From an early age, TikTok star Tori Dunlap was familiar with personal finance. Her parents gave her a strong financial education, and at age 9 she even started her own vending machine business. Eventually, she turned the business over to another girl named Tori. It was a sign of things to come: Today, Dunlap stands for financial feminism hand in hand with her revolutionary, wildly popular coaching business, which helps women around the world take control of their financial futures.
It all started when Dunlap learned that her financial education was not the norm: some people she met had never received a basic education. “As I was having these conversations with my friends, I began to realize that the financial education I had was a privilege,” Dunlap says. “I realized that I had a responsibility to pass on this information, and as I did research and listened more, I realized that we’re not going to have any equality for any marginalized group, especially women, until we have financial equality.”
“The best form of protest against an unfair, unequal society and system is financial education.”
When Dunlap graduated from Portland State University in 2016, she thought the U.S. was just months away from a landmark election – an election that would bring a woman to the White House for the first time in the country’s 240-year history. “As a 22-year-old, I expected to be the first woman president in America in my twenties,” Dunlap says. “Of course, as we all know, that didn’t happen.”
The world was not what she expected after graduation, but Dunlap was ready to take on the challenge. Armed with knowledge of social media marketing and a theater education that made her “very comfortable with rejection,” she started a blog that became “Her First $100K,” a chronicle of her journey to accumulating $100,000 by age 25. Dunlap was successful, and three weeks after appearing on “Good Morning America,” she quit her nine-to-five job to pursue entrepreneurship full-time.
Recognizing that money equals power and choice and that marginalized groups without equal access to personal financial resources are set up for failure, Dunlap seeks to level the playing field and create a fairer society. “Whether you’re a woman, a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ community or a person with disabilities, your best form of protest against an unjust, unequal society and system is financial education,” she says.
“Let’s talk about the fact that women earn less and therefore should manage their money differently than men.”
According to the Pew Research Center, the gender pay gap in the U.S. has remained virtually unchanged for the past 15 years; in 2020, women will earn 84 percent of what men earn, which means women would have to work an extra 42 days to earn an equivalent amount. The difference for women of color is even greater. “Let’s talk about systemic oppression,” Dunlap says. “Let’s talk about the fact that women earn less and therefore have to manage their money differently than men.”
When it comes to talking to women about how to manage their money, Dunlap leads the conversation from a position of understanding. “You have to let people learn about money from someone who doesn’t shame them for not knowing something, doesn’t tell them that the reason they’re not rich is because they’re not working hard enough,” she says. “Also, there are people who give a great financial education, but they assume everybody knows what stocks are or what the S&P 500 is. And when you start talking, especially to women, not only might they not know these things, but they’re shy to ask.”
For women who are shy to ask the right questions, this can have serious financial consequences. “Statistically, the number one reason women have the majority of debt in the United States is because they don’t understand how credit works,” Dunlap says. No one has explained it to them.” So women account for two-thirds of student debt in the U.S., and that’s due to a lack of education – a lack of understanding of repayment periods, all these things.”
Dunlap also notes that personal finance education has a long history of unwarranted criticism of people who are just trying to learn. “Unfortunately, a lot of the personal finance advice that has become famous in the past has been shameful and judgmental,” she says. “People like Dave Ramsey, old, straight and white, don’t recognize that there is systemic oppression. I get so many people coming to me saying, ‘My God, finally someone who looks like me and talks like me is talking about this.
“It’s 2021 and I’m still being told that it’s not my place, that money is not something I should be talking about.”
Dunlap has harnessed the power of social media platforms, including TikTok and Instagram, to build her brand. She notes that the ideal content – or at least content that is most likely to go viral – would do three things at once: It would be educational, inspiring and entertaining. With nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram and 1.5 million on TikTok, it’s safe to say Dunlap has mastered this formula. Now, with an even wider audience, she freely shares her expertise on a controversial topic that is so often ignored: money.
“I talk about a very taboo subject,” Dunlap says. “We talk more often about sex, religion, politics – anything but money. And that’s my whole mission: How do we make money more transparent? How do we make it so we’re not uncomfortable talking about money? We have a lot of internalized psychological trauma and nonsense when it comes to talking about money.”
Naturally, Dunlap’s willingness to openly and blithely discuss these issues draws a considerable amount of criticism online. “The unique thing I have to deal with – which, unfortunately, every female entrepreneur, especially online entrepreneurs, has to deal with – is a lot of hate every day,” she says. “I’m told every day that I’m fat, stupid, ugly and don’t deserve a husband.”
“For a lot of men, especially men, that was their space,” Dunlap continues. “They were the ones talking about the stock market. They were the ones talking about accumulating wealth. This is 2021, and I’m still being told that this is not my space, that money is not something I should be talking about. But the interesting thing is that I get a lot of internalized misogyny from women, and I don’t blame them. It shows up in comments like, “I don’t understand why you keep talking about your business. It seems boastful.” On the other hand, we have someone like Elon Musk who can say, ‘I sneezed today,’ and everyone will say, ‘Oh my God.
“I believe I was put on this earth to fight for women’s financial rights.”
In just a year and a half, Dunlap’s business has gone from a solo project to an eight-person team, and her devoted followers continue to grow by the day. Her business has already reached $1 million in revenue in 2021, and Dunlap is using that momentum to expand other exciting opportunities: Her book, Financial Feminist, is published by HarperCollins, and she hosts a popular podcast of the same name.
Dunlap likes to surprise her audience with new projects. “The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that I feel almost like Beyoncé, who has to go out and create a bunch of stuff and then say, ‘Hey, it’s here,'” she laughs.
Dunlap’s passion for helping women find financial freedom is evident in everything she does. “It’s my favorite thing to do,” she says. “I believe I was sent to this earth to fight for women’s financial rights and to give them actionable resources to improve their financial situation without feeling judged, without feeling shame, and also recognizing that you will have certain barriers that a straight, white, older man will not have.”
So much has been accomplished in such a short period of time, the possibilities for the Dunlap financial feminist movement are limitless-and she is just getting started.