In three years, Vivian Tu has racked up 2.5 million followers on TikTok and made a name for herself—Your Rich BFF, to be precise—as a dealer of plainspoken personal finance tips to a largely young audience. Now, in her first book, Rich AF (Portfolio, Dec.), she hopes to bring her wisdom to even more people seeking money advice in a moment of economic uncertainty. Tu spoke with PW about why financial literacy should be taught in schools, how to find a money mentor, and why Gen Z’s “happily ever after” looks different.
How can a “money mindset,” to use your term, change someone’s life?
So much of the human relationship with finance develops before the age of seven. Whatever you learn from your parents, good or bad, is deeply ingrained, and you have to unpack it before you begin your financial journey. I talk a lot about money myths and the preconceived notions we have about rich people. We think they work very hard, but they’re so lazy—a smart type of lazy. I talk about how regular people can be that kind of lazy, and how they can develop abundance mindsets.
How are you fighting what you describe as a “rigged” system?
We have to band together and debunk what we’ve been told. Is it “rude” to talk about money? No, it’s not. Rich guys on the golf course are talking about their portfolios all the time. Why is it rude when young people of color do the same? This topic is not taught in schools—we need legislative change to ensure it will be taught to the next generation. For now, I’m happy to be that education for younger people. Financial services are targeted to people who are male, pale, and stale. My audience is the leftovers: women, Gen Z, millennials, LGBTQ people, immigrants, people who are low-income or historically marginalized. They’re the ones who need it.
Your boss at JPMorgan was critical to your success. How can readers find good mentors?
They should find someone local—a professor, a colleague, someone who has more life experience. Everyone has something to teach. My mentor was the reason I could craft this life for myself. She told me I deserved to be rich. I looked at her and saw a young, single Asian woman who was successful, and realized I could be there one day too.
You talk about “pulling back the curtain on wealth”—what do most people not know?
Because finance is jargon-heavy, people think they have to be smart to understand it. You just need a plan. I hope this book gives you the road map. I read incredible books from Suze Orman, Robert Kiyosaki, etc., but a lot has changed since then. Wages have stagnated, student loans are crazy, houses are 10 times the price they were when my parents were buying. Boomers and Gen Xers got this story—you can live a wonderful happy life on one income with a white picket fence and a golden retriever. Gen X and millennials played by those rules, and it didn’t work. Now our “happily ever after” looks different.