Money Talks is an xoNecole series where we talk candidly to real women about how they spend money, their relationship with money, and how they get it.
Dora Belle is more than your average pretty girl from Long Island, New York - she's an entrepreneur, accountant and the founder of The Tax Collective. The Brooklyn-based beauty successfully runs a tax firm that focuses on small- and mid-size businesses, startups, and tax audits while keeping her personal finances in check. As a licensed enrolled agent who possesses the ability to represent her clients in tax court, she has proven that being a beautiful woman can include brilliance and crunching numbers.
Courtesy of Dora Belle
When the St. John's University honors graduate was asked by xoNecole about the worst money or business-related decision she's ever made, Dora responded, "I didn't trust my gut." Clearly as someone who has worked for New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Morgan Stanley, and Ernst & Young in the Private Client Services group where she specialized in high-net worth individuals with assets in management of over $2 million, her intuition hasn't steered her too far in the wrong direction.
xoNecole had the chance to catch up with The Tax Collective founder for the latest installment of "Money Talks" about traveling through Europe, the importance of investing, and leaving corporate America:
On how much she tries to save per month:
"It depends on the month. My income is not received evenly throughout the year. I have high seasons and low [seasons]. Like during tax season when I'm the busiest, I save over 50% of my income. In the low season, when I'm just managing audits and notices, I try to put away at least 20% of my earnings every month."
"I have high seasons and low [seasons]. Like during tax season when I'm the busiest, I save over 50% of my income. In the low season, when I'm just managing audits and notices, I try to put away at least 20% of my earnings every month."
On whether her savings are in a high-yield savings or a Roth IRA:
"I don't believe the high-yield savings accounts are worth it. On average, you make around $300 a year for every $10,000 you deposit. I tend to recommend Roth IRAs more to my clients. It's especially great for first-time investors. It's a retirement account that you can play with where your money is invested and it grows tax free."
Courtesy of Dora Belle
On defining wealth and success:
"Before I give my opinion on this, I encourage everyone to really think about what these words mean to them individually. It's a large sliding scale when we start to ask the question, 'Am I successful and/or wealthy?', and you should not think about anyone but yourself. You're on your own pace. Be kind to yourself but also be realistic.
"Wealth to me is financial freedom. Financial freedom for me is when all of my student loans are paid off, no credit card debt, and I'm paying a mortgage and not rent. Success and wealth are two different ideas for me. I define success as happiness and being grounded in what I do for a living."
On the lowest she’s ever felt when it came to her finances:
"Now looking back, the lowest was [when I was] living check to check. Not having a savings account and waiting on clients to pay me in order to pay my bills for the month. But while it was happening, I was in the midst of the hustle. I never felt any pain. I never felt low. You have to build brick by brick and just keep going."
On how she overcame it:
"By making more money! (Laughs) I work a lot, sometimes from 8am til 11pm every day, but every hour is worth it when I look at my growth as a business owner from Year 1 to now Year 3. I had to take more risks and put myself and my business out there. I now have multiple streams of income and I don't depend on any one client to make ends meet."
On her biggest splurge so far and why she purchased it:
"My biggest splurge since being an entrepreneur was in 2018 when I traveled to 11 cities in Europe over eight weeks. It was my first year as an entrepreneur and I did it only because I could [and] I finally owned all of my time. Looking back, I could have reinvested that money into my business. But then again, the memories I have are irreplaceable."
On whether she’s a spender versus a saver and how she trains herself to save money:
"I'm somewhere in between, but I'm disciplined when I want something. Saving can actually become addicting. Saving my first $1,000 as a self-employed person was one of the hardest things I ever did. I reinvest my earnings as much as possible, but once I saved the first $1,000 dollars, it became addicting to keep seeing the number increase."
"I believe your 30s are for setting up your 40s. Your 40s are for setting up your 50s. You have to invest in yourself first. I think about the type of life I want to live when I'm 40. Or when I have children. So, I'm actively trying to set myself up with residual income."
Courtesy of Dora Belle
On the importance of investing:
"Investing is extremely important. I invest in real estate, art, and stocks. I believe your 30s are for setting up your 40s. Your 40s are for setting up your 50s. You have to invest in yourself first. I think about the type of life I want to live when I'm 40. Or when I have children. So, I'm actively trying to set myself up with residual income.
"I'm in the stage right now ready to purchase my first piece of property and I'm looking for multi-family homes so I can collect rent. The ultimate goal is to make money while I'm sleeping.
"Investing in art is something I highly recommend. You don't need a large budget to start. Start with your local gallery. Go there and jot down some artist names. Go home and research them. Look at their followers and who they're following. You're looking for other artists that they follow, who are just beginning their career. You can buy a piece for $800 sometimes that could be worth thousands of dollars.
"Stocks are the riskiest of the bunch but can turn into a fun hobby for you. It's all based on your taste. Where do you think the economy is moving to? What industry do you think will be next after the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic? You should read articles to research the company and review their financial statements before investing anything. Look at how much debt is sitting on their books. Look at how liquid they are (cash readily available). Research indicators that experts use to determine a company's short-term and long-term growth. But ultimately, it is based on your taste for the company, your preference. It's your money, don't let any one article or anyone tell you how to spend it."
On establishing streams of revenue and her intentions behind it:
"I went to school for accounting. I have my Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and my Master's Degree in Taxation, so my revenue streams range from accounting, tax preparation, tax strategy, and tax audits. I work with companies with $2 million plus in assets and companies who are just beginning with just their savings account and a dream. The intention is to never be broke! (Laughs) I don't ask anyone for anything and I want to keep it that way."
On unhealthy money habits and mindsets:
"When I had a 9-5, I would go out on the weekends and not check my bank account til Monday or worse when I was forced to because I received an alert. I absolutely cannot run my business like that. I have a spreadsheet for my recurring monthly expenses and automated systems that calculate my income for the month. Knowing where you stand as far as your bank account balance and credit score is the most important money lesson I've ever learned. It starts there."
"Knowing where you stand as far as your bank account balance and credit score is the most important money lesson I've ever learned. It starts there."
Courtesy of Dora Belle
On the change she saw once she changed her mindset:
"A savings account was birthed from it. Not living check to check was [also] birthed, and the ability to hire my first employee who works with me all year."
On the craziest thing she’s ever done for money:
"I've never done anything crazy for money. All money is not good money. I left Corporate America because my peace and sanity is more important to me than making money. I decline new clients if my gut tells me my peace is going to be interrupted."
On the money mantra she swears by:
"You can be intimidated to do the work or you can be broke. The work is the research for the things you are curious about that you believe can make you money. We are all intimidated at one time or another when it comes to a new venture. But you have to take risks. You have to execute. You can't want a thing and be afraid of that same thing."
For more of Dora, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Dora Belle
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
Being a confident Black, plus-size woman wasn't something I was always good at. Although plus-size visibility has increased over the years, it is still easy to feel underrepresented. Plus-size women face societal pressures and biases that can affect their mental and emotional well-being. My go-to resources that help me are plus-size podcasts.
Besides having an amazing tribe who's always made me feel seen, plus-size positive podcasts have helped me navigate life from a "bigger" perspective. These podcasts provide a platform for authentic conversations that cover a range of topics, from self-love and body positivity to fashion, relationships, and overall well-being. By listening to the experiences of others who share similar struggles and victories, plus-size women can find inspiration, validation, and a sense of belonging.
Here are five of my favorite plus-size positive podcasts to listen to as a plus-size woman.
Why Won't You Date Me? With Nicole Byer
Hosted by comedian Nicole Byer, "Why Won't You Date Me?" takes a unique and humorous approach to the plus-size experience in the realm of dating. Byer candidly shares her dating escapades, discussing the challenges, hilarities, and lessons learned. With a mix of wit and vulnerability, the podcast offers a refreshing take on love, relationships, and self-acceptance, making it a must-listen for those navigating the complexities of dating as a plus-size individual.
Peach, Please! Podcast
The Peach, Please! podcast is a vibrant addition to the plus-size positive podcast landscape, championing the plus-size community and the journey toward self-love. With a focus on fostering a sense of belonging, the podcast delves into discussions about body positivity, self-care, and the diverse experiences of plus-size individuals. Hosted by Katie Winnen, Peach, Please! creates an inclusive space where listeners can find inspiration and encouragement on their path to embracing their bodies and cultivating self-love.
Big Girls Gone Wild
Big Girls Gone Wild podcast is a unique take on embracing life as a plus-size individual. The podcast, hosted by Kat and Anne, explores various aspects of the big and bold experience, celebrating self-expression, confidence, and empowerment. With candid conversations and a lively atmosphere, Big Girls Gone Wild contributes to the diverse landscape of plus-size podcasts, providing a platform for women to embrace their uniqueness and live life boldly.
Fat Girls Traveling: The Podcast
Fat Girls Traveling: The Podcast provides a unique perspective on the intersection of travel and the plus-size experience. Hosted by Annette Richmond and Devon Kitzo-Creed, the podcast shares stories, tips, and challenges related to travel, empowering plus-size individuals to embrace their wanderlust without reservations. Through insightful discussions, the podcast encourages a positive and inclusive approach to travel, challenging stereotypes and inspiring listeners to embark on adventures confidently.
The Plus Size Experience
As the name suggests, The Plus Size Experience podcast offers a firsthand account of life through the lens of plus-size individuals. Hosted by Michaela Leitz, a luxury stylist in size-inclusive fashion, the podcast explores various aspects of the plus-size journey, from body positivityand self-acceptance to fashion, relationships, and personal growth. Through open and honest conversations, The Plus Size Experience adds to the growing chorus of plus-size positive podcasts, creating a space that empowers individuals to embrace their bodies and confidently navigate life.
Plus-size positive podcasts support and encourage women to navigate a world that often falls short in acknowledging their experiences. These podcasts provide a platform for authentic conversations, dismantle stereotypes, and foster a sense of community. By tuning in, plus-size individuals can find inspiration, practical advice, and the validation they deserve on their journey towards self-love and acceptance.
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Feature image by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for NeueHouse