Viral Financial Expert Vivian Tu (aka Your Rich BFF) Dishes on Money, Mindset and the Secret to Saving

Vivian Tu is our rich BFF...and yours, too. You may recognize the former Wall Street pro turned-financial literacy influencer as an honoree in PureWow's 24 in '24 roundup this year, and for good reason: Tu has taken to social media to teach an audience of over two million everything we wish we knew about money (like how to get it, how to save it, and how to spend it.) Ahead, PureWow chats with Tu about the financial tools we wish were taught in school instead of Pythagorean theorem, like the art of negotiating. Get ready for practical tips that may change your money mindset for good (spoiler alert: that daily latte ritual isn't as bad for our budget as we've been told).

Meet the Expert

Vivian Tu is the financial expert and entrepreneur behind Your Rich BFF, host of the popular money podcast Networth and Chill and bestselling author of Rich AF.

PureWow: Ok, Vivian – there are so many questions I have on my mind, but the first being a common one I see amongst women in their early to mid-twenties: What is the biggest misconception about credit cards?

Vivian Tu: The biggest misconception about credit cards is that there is a "best one." There are some that are stunning. They are heavy, made of metal and feel luxurious. Still, there is no such thing as a best credit card. However, there is a best credit card for you, based on your spending habits.

PW: And is it true that having a bunch of credit cards is "bad”?

VT: Not at all. I would say three to five cards is the sweet spot; different cards for different types of purchases. For example, you can pay your rent with the BILT card from Mastercard – that’s huge for anyone in NYC where rent tends to be our largest expense, and something we have to pay anyway. 

PW: Speaking of rent… is there a golden rule of how much we should be spending on it? What percent of our annual income should go towards rent, based on where we live?

VT: I don’t have a hard number for this, but I do love the 50/30/20 budgeting method. Mind you, this is based on your take home pay, not your gross annual income. Fifty-percent should go towards needs; that can include things like rent, groceries, utilities, and your cell phone bill. Then 30% goes towards the wants; drinks out with friends, lash extensions, the movies, whatever. The 20% left is for present day you to take care of future you; that’s debt pay down, saving and investing. In a city like New York, I wouldn't be surprised if the “needs” category is a higher percentage, so you may have to decrease the wants and savings ratio a bit.

PW: I love that budgeting method – easy to follow! What do you think is causing the most debt for millennials today, and how can we be better at saving?

VT: Personally, I love a little treat. But you have to remember what the opportunity cost of a daily little treat is. I actually did the math on this: if you buy a $5 latte every single day for 365 days a year, that’s about $1,825. That money is not getting you a house, but it could get you that designer handbag or shoes you love so much. That amount of money is close to all these other things that you may want throughout the year, and can easily budget for just by cutting out one daily thing that might not even spark much joy for you but has become a habit.

PW: I was on the Venmo app recently and saw a transaction between one of my couple friends, where they were requesting money from each other for a cup of coffee… this threw me for a loop! How do you feel about going 50/50 with finances in a relationship?

VT: Being 50/50 friends or 50/50 partners where it is so tit for tat is not healthy, in my opinion. Here’s why: at no point in your life will you ever be at the exact same financial point as a friend or partner. As in, one of you will always have or make more money; one of you will always be more confident in your finances than the other. When you are 50/50 partners you are chasing equality, when you should be chasing equity.

PW: For those of us in the dating scene, when is it appropriate to talk about money?

VT: You should be talking about money on the first date. I think you can ask money questions that show you where someone’s values lie. Examples: if you could go on a dream vacation and spend $30,000 what would that look like? Or, if money didn’t matter, what job would you have? If I gave you a million dollars what would you do with it? Those are all financial questions that feel fun, not icky.

PW: Taking notes! I remember reading that you had a female mentor when you first got to Wall Street that made a big impact on your interest in the financial landscape. What is one piece of advice she gave you that you can pass down to us over here at PureWow?

VT: Number one: Don’t get botox off of Groupon! Two, that you can only save as much as you earn, but you can always earn more money. We talk so much about the avocado toast, the latte and the little things that are preventing you from your goals, but the easiest thing to do to have more money, is to make more money. Think about what it costs you to cut $5,000 of discretionary expenses out of your life: you are probably not having fun anymore. You don’t have a Netflix subscription, you’re not getting drinks with friends, your nails aren’t painted. Whereas do you know how easy it is to ask for a $5,000 raise? It takes about two hours of prep work and a 30 minute conversation that makes you a little uncomfortable. That is the best use of two and a half hours that I have ever heard of. In what other reality can you make $5,000 in two and a half hours? Well, you can do it by asking for a raise every single year. And by making more money, you’re improving your lifestyle without cutting out your joy.

PW: I love that tip (and noted on the Botox). Last but not least, what is a quote or mantra you live by?

VT: Other women are not your competition. We are going to go farther, faster if we lift each other up and support each other than if we were to ever tear each other down.

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