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