- I set a goal to save $100,000 by age 25, and at 24 years old I’m $90,000 of the way there.
- This is largely thanks to a few different strategies: I started investing early, I negotiated raises at just about every job I’ve held, and I started a side hustle to bring in extra income.
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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.
About a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments and realized that although I haven’t made more than $80,000 a year for the past three years, I was on track to save $100,000. With only a car loan away from being debt-free, I’ve got another year and $10,000 to go!
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. I owe my interest in saving money to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age.
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. Knowing that I’ll be prepared for whatever life throws my way fuels my drive to keep making smart financial decisions. Here’s how I’m getting to $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.
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 at 22, I opened my first Roth IRA. I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to a SEP 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.
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 $10,000 more than they offered. And after achieving a 20% bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20,000 more than what was offered at my next job. And $10,000 more at the next job.
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 have 26% of each 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, so 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 diary-ing, budgeting, and conscious spending. So now, my savings amount is completely on autopilot.
It’s possible to achieve your first $100,000 — whether that’s debt paid off, earned, saved, invested, or something else. With intentional strategies and focus, you’ve got this!
Tori Dunlap is a money speaker, coach, and founder of Her First $100K, a financial literacy platform for millennial women on the path to get their first $100,000, too. Get her guide to negotiating a raise.