillows, not getting the sweater.
Tori: Yeah. Maybe that. Exactly. Or buying two plants instead of six, so yeah. And I think the other thing, too, was I was just earning more money in my side hustle. When it comes down to it, and of course, the systemic oppression is a huge part of personal finance. I like saying personal finance is 90% circumstances, 10% personal choices, right?
Sean: And information.
Tori: Yeah, totally, of the stuff that’s in your control. There’s two basic issues. You either have an earning problem or a spending problem, right? So, you’re either not making enough money to be able to make certain financial moves or to take certain financial steps, or you’re spending the money you do have. And so for me, I had my spending under control. What ended up happening is if I increased my income, well, cool, now I have $2,000 more to play with, or I have $5,000 more to play with. And if I was already living comfortably on what I had before, which of course — a lot of privilege in that statement — but if I was already feeling comfortable and then I was increasing my income, well, cool, I didn’t allow my lifestyle to inflate that much and then took that money and put it into an investment account. So, that was the other part of me getting back on track with my $100K goal was not only making more money in my corporate job by negotiating and doing good work in order to earn raises, but I was also running a business on the side.
Sean: I think it also helps that you knew so much about how to do this, because going back to the knowledge gap issue, so many people don’t know how to invest and get started doing that.
Tori: No — I mean, that’s my life’s work. That’s why I’m here. I did have that privilege, and I also just taught myself a lot. I was reading. I was reading blogs, I was listening to podcasts. I became obsessed with personal finance, and I used to think that was so nerdy to say out loud but I saw it as such a powerful tool, especially for any marginalized group. For me as a woman, I now am living a life that I don’t even know if I fully dreamed about. I didn’t know if this was completely possible. And I’ve seen, even on a micro scale, what happens when you give women actionable resources and financial guidance in, again, a non-judgmental safe space. Everything changes. When you give. When we give.
Sean: It can completely change their lives.
Tori: Yes. Yeah. And we get literally messages. It’s going to make me cry. I can’t talk about this without crying. We get messages every 10 minutes from a woman somewhere in the world that our advice is making a difference in changing her life. And that’s why I do what I do. And so, I think when we get money into marginalized groups’ hands, everything starts to change. And it has to be coupled with that actual systemic change. So it’s not only, how do we give you resources to learn how to pay off debt and to learn how to save money? But also, how do we call our representatives? How do we vote? How do we donate to causes we believe in? How do we protest and how do we couple not only personal growth and personal finance, but also with systemic change?
Sean: Yeah. I think that’s a really interesting point because there’s such a strong, still to this day, bootstrap mentality in the face of structural issues of vast inequality between the finances of different genders and people of color in marginalized groups, and you can’t pull your way out of that. There needs to be a balance of systemic change and also providing information and resources to people so they can better their lives.
Tori: Yeah. And that’s what I really think financial feminism is, is seeing, again, money as a form of protest. And not only using these tools to better your own money and to better your own life, but then to go out and share this information and change the systems to be more equitable.
Sean: Yeah. Well, that brings me to a question that comes from your podcast. So in one of your episodes you say, quote, “The very act of getting your financial stuff,” censored word there, “together is feminist. Having a solid financial foundation in and of itself is an act of protest against a corrupt society,” which I think is a very bold and true statement. Can you tease apart what you mean by this?
Tori: In a society or a system that oppresses you and does not want you to have money and does not want you to have choice and wants to actively control you, the easiest way to do that is to tell you that talking about money is taboo. The easiest way to do that is to tell you, “Well, investing’s not for you. Investing’s just for men,” or, “Investing’s too intimidating, so don’t do it.” Right? Or, we were talking about this just a second ago, “You will be rich if you work hard.” These are all narratives that we’re told, and we believe, that actively keep us oppressed. They’re patriarchal narratives that silence us and therefore, they profit off of our silence. So if this society or system is telling you, “Well, don’t talk about money because that’s taboo,” you’re going to be underpaid and overworked, right? Or if they’re telling you, “Well, you just need to work hard and then you’ll be rich and then you’ll be financially stable,” and then you work hard and that doesn’t happen, well, of course you feel awful. Right?
Sean: And you’re taught to blame yourself for that.
Tori: Exactly. And so for me, again, any marginalized group — women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled people or neurodivergent people, any group that is marginalized — society actively does not want you to have money because they don’t want you to have choices. Because if you don’t have money and if you don’t have that financial stability and those choices, you can be controlled.
Sean: Right. Well, I mean, I think the example of people on Medicaid not being allowed to have more than $3,000 in assets is a perfect example of this. It keeps people in poverty because they have some sort of disability or other need.
Tori: Right. And when you learn that 99% of domestic violence cases have some sort of financial abuse tied to them, this is so obvious, right? A perfect example of if you’re in an abusive relationship, your finances are probably also being controlled, so it’s not just the physical or emotional abuse. It’s also the financial abuse because we see so many, especially women but again anybody can, and of course, horribly be in an abusive relationship. But the biggest reason that somebody is not able to extract themselves is they don’t have the financial resources to do so. So when I think of these kind of examples, it’s so obvious to me that this is the key to bridging those equality gaps of how do we give these marginalized groups not only resources, but money and support? Both a societal standpoint but also from a governmental standpoint, how do we give these marginalized groups support in that?
And so again, I’ve said it already three times, but that’s what I believe I was put on this earth to do. It’s so obvious to me. This is my life’s mission because we see firsthand just the amount of confidence and the amount of life-changing impact that just having an emergency fund has, and not living paycheck to paycheck. And it’s just, it’s incredible what ends up happening in every aspect of somebody’s life when they are financially stable.
Sean: Mmm hmm. What do you see as one of the most effective ways people can begin to get their financial stuff together?
Tori: Yeah. I mean, I said it before but automating your savings, even if it’s just a really small amount of money. I think a lot of us think, “Oh, we need a ton of money to invest,” or, “If we can’t save more than $20, we just shouldn’t do it.” And the answer is, I need you to save something if you can, even if that is $20 a month, or maybe that’s $100 every quarter. Even starting small is absolutely massive. And setting that up on autopilot so you’re not waiting to do it last. Plenty of people wait till the end of the month to save money and then they look at their account and they’re like, “Where the hell did my money go?” Right?
Sean: Yeah. It’s the idea of paying yourself first.
Tori: Exactly. And that’s what we say in the personal finance community, right?
Tori: And if you are giving Netflix more money than you are giving future you, I need you to give yourself the $14. And that doesn’t mean cancel your Netflix subscription but it’s like, if you are paying Netflix or Hulu or I don’t know, HelloFresh, more money than you are paying yourself, you are worth that money. You are worth that financial stability.
Sean: One thing that’s been super helpful for myself and for a number of people that I know is setting up what we call savings buckets, which is essentially, you have automated contributions to different savings accounts with different goals. I have one that is just a fence fund for a fence around my house. Pretty boring, but it helps me save for it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t want to put aside money every month to do it. But then I have my fund money and my emergency money, and even my life-happens money, which is for lesser emergencies, and the money goes into there before I even see it in my regular debit account. And I see it grow every month, and it’s nice to watch that happen, but I kind of don’t think about it as my money to interact with. It’s there if I need it, but otherwise I’m not going to touch it.
Tori: Right. And that’s exactly what I tell folks. You can name your savings accounts. So instead of 24601, it’s a lot easier to name your savings account after the goal. So, maybe it’s Croatian vacation 2023, or yeah, new fence fund, right?
Tori: Or emergency fund. Psychologically, we know that if you attach meaning to it you’re more likely to want to save money and you’re less likely to take money out, in the same way that actually moving your savings to another bank that’s slightly separate from your everyday money. Again, it’s easily accessible. You can access it if you need to, but it’s less tempting to move money back and forth. That can also be hugely impactful.
Sean: Oh, yeah. When I first got started saving, I can’t tell you how many times the three- to five-day buffer of not being able to move money from one account to the other prevented me from actually moving those funds. So, I want to touch on something you talked about earlier, which is negotiation. I think this is something a lot of people are thinking about and wondering how they can leverage it, especially in the face of the “Great Resignation” and people finding new jobs right now. You were able to negotiate some pretty hefty salary increases. Can you talk about how you approach negotiations, particularly job negotiations?
Tori: Negotiations are collaborations, not conflicts. We go into negotiations thinking we are going to have to fight to the death and unsheathe our sword and battle it out, and it makes us very negotiation afraid, right? It makes us very fearful of that. At the end of the day, you are just having a conversation. You and this other person are on the same team trying to solve the problem of you not being compensated fairly. And you’re a great problem solver. That’s probably why you deserve more money. You solve problems probably every day at your job. And so, all you’re doing is you’re working with your boss or your potential boss to find a solution to the problem of you not being compensated well. And so, you are on the same team. You’re not on opposing teams. You’re not trying to fight each other. It’s a collaboration, it’s a back and forth. It is not a conflict. So, that’s the first thing.
The second thing is that the two of the most valuable things in a negotiation, and the two things you really need to demonstrate: your data and your value. So the data is, what are other people getting compensated at for a similar role? And we can start with places like Glassdoor. Payscale is another great one. They’re also from Seattle, so I like repping them. But go even further than that. If you can, have conversations with colleagues. So, I worked in marketing. If I’m trying to negotiate for a marketing job, I’m talking to previous bosses. I’m talking to recruiters. I’m talking to other marketers that I’ve met at networking events. I’m asking them, “Hey, based on what you know and based on my experience and my skills and what you know about me,” and then I’ll hand them the job description and say, “What do you think I should be compensated at with this role?” Or, “Based on these skills and based on these requirements for this job, what do you think this role should be priced at?”
Because Glassdoor, Payscale — again, great places to start, but you are a three-dimensional person and we need to see all of your skills and your certifications and your years of experience in a way that just typing “social media manager in Seattle, Washington” is not going to exactly give you. So, you need to come armed to these negotiations with data because you’re talking to very data-driven people. You can’t just be like, “I want $1 million because I think I deserve $1 million.” We all want $1 million. You have to come with specific data of what you should be compensated at based on what the market’s saying. So, that’s the first thing, and then the second part is your value. It’s obvious, but what value are you bringing either to this new organization or that you’ve brought over the past six months, a year or two years? And at the end of the day again, you are showcasing why you deserve to be compensated at this rate. And so, if you can showcase ways that you’ve saved the company money, ways that you’ve brought the company money in, ways you’ve contributed to the company culture.
Sean: It seems like you’re saying that it can be helpful to think holistically about everything that you’re bringing, beyond your day-to-day job functions that are in your job description.
Tori: Totally. And especially, I hear from a lot of younger people who are like, “Well, this is my first job out of school. I can’t negotiate,” or, “I’m switching jobs or changing careers or changing industries,” and the answer is you can 100% negotiate, should negotiate. You just might have to get a little creative on what you demonstrate as value.
Sean: There’s also nothing wrong with going to a new job if that’s the best thing for you. It’s been shown that for people, especially early on in their career, they can get the biggest and most rapid salary increases by going to a new position rather than waiting for years where they are.
Tori: 100%. I really appreciate you saying that because especially I see women and people of color being on the short end of the stick, is that this whole concept of loyalty, right? Unfortunately, a job is not loyal to you. They will lay you off. They will fire you. They will cut your hours. Although, of course, you want to show up and do good work, I need you to have the same ruthlessness of — if a job is no longer working for you, I need you to find something better, whether that’s negotiating a raise at your current job or finding a different job. And yeah, the whole staying in one industry or staying at one job for decades, that just doesn’t happen anymore. And you’re exactly right, where you have more power when you’re first coming into a job than you ever will, even if you’re there for 20 years. You’ll have more negotiating power when you’re coming into a new job than you will ever have again, so take advantage of it.
Sean: Great. Well, Tori, thank you so much for talking with us. This was awesome.
Tori: Thank you so much for having me. This was a great conversation.
Sean: And that is all we have for this episode. Do you have a money question of your own? Turn to the Nerds and call or text us your questions at 901-730-6373. That’s 901-730-NERD. And you can also email us at email@example.com. Visit nerdwallet.com/podcast for more info on this episode, and remember to subscribe, rate and review us wherever you’re getting this podcast.
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