Good morning all, and welcome to another Working Women Wednesday. Today I’m honored to feature the story of Tina- corporate CPA by day, and writer behind the 99 to 1 percent blog by night. Her and her husband started out their lives as broke immigrants to the US and Canada, but today earn over $400k combined. In her story, she’ll share both how she achieved such a high income and high savings rate – and tips for you to avoid the mistakes she’s made.
So without further ado, lets meet Tina!
1. Tell us about yourself!
First, I want to thank you, Liz, for taking your time to interview me for your Breadwinning, Six Figure, and/or Millionaire Moms blog series. I stumbled upon this series some time ago, and was very impressed by the series and the ladies you featured. Thus, it’s an honor to be featured among them.
To answer your question, I’m Tina (a.k.a Ms99to1percent) and I’m a 36 year old CPA who works in corporate accounting/finance for a fortune 100 company. I’m also a blogger, writer, editor at 99to1percent.com. I live in Toronto, Canada with my husband Max (a.k.a Mr99to1percent) and our 1-year old Baby girl (a.k.a Baby 99to1percent, Baby Honey Badger, Baby Energizer Bunny, Baby Life of the Party, Baby Contagious Laugh, Baby I can Outtalk Anyone… ).
My husband and I had poor, humble beginnings as broke, new immigrants to US and Canada. We put ourselves through school, worked 2-3 jobs at the same time, barely had food to eat, lived in not so safe neighborhood surrounded by alcoholics, gang members, gamblers, prostitutes, drug dealers/users – but were able to overcome the challenges, graduate college, and get good jobs.
2. Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there? And are you a millionaire or are you on the way?
I make six-figures and it took me at least about 8 years after graduating to get here. Why? There are 2 reasons:
- I made a mistake and did not negotiate my first salary. I just took whatever they gave me and later on I found out I was the lowest paid. Even though I was actually the team lead! On our blog we talk a lot about how important it is to negotiate one’s salary.
- The 2nd reason is that becoming a CPA in Canada is a long, expensive process, thus I didn’t become one until a couple years ago. Then I was able to switch companies and leverage that to get myself a huge salary increase.
Also doing taxes for my colleagues and friends has turned into a side gig. I don’t do any advertising for it, it’s by referral mainly as I don’t see myself doing taxes for 80/hrs a week. Actually, for a slightly higher fee, I teach my clients how to prepare their own taxes – a win-win for everyone 😊.
A couple years ago, my husband and I also started a consulting business in a very nice, small but potentially lucrative niche. Together, our family income is $400K+, and we are challenging ourselves to double our income again for the next 5 years. Can you and your readers join us? Let’s all challenge ourselves. As for our net worth, we are worth about $2M CAD/$1.6M USD. And our plan is to double it in the next 9-10 years by the time we are 45 years, so we can achieve financial independence/freedom.
3. How did you get started in the workforce?
I started looking for a job 1 year before graduation just in case it was going to take me a long time to find a job. But I got a job right away, an entry-level accounting job that paid only $40,000. Like I mentioned above, I made a very costly mistake of not negotiating that salary.
Even though I was still attending school full-time during evening and weekends, I did a lot of overtime, and brought home about $70,000 with overtime. And because of the overtime, I was able to:
- Pay off my $40,000 student loans within a year just before graduation.
- Save for a down payment on a condo
- Build a $100K emergency fund. Note that a lot of it is in short term investments, and not just sitting around in a savings account collecting $0 interests, or laying under the mattress collecting dust 😊.
4. How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
I worked hard and even got the employee of the year award out of 3,000 employees. I got promoted multiple times over the course of 8 years, but because my starting salary was low, I was never able to catch up salary-wise during that time.
I focused on finishing all my CPA courses and getting the experience, I needed in order to get certified. As soon as I became a CPA, I started applying to at least 20 jobs a day and only applied to high paying jobs in high paying companies. In less than 2 months, I had 3 offers, and 2 pending offers. I pitted the offers against each other, and I was able to negotiate a big salary increase with what is now my current employer.
5. Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
I love the fact that there’s a huge potential for growth within my current company, and I see myself continuing to advance there. However, should my career or salary become stagnant, I won’t hesitate to move companies again.
We also want to make sure we continue doubling our income every 5 years, by focusing on our consulting business and other side projects. We also want to double our networth to $4M by the time we are 45 which is our FIRE (Financially Independent, Retire Early) target age.
6. Becoming a millionaire is a dream of many people. How did you get there?
There are a few reasons:
- Increasing our income to $400K+
- Such a high income has also allowed us live on only 15% of our income, and the rest goes to taxes, paying down the mortgage faster, giving, and saving/investing. However, we think everyone should try to live on less than 50% of their income, no matter their income level.
- High home equity: Our house cost us about $600K (including upgrades) and has increased in value to $1.3M but we value it at $1.1M just to be conservative.
We are also trying to pay off our mortgage within 5 years by 39 years. Thus, we try to pay off $80K-$115K/year, and that has further increased our equity. Currently, our equity is $860K.
The consulting business has taken off; and is doing better than expected. We just found a way to recruit clients easier, but now we have to figure out an easier way to recruit the specialized, talented employees that we need in order to service the clients. The business has the potential to make us millions. Here’s to hoping!
7. Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
Yes, of course. Here’s a few examples:
Different expectations: One of my ex-bosses expected the women to participate in countless committees. Engagement committee, Holidays committee, Safety committee, etc. In the meanwhile, he never asked the men to volunteer for anything until I called him out on it. He reluctantly started to ask men to volunteer too, and I still had to remind him a few times.
Sexual harassment in the vein of of Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein: I had a colleague grab my boobs one time. And I had another one who used to look at me in a very sexual way every time I would get up or pass by him. I ended up having to wait when he’s not around in order for me to print something, grab coffee…The day he quit, was one of my happiest days 😊.
Unequal pay: We all know women have to work 3x harder to prove themselves, and then we still get paid about 80% of what our male counterparts get paid. After being underpaid for 8 years with my previous company, I have vouched not to let that happen again. I do not consider any low-ball offers anymore, or cheap sleazy companies. I only consider generous offers from generous companies, and still negotiate for a little bit more.
8. Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
Our saving strategy is pretty simple. We spend mindfully and live on only 15% of our income, and the rest goes to taxes, paying down the mortgage faster, giving, and saving/investing. We max out company 401k (Registered Retirement Savings Plan, or RRSP in Canada), and also invest index funds. We opened a 529 (Registered Education Savings Plan, or RESP in Canada) college-saving account for the kiddo the same year she was born.
Once we pay off our mortgage, we will have an extra $80K-$115K/year available to allow us to take a little bit more risk and invest in individual stocks, rentals, and/or other businesses.
9. What are the top pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
- Always negotiate your salary. See our tips here on how to negotiate your salary like a pro.
- Find ways to increase your income and make sure you are diversified. See How We Increased Our Annual Income From $0 to $160K to $400K+,
- Try living on less than 50% of your income. See How we live on 15% of our income
- Avoid debt like the plague. We have paid off our student loans, our stupid car loan, and we are now trying to pay off the mortgage within 5 years by 39 years. See how are doing it here.
- Track your net worth. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. We track ours on an annual basis.
If you follow those 5 simple rules, you are bound to reach financial independence fast.
10. Where can people connect with you?
You can reach us on:
Feel free to contact us. We reply to all the comments, emails, tweets, DMs, etc. You can also follow us, and we will follow back.
Thank you guys for reading our story, feel free to comment or ask any questions.
Thank you again Liz, for this awesome opportunity. And congratulations again for the Plutus award nomination, you really deserve it, and I hope you win. Keep up the good work!
CMO Here Again
Thanks again to Tina for sharing her story! I can relate to a lot of what she talks about here. Although my family is not in the 400K plus income range I also started out broke and have worked hard to increase my income over the years. We don’t have any debt except our mortgage, and we’re also targeting that being paid off before I’m 40. Although our income is lower than Tinas family, so is our mortgage-so it’s all relative.
And I’d certainly be happy to join her in the challenge to double my income in five years! This is one of those goals, just like saving 50% of your income, that can seem impossible at first, particularly if your income is lower. But you know what? It’s true that you might not succeed in hitting the goal. But even if you only increased your income by 50%, or saved 35% of your income when today you’re saving 10% – I would still call that a success.
I was also very happy to hear just how much she enjoys this series. I started writing it to both find other strong and successful moms – to both learn from them and to share their stories with you to show how you can do this too.
Be sure to leave Tina a comment or question down below!
If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my new one-stop shop page for Breadwinning moms, featuring all my prior articles and interviews (plus some updates on prior interviewees!). Know someone that would be perfect for this series, or is that you? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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