For many women in their twenties, saving money and being their own financial advocate can be daunting. And if they are living paycheck to paycheck, it can seem almost impossible to meet certain financial goals.
But 25-year-old Tori Dunlap says the idea of being financially independent isn’t as far-fetched as many women may think. Dunlap is destigmatizing the way millennial women take ownership of their finances after banking six figures fewer than three years out of college.
The 25-year-old knows more about finances than you may think.
"The joke was always, 'As long as I do it the day before I turn 26, it still counts,'" she told "Good Morning America." "I was happy I came in actually nine months [prior] to my goal, so I was like 25 years old and 3 months when it happened."
Dunlap, who set the extreme goal for herself three years ago, decided to do so after reading an article about someone doing the exact same thing.
"I crunched the numbers, did the math, and realized that would be possible for me. So it was a completely arbitrary goal that I set for myself," she said. "I thought if the other person can do it, maybe I can."
She used different strategies to save the money, including automating her savings so that $20 to $50 got put away every month, setting up an emergency fund and investing early in things like a ROTH IRA.
Dunlap grew up with parents who taught her the value of a dollar and helped guide her in any sort of financial decision. Whether it was saving up money to go see "Annie The Musical" or starting a vending machine business at age 9, she learned the importance of saving early on.
"I just saw my parents be really frugal. They not only said to be good with money, but they demonstrated how to be good with money," she said. "It’s really amazing that my parents gave me that gift of … here’s how to make money, here’s how to manage it and here’s how to run your business."
While Dunlap was able to save money and reach her goal quickly, she acknowledges that not everybody is like her and everybody has their own set of challenges that they face. Through her own planning and with help from her parents, she managed to graduate college without any debt -- an advantage she readily admits.
"It is a privilege that I not only went to college, but that I was able to go debt free. With a student loan crisis of over a trillion dollars in student debt, that is something that I really like to acknowledge," she said.
Now, after reaching her goal, she’s trying to help other women reach their financial goals with "Her First 100k," a community she founded for women to help guide them to financial success.
On her website, she advocates for women’s financial equality by helping them build wealth and know what they’re worth.
Dunlap teaches other women how to save and budget, pay off debt, have a money mindset, negotiate job offers/raises, price themselves as a creative and build their personal brand.
And though she’s not a licensed financial or career professional, many have turned to Dunlap for advice and taken her sessions at different events.
"I believe I was put on this earth to fight for women’s financial rights. So I don’t think we have any sort of equality, as people of a marginalized group," she said. "Whether that’s women, people of color, folks in the LGBT community, I don’t think you have any sort of equality until you have financial equality."
Here are 3 tips from Dunlap on how you, too, can save up money:
1. Invest early
“That's what grows your money,” she says. “That's what makes you wealthy. And what gives you opportunities, as far as your experiences in life, and how you want to live it.”
She also says that smart investing is particularly important for young women.
So we care about the pay gap a lot with women, and that's something we should continue to care about and talk about,” she said. “But the thing that we're not talking about is the investing gap, so women either wait to invest longer than men or don't invest at all.”
2. Get a Side Hustle
To earn some more money for your savings account, you may want to consider a side hustle.
3. Use the 3-Bucket Budget Rule
Dunlap uses what she calls the three-bucket budget rule to divvy up spending.
“The first bucket is reserved for living expenses,” she said. “The second for goals like retirement or home owning … those are the two most important buckets. And then anything left over goes into the third for the ‘fun stuff,’ like travel.”
Dunlap says she focuses on priority-based spending.
“[Figure] out what your priorities are in life, what really brings you joy,” she said.