Want to learn how to make money, get rich (fast) and fast-track your way to financial success? Talk to Vivian Tu. She’s the 29-year-old mastermind behind YourRichBFF. Her mission? “To make finance into fun-ance.”
The former JP Morgan trader has racked up millions of followers who turn to Tu for smart and simple financial advice. She’s also ranked No. 46 on the 2023 Forbes Top Creators List. Tu’s prowess in financial literacy was recently celebrated at the 2023 TPG Awards. This annual event hosted by The Points Guy—the trusted media platform focused on maximizing travel experiences while minimizing spending—recognized 22 award recipients for their commitment to innovation across five key industries: credit cards, airlines, hotels, cruises and general travel. The Points Guy also celebrated the impact travel has on the world with its Changemaker Category, honoring individuals who inspire change.
Tu clinched the “Next Gen Influencer of the Year” award, an acknowledgment of her efforts in making finance accessible and enjoyable for the next generation.
Caroline English, director of social media and brand at The Points Guy, told me in an interview why the brand decided to applaud Tu’s approach: “At TPG, we believe that the ability to travel and experience the world is intrinsically tied to financial literacy,” she says. “That is why we’re honoring Vivian Tu with the Next Gen Influencer Of The Year. She may not be a traditional ‘travel’ personality, but she undoubtedly embodies our ethos.”
Summer Hull, director of content at The Points Guy, further emphasized the intrinsic connection between financial literacy and life experiences: “Investments, credit (and credit card rewards!) and financial literacy can unlock some of the most rewarding parts of life,” she told me in an interview. “Vivian Tu makes learning how to take control of your financial life fun and relevant to the next generation.”
Reflecting on the award, Tu noted its significance in breaking the mold: “I think what’s so powerful about this Next Gen Award is that historically it has felt like finance and financial services have been made by and for old rich white men. And they’ve always had the content and the big voices and the information accessible to their fingertips,” Tu told me in an interview. “But for so long, people who looked like me, people who were women, people who were young, people who were people of color, the LGBTQ community, people who were immigrants, grew up low income—all of these marginalized groups, we never got that fair shake.”
Tu’s journey from a $600,000-a-year Wall Street trader to becoming a social media finance sensation making $3.5 million a year (according to Forbes Top Creators List) was, in her words, “one big happy accident.” She started her career as an equities trader at JP Morgan, then decided to leave finance for a job in the tech and media world. Her background as a financial expert became evident even in her new endeavors. “I was desperate for new friends, and I started to share my personal background with a couple of new colleagues,” she says. “As soon as anybody found out you came from Wall Street, the immediate follow-up was, ‘Can you help me rebalance my 401(k), or which health insurance plan did you pick? Or what investments should I be buying?’”
The move to social media was serendipitous. As a way to share her financial knowledge more broadly (and “stop repeating myself,” she explains), she made her first video on January 1st, 2021. “I don’t want to say it was a joke, but it was kind of a joke. I basically just said, ‘Hey, I’m seeing a lot of bad information going around right now.’ It was the middle of the pandemic. You had 15-year-old boys in their mom’s basements telling people to put their stimulus checks into Bitcoin and Tesla calls. And I was like, ‘You guys, nobody who actually understands finance would ever do this.’”
That video ended up getting three million views and by the end of the week, Tu had 100,000 followers. Her approach was a hit that continues to draw in millions of followers: simplifying complex financial topics. “If you can’t explain something to a fifth grader, you can’t explain it at all. You don’t actually understand it,” she says. “And I’m able to explain pretty complex topics without using major buzzwords. I use examples that anybody who’s lived a day of life can actually relate to—whether that’s shopping at the grocery store or picking out nail polish colors at the salon.”
Tu’s decision to share fun and digestible financial advice on social media has resonated. Through her platforms, including the podcast “Networth and Chill,” her newsletter “enRiched” and her viral Instagram and TikTok accounts, Tu offers practical financial advice in a tangible, approachable way.
Tu also has an upcoming book, Rich AF, scheduled for release on December 26, which aims to provide a blueprint for those unsure where to start in their financial journey. “I hope [people are] able to pick up the book, read it from page one to the very last page and feel like they are more confident, more capable and ready to be on their financial journey and take advantage of everything that life has to offer,” she says.
Here, Tu shares seven tips for getting rich fast.
Tip 1: Get a High-Yield Savings Account
Vivian Tu passionately advocates for the transformative potential of high-yield savings accounts. “There’s no reason why anybody should have a standard savings account when you can literally earn more having a high-yield savings account out,” she says. Drawing an analogy to choosing airport lounges, she likens the decision to opting for the better option—in this case, a high-yield savings account with significantly higher APY. “Imagine you’re in an airport and you’re choosing between two lounges. One lounge has sad slightly damp sandwiches and the other one is serving a hot buffet. Which of the two would you choose? You’re going to the lounge with the better food option. The hot buffet probably has better seating and probably has faster WiFi, right? Because both of these lounges are equal, it doesn’t cost you anything to go into either you would pick the better option. This is exactly how high yield savings accounts work.”
Tip 2: Ask for a Raise
Tu’s financial philosophy challenges the misconception that cutting costs is the sole solution. “I think we are often pet this myth that the avocado toast or the daily Starbucks latte or the Netflix subscription are why we can’t afford a house. It’s not. Decreasing your costs is only one half of the equation,” she says. According to Tu, the other half—and often the more impactful one—involves increasing income. Her advice is clear: “My big piece of advice is always ask for a 10 to 15% raise every single year. It’s not unheard of to get a $5,000 to $10,000 raise. Do you know how hard it is to cut out $5,000 to $10,000 of extra expenditures that bring you joy in your life?”
Tip 3: Invest Smart
Tu dispels the myth that only the wealthy can invest and emphasizes the transformative power of investments. “There’s a myth that only rich people invest. That’s not true. How do you think those rich people got rich? Investing is truly a world wonder because it allows you to be one single human being with a two income household,” she says. Tu’s philosophy centers around the idea that time, coupled with compound interest, forms the bedrock of financial growth. “Not only can you work hard for your money, but your money can work hard for you—and it is critically important to invest early and often. There’s no such thing as picking the perfect investment time in the market, timing the market and picking the perfect investment every single time. It’s more about having a diversified portfolio that is invested over a long period of time because time is what allows compound interest to work. Meaning—your money can grow your money and that is how you are going to end up with a really comfortable future and a really comfortable retirement.”
Tip 4: Talk About Money
Breaking away from the traditional view that discussing money is taboo, Tu champions open conversations about finances among friends. She believes that these discussions foster better understanding, leading to more effective negotiation strategies. “For so long it’s been considered taboo or rude or tacky to talk to your friends about money, but it’s not—you have a better understanding of what you deserve and so you’re able to be a more effective negotiator when asking for a raise. You’re able to work with your landlord more effectively to get the rent that you want to pay. You are just able to pay and spend less and earn and get more for your money and you’re just getting more value out of life and having those conversations helps to make pay transparency and financial transparency so much more common. The only thing it hurts is corporations. So obviously they don’t want us to do it, but I think we should be doing it,” she says.
Tip 5: Have a Side Hustle
Tu is a staunch advocate of side hustles, viewing them as a means to generate additional income. “I am very pro side hustle. I would say that you should use your 9-5 to fund your 5-9 until it looks like it can be the other way around,” says Tu. She encourages using a nine-to-five job to fund passion projects during non-working hours. “Picking up the side hustle can put you in a period of temporary discomfort to save for a temporary goal, and that really allows you to do more with your money and get more out of life. Also, if your side hustle starts to become really lucrative, I would say try doing your side hustle and your full-time job for as long as possible until it’s become abundantly clear that your side hustle still is going to help be able to support your lifestyle as it currently stands before you make the decision of taking it,” Tu says.
Tip 6: Pay Off Your Debts
Tu approaches the concept of debt with a pragmatic mindset. “My big rule is that debt is not a four letter word. Debt is not morally good or bad; it’s neutral. It’s a tool,” she explains. Tu introduces the 7% rule, urging individuals to prioritize debts with interest rates above 7%. “When it comes to debt, what I like to say is use the 7% rule—rank your debt from highest to lowest interest rate and prioritize paying off any debt above 7% first because this debt is going to compound faster than any sort of investment gains that you’re likely going to be able to make. So it makes more sense to pay that debt off as fast as humanly possible. After that, you can continue to pay your debt off slow and steady while starting to invest.”
But here’s the next part of paying off debt—you don’t want to pay off too much. “When the cost of borrowing is low, you’re better off taking the additional funds you would have used to pay that debt off faster and putting that money into investments because historically, over the past 40 to 60 years, if you are investing in a diversified portfolio of index funds that track the broader market, the S&P 500 has returned somewhere between 8 to 10% every single year. And that’s not to say every single year that’s been the case, but as an average that’s what it’s been. Some years it’s returning 25%. Some years it’s returning 5%, but over the long term you will be better off investing those additional funds than paying off that debt faster.”
Tip 7: Use Your Credit Cards Wisely
Tu expresses her enthusiasm for maximizing credit card rewards and points by doing actions you’d already do. “I am a huge fan because you’re essentially getting something for doing an action that you were otherwise going to do anyway and what weren’t going to receive rewards for it,” she explains. This strategy, as she describes, allows you to keep more money in your pocket by using points for travel, experiences, hotel rooms—or even cash back.
But in a cautionary note, Tu advises against closing your oldest credit cards. Drawing from personal experience, she shares the impact of closing her oldest credit card, which led to a significant drop in her credit score. “When I started making some real money, I started qualifying for these fancier credit cards with better rewards points, better miles, better things like that. And I thought because I had heard through popular wisdom that it was better and smarter for me to cancel my oldest credit card that was like rinky dinky and barely offered me anything,” she says. “But when I closed that oldest credit card, it shortened my credit history and my credit score dropped 60 points because your credit score is based on a number of factors, including the length of your credit history.”
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