58. Ask Tori: How Can I Start Investing?

December 1, 2022

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The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

Tori, I don’t know if I should pay off my student loans or put money in an IRA. What do I do?

Wait, Tori, what do you mean you don’t ever use a debit card?!!?

If you’ve ever hoped for the answers to these questions (or you’re the person who left these voicemails in the first place), host Tori Dunlap is sitting down to answer them all.

What you’ll learn:

  • The different ways you can start investing (and their pros and cons)

  • The 7% rule around debt and investing

  • How to advocate for better compensation

  • And more!


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Tori Dunlap:

Hello, hello, Financial Feminists. Excited to have you. Excited to see you back. We are doing something new today, which is very exciting. We are taking your questions. A bunch of you left beautiful voicemails asking us questions, and we’re going to answer them today in kind of a rapid fire, but just a nonstop Q&A. If you have a question that we have not answered or that you just want a personal answer to, send us a voicemail. We might use it on our next episode. This is a fun little Q&A where we’re just going to answer a bunch of questions that you probably have.

Because Lord knows if somebody’s asked them, you’ve probably thought it. We’ve been getting these voicemails. It’s just lovely. We’re covering credit cards, high-yield savings accounts, investing, student loans, and more in this episode. But first up, we have a win that we want to share with you. And literally, I’m going to go listen to it right now. Here we go.


Hey, Tori and Financial Feminist team. I wanted to share a win that happened to me recently, something that I was able to achieve by using information from your podcast and your website and all of the resources that you provide. Through a change in industry and using some of the skills that I had, I was able to get a new job in a different field. Depending on my bonus, I’ll be able to get a 60 to 70% increase in my salary.

This is really exciting for me. I’m a young professional. Because of the salary increase, I can now contribute to my 401(k) for the first time with an employer match, open up my first Roth IRA, to contribute instead of take from my savings account, and then some. Just wanted to say thank you and celebrate with you and all of the Financial Feminists out there.

Tori Dunlap:

Kate, congratu-fucking-lations. I’m so excited for you. What a win and what a just testament of, again, when you have money, you have options. I talk about it on this podcast. I talk about it. That’s like the entire thesis of the book, Financial Feminist. But truly, when you have money, everything else opens up to you. You can contribute to your 401(k) the first time. You can contribute to your savings as opposed to depleting them. You have options. You get to travel and have kids or not have kids, or start a business, or donate to causes you believe in. So exciting. Congratulations, Katie. I’m so, so excited for you, and I so appreciate that, one, this advice helped, but two, that you actually implemented it.

I get so many people who tell us, “Your advice changed my life,” which is very, very sweet, but you changed your life. Our advice might have been the thing that sparked it, but you went out and did the thing. To Katie and anybody else listening who’s celebrating a win, congratulations. So excited for you. Okay, let’s get into some of these questions. This first question, asking about the difference between an HYSA and money market account. Let’s go ahead and listen.

Speaker 1:

Hey, Tori. I was looking into getting a high-yield savings accounts. And while doing some research, I also ran into money market accounts and money market funds. In what I read, I kind of understood that a money market fund is similar to investing in the stock market. It’s a form of investing, I think, and money market accounts are similar. I don’t know. It was really confusing, and I was wondering if you could simplify it and tell me whether it would be best to get a high-yield savings account and invest in the stock market separately, or if you should do a MMF versus the stock market. How would you recommend one fuse these accounts and investing things to their benefit?

Tori Dunlap:

Okay, here’s the deal, here’s the definition of both of these accounts. HYSA stands for high-yield savings account. If you’ve been following me for two seconds, you know that I have this tattooed on my forehead. The reason I have it tattooed on my forehead is because I love these accounts so much. Regardless of what account you choose between high-yield savings accounts and money market accounts, the average general bank account interest rate is 0.03%. Both of these accounts are offering you more in interest. Hence, high-yield savings account. This is where your emergency fund should live.

Anybody, anybody, I don’t care how much money you make, I don’t care what your job is, I don’t care how much you have in savings, every single person, including myself, needs a high-yield savings account because that’s where your emergency fund should go. Now, the difference between a high-yield savings account and a money market account, they’re both higher interest accounts. Really the only difference is that a money market account typically comes with a checkbook. That’s literally the only difference. I don’t know about you, I’m not writing a check. I maybe write a check a year.

From my knowledge or my experience, high-yield savings accounts typically have a slightly higher interest rate than money market accounts do. If you do find one though, regardless, you’re looking at hopefully as of this recording around a 2% interest rate. That’s what you want to be aiming for. Again, we have a recommendation linked in the show notes. There’s no huge difference. They’re very similar in terms of accounts. The difference typically is one of them has a checkbook and there might be some discrepancies on interest rate or how many times you can transfer money in or out. Find one that’s right for you.

Again, if you have all of your money, even if all of your money is like $200, if you have all of your money in a regular savings account, you are missing out on so much extra money. It’ll take you five minutes to sign up. Easiest thing you can do for your money right now. But the TLDR, really no big difference. All right, let’s take our second question. Should you use your credit card to pay off all your bill
s and then pay them off with a high-yield savings account? Let’s go ahead and listen.

Speaker 2:

Hi, Tori. I was wondering, you talk a lot about HYSAs, as well as credit card rewards on your podcast. Would it be a bad idea to just put all of your bills and everything on credit cards and then pay off your credit cards with an HYSA and have all your money that’s liquid, that’s not on investments in an HYSA?

Tori Dunlap:

We will talk about this in a future episode, but I do not own a debit card. I never have. I never will. It doesn’t mean that debit cards are bad. I just don’t have one. My parents don’t have one, and they taught me that I don’t really need one either. The reason that I don’t have a debit card is because I put everything on my credit card. I put everything I can on my credit card. I put my electric bill on my credit card. If I go out to eat, I put it on a credit card. I put my gas on a credit card. I put sometimes our general, again, bills, like I said, with the electric bill. I got a parking ticket the other day, put it on the credit card.

Anything I can put on a credit card, I do, and then I pay my credit card off like a debit card. I don’t put something on a credit card I can’t afford, and I pay my credit card off on time and in full. The reason I’m doing this, and again, we’ll talk more about this in a future episode, is because I get points, I get miles, I get cash back by doing this. Credit cards give me a bunch of shit for spending money with them. In addition, it’s typically more secure, because you can dispute things with a credit card. There was a time where my flight was completely canceled and I got to get a refund on that flight because I said to my credit card company, “Hi, I paid for this thing and I didn’t get it right.”

Again, we’ll talk more about it in a future episode. But yes, I put everything I possibly can on a credit card, including my bills, and then I pay it off on time and info. If you already have credit card debt, if you have a bad relationship with your credit cards and you weren’t actively trying to get better, this is probably not the plan for you, right? Credit cards are not evil. Again, I have a full section in the book where I tell you about how credit cards are not inherently evil and about how Dave Ramsey wants you to think they are. But if you know that that’s a slippery slope for you, no worries. You don’t have to take this option.

Again, debit cards are not bad. I just don’t have one. Yes, I put everything I can on a credit card, get those points, get those miles, pay it off on time and in full. In terms of actually paying your credit card bill or your debit card off, you can pay these from your HYSA. But if you have multiple credit cards or if you’re like doing a lot of payments, your HYSA might limit how many transactions you can do, how many times you can toggle your money back and forth. This is the time where you want maybe a regular bank account or a checking account for your bills. This is what I do, is I have my high-yield savings account for my savings.

I have a checking account for my bills and for my expenses. My credit card bill, my credit card balance comes out of my checking account. Now, you’re going, “Tori, you don’t have a debit card, but you have a checking account?” Yes. Typically, at banks, you can opt out of a debit card or you can just not use it, which is what I do. Sometimes I’ll sign up with a bank and they’ll be like, “You need a debit card,” and I’m like, yeah, okay, but I’m not going to use it. It goes in a drawer somewhere. All of my bills go on the credit card. Credit card comes to me. It’s due on the 15th of the month. It’s $2,000. That $2,000 comes out of my checking account.

That was the most Canadian thing I’ve ever done. My out was so Canadian. Hello, Canadian listeners. Again, you can put everything on a credit card if you pay it off on time and in full, and that balance can come out of your checking account. All right, let’s take another question.

Speaker 3:

Hi, Tori. I’m trying to decide whether to prioritize paying off my student loans or contributing to my savings. Previously, I was contributing 15% of my income into a 401(k), that was pre-pandemic, and a large portion of that went towards me and my fiance purchasing a home. Life is getting very complicated as my new job doesn’t offer 401(k) contributions. I have three high-yield savings accounts that I contribute very small amounts towards monthly, but my student loan debt is increasing at a rapid pace. I’m in my second year at NYU Stern, and I’m trying to best allocate my money. On top of this, I’d like to get married in the near future, hence my predicament.

Tori Dunlap:

Okay, so we talk extensively about this in a full chapter of Financial Feminist the book, as well as a podcast episode, episode five, Where do I start? I’m strictly in the you need savings before you do anything else camp. You need an emergency fund before you do anything else, especially when it comes to student loans. Student loans typically are less than 7% interest. 7% is a magical number because that’s the average amount we can expect from the stock market in terms of returns. If it’s under 7%, if we could be making more money elsewhere, AKA investing in the stock market, we’re going to deprioritize paying off that debt quickly, especially if you don’t have an emergency fund.

Any kind of debt, credit card debt, medical debt, even if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars of some kind of debt, you need an emergency fund first. Again, like I said before, that emergency fund should live in a high-yield savings account. That emergency fund ideally should be three months of living expenses in that high-yield savings account. Regardless of what kind of debt you have, but especially because this person has student debt, I would prioritize saving before paying off your student loans. Okay, our next question, let’s talk about investing.

Speaker 4:

Hey, Tori, my question for you is where does a newbie investor begin? I have no prior knowledge of stocks or investments, not too much knowledge of finances in general. Besides listening to your podcast and doing research, what is the best investment to start with? I am a millennial living at home, so I have a little bit more wiggle room for risk, but not too much savings to start with. But I’d like to know where the heck do I begin, who do I talk to, do I set up an appointment with the bank? Please help.

Tori Dunlap:

Okay, let’s talk about your investing options. You asked if you talk to a bank. No, please, God, don’t do that. Here are your general options. I’m going to talk first about your general options not with me, and then talk about if you want my support. When you’re going to invest, you can either DIY it or you can work with a robo-advisor. DIY means that you’re doing the investing yourself. That’s DIY, right? So that you feel confident enough opening an investing account, putting money in the investing account, and then choosing your investments like stocks, bonds, funds. If your eyes just glazed over at stocks, bonds, and funds, this is probably not the option for you.

I feel comfortable managing my own investments because I know ho
w to do this. And no, it’s not because I’m a financial expert. There’s plenty of people who are not money experts who do this on their own. But if you’re listening to this podcast, I have the feeling that that’s not the good option for you. No worries. The second option is a robo-advisor. A robo-advisor does it for you. They do the investing for you based on some questions that they ask. They’ll say like, “How old are you? When do you expect to retire? What’s your demographic information? How much do you make a year?” These companies include Ellevest, Acorns, Wealthfront, Wealthsimple.

There’s a bunch of others. The pro to these is that they’re doing it for you. They’re doing it for you, but the con is that they’re taking money to do it. The pro with DIY is that you’re not paying the fees because you’re doing it yourself. The con is that you have to know what the fuck you’re doing. With Robo-advising, the pro is that they’re doing it for you, that stress is gone, but the con is you’re paying a fee, typically a percentage of every dollar. Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but hopefully you’re a millionaire someday. If you’re paying half a percent or 1% of a million dollars, that’s a lot of money.

The other thing is too they’re fishing for you rather than teaching you to fish. I can’t tell you the amount of time somebody’s come to me and been like, “Okay, I’ve been investing for three years with X company, but I have no idea why they’re making the choices they are or what any of these investing terms mean, and I’m fucking lost.” These are your two best options if you’re just flying solo, if you’re in this on your own. The other option that people ask about all the time is, should I work with a financial advisor? For 99% of you, the answer is you don’t need one. Truly you don’t. This is why financial experts like me exist.

I’m assuming because you listen to this podcast, hopefully you trust my recommendations and trust what I have to say. Let’s talk about the options that you have if you want a little bit of guidance maybe from me. First, you can listen to this podcast. We have broken down how to invest in countless episodes before this, so please go listen to those. If you’re like, “I don’t have a lot of money right now. I’m on a budget. I’m trying to consume free content,” the podcast and Financial Feminist the book. We literally have an entire chapter about investing that walks you through it step by step. Whether you would purchase that book or get it from the library, I got you, boo.

If you want advice step by step from yours truly, hello, we have an Investing 101 Workshop through Treasury. Treasury is our one-stop shop investing platform that teaches you exactly and walks you through exactly how to open an account, how to park money in the account, how to choose your investments, how to research. Actually live on these workshops, we get people invested. For the past I think like five workshops we’ve done, 80% of the people who’ve showed up have never made an investment before. That might be you. It sounds like you’re a newbie. Hello, welcome. 80% had never made an investment and over $100,000 was invested at each of these workshops, which is such a fucking win.

Literally live on the workshop, we see people who have walked in a little intimidated and scared leave investors. We have all of the information linked down below in our show notes. The Treasury Workshop that is live with me is under a hundred bucks. You get lifetime access. You get access to the investing education platform Treasury that I made exactly for you. We built this for you. Again, your options. You can DIY that shit. You can work with a robo-advisor. You can work with a financial advisor if you want. Please do make sure they’re a fiduciary, which means they’re legally obligated to act in your own best interest. You can ask them, “Hi, are you a fiduciary?”

And if they’re not, run for the hills. You can also work with me. Hello. I would like to guide you step by step to make sure that you feel confident and make sure you don’t mess up and make sure you feel really excited to invest. If you’re on a budget, you can listen to this podcast, listen to previous episodes. You can get the book on loan from the library or purchase it, or I would love to see you in Treasury. We’ve literally had thousands of people take this workshop. We were front page of The New York Times Business section, all about Treasury for a fucking reason, and it’s because that workshop changes people’s lives.

If you’re a newbie investor, I know you’re scared. We talk about this in the workshop. The number one reason women don’t invest is fear, fear of getting started, fear of making a mistake, fear of losing money. You’re in good hands. The point though is that you need to get started. If you’re thinking about investing, if you’re going, “Is this for me,” it is for you, even though the finance bros name Chad have tried to tell you it’s not. I need you to start investing. It is your best form of wealth building, and we’re here to guide you on any platform or any format every step of the way. All right, let’s take one last question.

Speaker 5:

Hey! I just listened to your episode about non-promotable work and how women are not compensated oftentimes for joining DEI committees, especially women of color, and how essentially we need to stop doing this work. However, I wanted to mention that a large reason why I joined my organization’s DEI committee is nothing about us without us. Basically the communities that I’m a part of that make my organization more diverse, I want to be a part of the conversation that’s being had about diversity in the workplace, because I don’t want my community misrepresented when it comes to DEI stuff.

I feel like even though it is a double bind that, well, now I’m doing this non-pro promotable work, I still feel like I have to do it because I owe it to myself and my community to make sure that we’re properly represented, but I also don’t want to be stuck doing non-promotable work. I was wondering what advice you had.

Tori Dunlap:

Oh, this is a great question. Okay, two things first off. One, I am not a DEI consultant or expert. I have a lot to say in this topic, but there are plenty of people out there who could probably answer this question more artfully and with even better inclusion than I hope to do. I want to preface right off the bat. The second thing, that episode, we want to be clear, I’m not asking you to stop doing things that are important. I don’t want to punish you and be like, “You need to stop doing this. This is a you problem.”

The reason why we host this show is because we are talking about what change can we make as individuals to better our money, to better the world, but also way more importantly, what changes do we expect of the world in order to better support us? In that episode, as much as we would like to stop doing non-promotable work, and there are some things I think we as individuals can do to prevent that or to set boundaries, I firsthand know that if you stop doing this kind of work, the world doesn’t get much better. This is why we have to have the expectation of workplaces, of society to start making changes as well.

I in no way want people to take away from that episode, “Oh, it’s all on me and I need to stop doing this.” No. Companies need to start being better. In terms of how we do this work and get compensated for it, we do our best to negotiate. We do our best to outline how this direc
tly contributes to either the company culture, thus contributing to the bottom line, or even better, how it contributes to the bottom line directly. Now, if you’re in an organization that sees this as valuable, this will be compelling.

But again, if you’re in an organization that doesn’t see why diversity, equity, and inclusion is not only important for the benefit of employees and because it’s morally the right thing to do, then you’re working with trying to convince people, again, directly that this is going to benefit the business. There’s data out there that shows that diverse teams make more money. There’s so much data out there that shows that if we hire more inclusively, people will stay longer. Thus, retention doesn’t cost as much. You’re not constantly trying to put out ads on LinkedIn trying to get new people to join. This is such a nuanced question.

I think, again, it’s advocating for yourself as much as possible. It’s also showcasing how this work is directly valuable and negotiating if you can. And then if that’s not an option, but you want to continue doing this work, which is so important, I think it’s setting really hard and fast boundaries about what you will and won’t do, about how you want to show up in a way that feels authentic to you, but also protects your space, your mental space, your physical space, the space you need to be successful at your job, because that’s unfortunately what you’re getting performance reviewed on. The reminder to all of us, and this is something I really grappled with when I wrote the book, is that we can’t do it all as individuals.

I know you know that. I think what happens for us as women is we are told to be just constant sacrificial lamps for everybody else’s needs, and then we feel guilty because we can’t do it all. Even in writing the book, I grappled with this a lot of like, okay, is this actually going to do anything? There are so many systemic issues. There’s so much systemic oppression. What is a book going to do or say beyond just like if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you need social services and you need help from the government? Cool. That’s not a very helpful book, but that’s the truth.

I think one of the things I had to let go of, and we talk about this, I think it’s an upcoming episode with my friends at rich & REGULAR, is that you just do what you can to help people get up the mountain. You do what you can to first get up the mountain so you know the way, you’re taken care of, and then you help other people, with the realization that you’re not going to be able to help everybody. You’re not going to be able to spend all of your time helping people. There are some companies or organizations that unfortunately don’t want to change. It’s not selfish, by the way. I want to make that really clear.

It is not selfish to weigh, is this worth my time and effort, especially at an organization where this is not moving the needle at all, compared to the time and effort I can be spending making sure I’m good at my job so I can take said money and change systems that actually want to be changed or that you can make change? Is it worth pushing a boulder up a hill when instead maybe you could walk up the hill much easier and then take the money, take the resources that you get from being good at your job and making change elsewhere? I don’t know you. I don’t know your organization. You have to figure that out yourself.

But a lot of the conversations I had with people in 2020, especially family members, I got to the point where I realized, oh, this isn’t helping. I was told by so many people, “Okay, you as a white person have a responsibility to have these conversations.” I believe that 100%, but the amount of mental energy and cost of the health of my relationships that that was having when it wasn’t helping at all, that just wasn’t worth it. That wasn’t worth the output. I would rather take that energy and output and use it towards change that I can actually make as opposed to beating a dead horse.

Again, hard to answer your question when I don’t know exactly what’s going on in your situation, but know that I see you. I know that that has to feel so frustrating. It’s a little different, but the last corporate job I had, I was the first woman that they hired. It was like a team of 10 or 12 men and I was the first woman. Me and the second woman they ended up hiring were doing a lot of emotional labor dealing with these men’s egos and, of course, that wasn’t compensated. I see you, I hear you, and do as much as you can to protect your own energy and demand better of a company. If they are open to it, demand that they pay you for it. It helps their bottom line.

It helps that company be better, both morally better and better as a company in terms of revenue and profits and all of that fun stuff. Team, if you like this episode, we’re going to be doing more Q&As in the future, so we would love to have you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for submitting your questions. If you have questions in the future, drop them down below. I love doing this. I love doing these kind of like rapid fire Q&As. It’s a great way to connect with you as well and see what you’re actually thinking about and pondering. Thanks for being here and thanks for your support of the show as always. We hope to answer your question in a future episode. Catch you later.

Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist, a Her First $100K podcast. Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap. Produced by Kristen Fields. Marketing and administration by Karina Patel, Olivia Coning, Cherise Wade, Alena Helzer, Paulina Isaac, Sophia Cohen, Valerie Oresko, Jack Coning, and Ana Alexandra. Research by Ariel Johnson. Audio Engineering by Austin Fields. Promotional graphics by Mary Stratton. Photography by Sarah Wolfe, and theme music by Jonah Cohen Sound. A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting the show.

For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests, episode show notes, and our upcoming book also titled Financial Feminist, visit her herfirst100k.com.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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