Mrs. Dow Jones wants you to know finance is cool.
When self-described “financial pop star” Haley Sacks, who posts under the social media alter ego @MrsDowJones, started posting finance memes in 2017, she recognized a gap in the personal finance space. People were craving information that was entertaining, relatable and, most importantly, understandable.
She says you probably shouldn’t buy Balenciaga sneakers if you have student loans, she dissects the financial issues at play in Netflix’s “Emily in Paris,” and she compares financial markets to Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick’s relationship.
“If you’re an entertainer you can make anything entertaining. Even financial literacy. So this was the ultimate challenge that I just had to say yes to,” says Sacks, whose funny, pop-culture oriented @MrsDowJones account on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter now reaches over 173,000 followers.
But then 2020 happened. And Sacks recognized another unique opportunity: helping people navigate this tumultuous new period.
“The government is famously great at passing bills and famously horrible at explaining what’s in them,” says Sacks.
So Sacks decided to explain things herself. She launched “MDJ Stimulus,” with a goal of providing actionable advice to people about how COVID-related government changes were going to affect them. She blogged and posted explainers about the stimulus plan, what to do after you’ve been laid off, how to negotiate a salary cut, what being furloughed means, ways to save money during quarantine, and more.
But she kept a lighthearted tone: “I wanted to make people laugh and feel comforted during this time,” says Sacks.
The 29-year-old New Yorker reflected on the madness of 2020 in a recent interview with NextAdvisor:
NEXTADVISOR: What challenged you this year?
HALEY SACKS: It was hard to navigate having a voice when there were so many important causes to give voice to, like the Black Lives Matter movement. Whatever agenda I have takes a step back, and that’s really cool. It felt like we were quiet enough to really focus on what mattered.
The murder of George Floyd and the social unrest that followed really challenged me to take a hard look at how I can do more to stand up against brutality and systemic racism. Not being racist, or being an open-minded white person is not enough. I came to understand by listening and reading that I need to be actively anti-racist.
What was your biggest takeaway from the year?
How much the days created the year. For so many of us it was about getting through one day and having them add up to a full year was like “whoa, it’s almost over, where did that time go?” I think that 2020 impressed upon us the importance of doing our best in the day to day — in the micro — which will become the macro.
What was a finance lesson you stressed this year?
Keep going. A lot of people have been out of work for longer than their emergency funds would sufficiently support. Something that I really pressed upon people was, with all of the government stimulus coming in, the idea of disposable income is so dangerous. Nothing is really disposable anymore.
And think about the long term. The market was so unstable but being a good investor means being able to weather the storm.
What was your best investment this year?
Myself. I started going back to school to get my CFP [certified financial planner designation]. I would never have been able to do that without the pandemic. And just making sure that I’m creating more healthy habits, like long-term investing in ETFs and index funds that I don’t look at on a daily basis, but are there and make me feel safe. I know down the line I’ll be able to cash in.
What was your worst investment this year?
I tried day trading, which everyone saw was a shit show. [She lost about half of her investment in a day and called it quits]. I also sold some positions a little early in the pandemic that I probably would have been better off holding onto. It was actually a good lesson, because I think that if you have a win — like if you’re up 100% — take that win if you want it or need it. We shouldn’t feel so much regret [for selling] just because it kept going up. We’re not fortune tellers, we didn’t know that.
What’s the best book you read this year?
The Color of Money: Black Banks and The Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran. It’s a must read for anyone interested in closing America’s racial wealth gap. That book really changed my perspective the most.
Did you have any finance role models this year?
I really admire Patricia Bright, she’s a British influencer who started in fashion and beauty and is now getting into finance and business. I love her. And Karen Cahn. She started iFundWomen, which is a crowdfunding marketplace for women-led businesses and the people who want to support them. She inspires me so much.
What are your personal finance goals for 2021?
My personal finance goal for 2021 is to curb my emotional spending. 2020 was a hard year and I have no shame in admitting I bought things I didn’t need as a coping mechanism. No more buying liabilities — and by liabilities I mean tie-dyed sweatsuits. In 2021 I am focusing on assets.
My investing goals are to be consistent. It’s not really my vibe to be like, “Hey I missed out on Amazon or Peloton.” I don’t believe playing into this idea of FOMO around investing money. I think there’s already enough fear and shame around it. My goal is to literally just make money, put 15 percent of it away, and then enjoy myself with the rest.