In college at the University of Portland, Tori Dunlap was her friends’ go-to person for financial advice. These days, she’s still a money guru for women, but her audience extends far beyond that inner circle: 2.3 million users on TikTok, another 675,000 followers on Instagram and 95,000 members in a Facebook group.
Dunlap is the founder and CEO of Her First $100K, which began as a blog around the 2016 election and blossomed into a full-blown company aimed at — per its tagline — “fighting the patriarchy by making you rich.” Across platforms, Her First $100K provides tons of tools that help women manage their money, including a free course on how to curb emotional spending, blog posts on setting financial boundaries and an investing education platform called Treasury. She also has a podcast, Financial Feminist, and is releasing a book with the same title this month.
But no matter how she reaches someone, the message is the same: “When you have money you have choice, and for women or any marginalized group, that choice is so important,” says Dunlap, who personally saved her first $100,000 at age 25.
It’s no secret the U.S. has a severe gender pay gap, with the median earnings for women in 2021 totaling 83.1% of the median for men. There’s an emotional aspect, too. A recent survey found that only 48% of women feel confident about their finances, with just 28% feeling empowered to take action on them.
That’s why Dunlap says Her First $100K isn’t a financial company; it’s a feminist company. Besides, she doesn’t have a formal background in finance. In college, she double-majored in organizational communication and theater, which gave her the foundations for social media stardom.
Dunlap doesn’t get caught up in jargon. Her TikToks, for example, break down topics like compound interest, the benefits of high-yield savings accounts and who should buy life insurance in a simple, clear way. She’s also funny, which helps.
“I'm trying to make this very inaccessible topic more accessible,” Dunlap says by way of explanation. (In one of her recent viral videos, Dunlap used the “do not sell marijuana to my husband” audio from Breaking Bad to humble-brag about her career journey.)
She certainly seems to be having an impact on her audience, which is comprised largely of young women, queer and nonbinary folks. Her First $100K, operated by a team of 15, is also focused on making money more inclusive.
“Money is political, and for a long time, especially in the personal finance community, there was no acknowledgement of systemic oppression,” Dunlap says. “There was no conversation about not just your personal choices but about your circumstances.”
It’s a sentiment that’s shared among many in the personal finance world, especially after years of people being told that, for example, if they just gave up their lattes, they’d have more money. In reality, money management is case-by-case: For instance, if you’re queer, it might not make sense for you to move to an area with a cheaper cost of living if it means you won’t be accepted, Dunlap says.
As a white woman, Dunlap says she recognizes that she's in a privileged position, so she relies heavily on learning and passing that knowledge along to her followers. Overall, she says, Her First $100K is about enabling others to build their wealth.
Once they’ve got wealth, people can choose what to do with it — and, eventually, move toward equality. That’s the first step of many.
“I don't think we have any sort of equality for any marginalized group until we have financial equality,” Dunlap says.