I was putting together a talk about the values that we have at aSweatLife.com, the content site I founded about four and a half years ago. Slide one proclaimed “everything is better with friends,” which is our way of saying that all arenas of life – work, play, fitness and side hustles - benefit from partnerships.
Slide two was stark-white and I stared at it for more than a handful of minutes before I realized that was it:
It was the only thing that really drove us forward and made us stronger.
That was a hard lesson for me to learn after I’d spent the bulk of my life thinking and operating as if I could do it all myself.
I was taught to figure it out. Find a problem. Solve a problem. Ask for help only if you really need it. The most telling illustration of this in my childhood was a time when my mom told me, a demanding five-year-old that she did not have time right that second to braid my hair. I locked myself in my bedroom, kneeling next to my bunk bed twisting and untwisting strands of my hair until I figured it out.
I operated that way for more than two more decades before I realized there’s loneliness to that sort of existence and in business not only is it lonely, it’s limiting. It just took near burnout to figure that out.
After running aSweatLife by myself as a side-hustle, I read an email from a reader offering to help. It wasn’t the first email like that, but I was just tired enough to read it and spread just thin enough to consider this perfectly timed, well-written email. Over coffee, we talked about where I saw the site going and quickly I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. Three years later, she’s still writing for aSweatLife along with 20 other people.
Because we write about the intersection of health, happiness and fitness, we know the human connection makes you happier and happier people are healthier with potentially improved immune systems, but I still have to learn some big lessons for myself.
In that slow and methodical first year, Kristen, aSweatLife’s first contributor helped me take the walls around my city down and welcome in partners internally and at other complimentary companies. Here’s what we learned.
1. Partners show up. This aspect of relationships is the most important for us. Making commitments and honoring them shows your team and your partners that their interests are your interests too.
2. Partners share resources. Sometimes we can’t give our partners our time, but we can help connect them to someone who can – helping to forge connections within our network is rewarding.
3. Partners work through mistakes. Human relationships hold business together, but they’re filled with miscommunications and mistakes. If you insist that no one around you makes mistakes, they’ll learn to fear accountability for their mistakes, which leads to blame-seeking. Instead, partners work through mistakes, learn from them, figure out how they can be prevented in the future and move on.
4. Partners celebrate success. We live by a couple of mantras at aSweatLife that I’ve had to reiterate to myself as I’ve worked my way out of my old mindset and into this one. This most important is “your success is not my failure” This helps us to shift our thinking from, “how can I stop you” to “how can I help you.”
The magic is that when you do partnership right, all four of those pieces come right back to you.
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.
One of my biggest priorities in life has always been to save as much money as possible — and I owe much of that to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age.
My dad even helped me start a vending machine business when I was nine. The experience taught me essential skills like how to pitch a business, cope with rejection and open a checking and savings account.
For the past three years, I've never made more than $80,000. About a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments and realized that I was on track to save $100,000. With only a car loan away from being debt free, I've got another year and $10K 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.
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. Feeling motivated and 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 $100K.
- I side-hustled
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.
2. 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, I opened my first Roth IRA. Starting to save for retirement at age 22, I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to aSEP 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.
3. 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 $10k more than they offered. And after achieving a 20% bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20k more than what was offered at my next job. And $10k more at the next job. If negotiating for raises freaks you out, here's a guide that can help.
4. 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 diarying, budgeting, and conscious spending. So now, my savings amount is completely on autopilot.
At the age of 24, I know that I am on the right track to make my goal a reality. Inspired by my own journey, I wanted to help women everywhere to have that same feeling of confidence that financial education gives — and get information from someone who isn't an old, rich white dude. As a money speaker and coach, I run Her First $100K, a financial literacy platform for millennial women on the path to get their first $100K too.
It's possible to achieve your first $100K — whether that's debt paid off, earned, saved, invested, or something else. With intentional strategies and focus, you've got this!