The 33-Year-Old Accountant Whose Worst Money Decision Was Not Trusting Her Gut

"You can be intimidated to do the work or you can be broke."

Money Talks

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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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