Rana Good is the founder of Naïra NYC. A writer for publications such as Forbes, Travel + Leisure, Coveteur, Mens Journal and others, she created her own platform celebrating women of color.
When it comes to financial advice, Vivian Tu, aka Your Rich BFF, is a breath of fresh air in a world of predominantly male and white advisors. A former Wall Street trader, Tu has amassed over two million followers on TikTok with her candid advice which helps people build their net worth and earn what they deserve. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Tu is particularly vocal about women of color acquiring long-term wealth and providing them with the financial tools to do so.
In her recently launched podcast Networth and Chill Tu continues to make finance approachable, breaking down complicated economic concepts and also making money less taboo by getting down to the real nitty-gritty with experts. We spoke to the modern financial guru about why representation matters and how women of color can secure their financial future with a few crucial yet achievable steps.
What was your original path in finance?
Vivian Tu: I was my high school valedictorian and went to the University of Chicago, one of the best economics schools in the world where there’s a very natural progression to go work on wall street after. I got a job as an equities trader which is just a fancy word for trading stocks. I was living the American dream, especially for my parents who were Chinese immigrants. Also for me as an Asian woman, to get my foot in the door of a room full of rich white men, I felt like “wow, your girl’s made it – who wants to be a billionaire [laughs].” Working as a stock trader at J.P. Morgan is one of the most difficult environments to start your career in, but I learned a lot and still have mentors from that time now.
What made the experience difficult?
One was the lack of representation – you look around the room and no one looks like you. The only other diverse face was another Asian woman who was very senior and lucky for me, she took me under her wing. She taught me all the things that she wished she’d known at her age. She helped me do my job correctly but also taught me things like, contributing to my 401K, using the company’s corporate hotel catalog, being smart with my money, and how to budget and save.
Why did you end up leaving?
I was there for two and a half years, the first one and a half were wonderful; I had my mentor, and my second manager was a man who treated me with kindness and respect. Then the head of the desk was let go and a new big boss came in and he ended up bringing in his own people. The environment changed overnight. There was an exact moment when I decided I didn’t want to be there anymore. The new big boss discovered that I’m quite handy in Excel — I spent the previous summer in commercial banking so I knew my way around an Excel sheet more than a traditional trading analyst would. He suggested that I go work with one of his new hires and you can’t say no when the big boss asks. This man was my nightmare; he did not respect me or treat me with dignity, he would say things like “You’re too girly to be here” or “You’re so f*cking stupid.” He would attack my character and not my work, which is not okay and really rude but I have thick skin so I would just keep going. One day I came to work with a long cardigan on and when he saw it he put his hands together, asked “Is that kimono” and bowed at me. My stomach turned. That was the moment, I knew this guy was never going to advocate for or promote me. After I decided I needed to leave, I cried to my mentor who had a really strong network and knew someone from Wall Street and was now in the tech media space.
My mentor’s best friend became my new boss at Buzzfeed. I worked on the digital media strategy sales team and I knew literally nothing but I’m a fast learner, I work hard, and I’m willing to put in more elbow grease than anyone else. I did that for two years, pounded the pavement, and became one of the top salespeople at the company — not bad for the girl who didn’t know what anything was on day one. Then we were in a pandemic, and so many people were asking me for financial advice like how to rebalance their 401K, what health insurance to get, and what investment to make. So many people were asking me that it inspired me to start making videos.
When did you launch Your Rich BFF and why?
The name ‘Your Rich BFF’ was an inside joke with my girlfriends from college. They’re all doing incredible things; one’s a plastic surgery resident, one’s in law school, and two are in business school but because they all went into graduate programs, they have a lot of student debt. We would go out to dinner and I would pick up the tab because I was making good money and they would call me the “rich BFF.” That’s why I chose it.
It started out as a joke but because my coworkers and friends were asking all of these questions I launched my platform. I had learned so much about finance on Wall Street, and so much about content at BuzzFeed and put them together. I was petrified to be on camera initially but that went away over time.
In one of the first videos I ever saw of you, you were replying to someone doubting your credentials. How is your platform changing the narrative that investing is for old white guys?
My haters are my motivators! As a young Asian woman who uses retinol at night and SPF during the day, I look young and I don’t fit the Wall Street image or that of someone who has money and power. You have so many white guys on TikTok giving trash advice like putting all of your money into Bitcoin or in Tesla calls. It will be a 16-year-old kid in their mom’s basement who has no clue. I traded stocks in the most prestigious place on the planet as a career and I found it really interesting that so many people questioned me but no one ever questioned them. If I were a white guy you would just assume I’m capable and smart and that’s where the Your Rich BFF roasts really started to come in. I needed to show my community and friends that I would not take abuse from random trolls on the Internet because I’m a young woman of color. I’m a millionaire, I’m smart, and I have the things that you want. It spurred something in young people of color like someone was a vigilante for them and those were my top converting videos. People see that I explain personal finance for communities that have been left behind and won’t take sh*t from anyone else.
Women of color are disadvantaged financially in several ways, what is your financial advice for women of color?
The two most important things are – one, having nothing but audacity. Women are on LinkedIn and see a job with ten bullet points and they have the skills for six or seven and think they’re not eligible, whereas every white guy has maybe three and is like “Who’s better than me?” They’re applying for the job. We’re all equally unqualified and someone is trying to get that job so shoot for the moon. Number two is for the oldest daughter in an immigrant family, we’re taught to put the needs of others ahead of ourselves, including financially. So many of my friends are first generation, the oldest daughter and the expectation is “I’m going to make a ton of money and take care of my family and siblings.” In the beginning of your career, it’s important to prioritize yourself because if you can’t get your own financial footing, you won’t be able to take care of those that are important to you. You shouldn’t be allocating a part of your paycheck so that your brother can buy a Nintendo. I’m here to tell you that you need to put your own financial health first.
Your advice has had life-changing effects on some people’s lives, can you tell me more about that?
Governments will sometimes hold onto security deposits, insurance payouts, or bills you were overcharged on. It happens when you change your address or your phone number. A woman who follows me had a late partner who had a seven-figure life insurance policy that was left to her and she didn’t know. After finding out through my video, she DMed me to tell me that I had singlehandedly changed her life because she was going to get over a million dollars. Or very recently, a woman emailed me with the subject ‘thank you, you rock’ and said that since she started following me she’s located the paperwork from an ancient retirement account and rolled it over into an IRA, opened a high-yield savings account, and put a huge chunk of her savings into an investment account. She told me, I’m her “favorite Wall Street girlie.” Getting an email from someone who’s in a significantly better financial position because of my advice makes me so happy — it makes me emotional. My content is literally making the world a better place which is not what I was doing in my first job in which I was just making rich people richer.
It’s tax season, what are some of the best ways to take advantage of a good tax return?
I hate the phrase “good tax return” because a good tax return would be 0, otherwise you’re giving the government an interest-free loan for a year. If you get a big return, I highly recommend speaking with your HR department to change your withholding. You want to get money throughout the year so that you have time on your side. That said if you do get a return, before you dream of the vacation or the new bag you’re going to get, put half of it away. Putting half away immediately puts you in a better financial position as it will kickstart your savings or investments for you and you’re not going to miss it, it’s money you didn’t have before. As we head into more uncertain times and a recession has started, having a larger emergency fund is going to serve you, you want to have six to nine months of savings. This will put you in a better position if you lose your job or say, the tire falls off your car, you will know where your next meal is coming from. If you don’t have those savings, you will take the next job that comes your way and that’s not always the right job — that’s when we make desperate financial decisions.
What’s a good way to navigate the many ups and downs of the financial sector we’ve experienced in recent years?
Things are always up and down and to be honest, absolutely no one knows for sure when the market is going to crash or go up. If I knew that, I would be in Bora Bora sipping a piña colada right now. Instead of trying to cherry-pick a time to invest continually invest over a long period. Put in $100 every month and over time it will add up. You will naturally buy more or less depending on the market which will eventually even out.
What’s next for you as a creator?
There’s lots to come, my podcast just launched! My audience asked me for podcast recommendations and so I reviewed many of them and realized a lot of them were so boring. I was like why is this? I used to be the person who made fun of people who had podcasts – saying everyone needs a microphone these days. So now I’m the butt of my own jokes [laughs]. In my podcast, I want to make money less taboo, I want to talk with famous or recognizable faces and talk about money candidly. The more people see that the more people will do that in their own lives. This is especially important for women of color — we have to be talking to each other about money. When we don’t talk to each other, the only people who are winning are businesses, car dealerships, banks, etc. because we don’t know what is fair to ask for and what we deserve. If you and your friend talk about money and your friend makes less money than you, you don’t suddenly make less but your friend can go ask for more money. Putting more money in the hands of people of color, especially women of color, is always a good thing. If you find out you make less than your colleague, I would create a quantifiable list of why you deserve more then I would ask for 20K more. Start with an anchor that’s a little higher and then negotiate. You don’t need to say, “Hey Jim make more money than me”, just advocate for what you’re worth. If they’re not willing to meet you, you can look for a company that will pay you what you’re worth.
Listen to Vivian Tu and her podcast Networth and Chill
Follow Vivian Tu on TikTok