Three years ago, I made a deal with myself: I wanted to have $100,000 saved when I’m 25. But I didn’t mind if it didn’t happen until the day before my 26th birthday.
One of my biggest priorities in life has always been to save as much money as possible. I owe much of that to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age. My dad even helped me start a vending machine business when I was nine. The experience taught me essential skills like how to pitch a business, cope with rejection and open a checking and savings account.
For the past three years, I’ve never made more than $80,000. About a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments and realized that I was on track to save $100,000.
In September of this year, I successfully hit my goal of saving $100K at 25.
I want to acknowledge that privilege is a key part of my story. I’m white, I come from a middle-class family, and I was able to graduate college without any debt. All these things helped a great deal.
But my parents didn’t raise me with a silver spoon. Paying for college was a collaborative process. We’d sit down at least twice a year to discuss how we were going to pay for the next semester. The first question they’d always ask me was: “How much can you contribute?”
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.
Here’s my tips to save $100,000
This kick-started my journey towards six-figures. In addition to saving the majority of my 9-5 salary, my first year of freelance social media marketing made me quite a bit of cash that I could immediately save. I was able to establish both a SEP IRA and a fully-funded emergency fund with my earnings.
And now, I turned my successful side hustle into a 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 big-girl job, I opened my first Roth IRA. Starting to save for retirement at age 22, I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to aSEP 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 retirement accounts.)
I negotiated salary offers and raises
Negotiating should be a collaboration, not a confrontation. Growing up, I watched my father sit on hold, patiently waiting to negotiate our cable and phone bills. Negotiation was always part of my life, and I grew up with parents who knew how to do it. So when I was offered my first social media freelance gig, I negotiated over $10k more than they offered.
After achieving a 20% bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20k extra at my next job.
And $10k more at the next job.
(If negotiating for raises freaks you out, here’s a guide that can help.)
I’ve automated my savings
Automating your money not only makes your life easier, but it makes you feel like the percentage you’re saving just doesn’t exist.
I had 26% of each 9-5 paycheck automatically deposited into a high-yield savings account. This savings account is purposefully at a different bank than my day-to-day checking account. This way I’m less likely to withdraw from it and less likely to think about it. This “set it and forget it” level of financial freedom was something I worked hard for — through money diarying, budgeting, and conscious spending. So now, my savings amount is completely on autopilot.
Inspired by my own journey, I wanted to help women everywhere to have that same feeling of confidence that financial education gives — and get information from someone who isn’t an old, rich white dude. As a money speaker and coach, I run Her First $100K, a financial literacy platform for millennial women on the path to get their first $100K too.
It’s possible to achieve your first $100K — whether that’s debt paid off, earned, saved, invested, or something else. With intentional strategies and focus, you’ve got this!
This is a guest post by Tori Dunlap, a millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money.
A Plutus award winner, Dunlap’s work has been featured in Good Morning America, New York Magazine, CNBC, Marketwatch, Business Insider, and more.