Meet the growing number of millennial women aiming to change the money narrative

By Tara Siegel Bernard, The New York Times Company

The women logged on from Alaska, Florida and points in between, excited and nervous. The energy was palpable in the chat stream, which bubbled with the kind of quick and candid confessions that emerge in a room of virtual strangers.

One said she was so teary-eyed with happiness that someone must be cutting onions. Another said she was so wound up that she could vomit. Encouragement and expletives flowed freely. But one user’s request to Tori Dunlap got directly to the point: “Teach me how to make money!!!!!!!”

By the end of hourlong workshop, Dunlap — who regularly reaches nearly 2.8 million followers through TikTok and Instagram — had helped roughly 170 women invest nearly $20,000. For many, it was the first time they had ever bought a share.

Talking about money, Dunlap said in an interview later, can be “the most boring thing in the world.” And although she cringes at the word empowerment, that’s what money is about: the ability to fund causes you support, travel and spend as you like, and make — or break — personal relationships without consideration of the financial implications.

“It’s what money can buy you,” said Dunlap, 27, who dispenses financial tips and career advice, sometimes in T-shirts with slogans such as “Smash the Patriarchy” and “Financial Feminist,” the title of a podcast starting again this month as well as a book due out in December.

She eschews American tropes about bootstraps that don’t work for a generation whose wages haven’t kept pace with tuition bills or the cost of living, and she finds common criticisms of younger Americans, such as that they’re struggling because they don’t work hard or buy too many lattes, offensive.

“That is so insulting to the single mom who works harder than any of us but can’t afford her rent,” Dunlap said.

It’s an appealing message for many young people, helping make Dunlap a popular financial guru whose business grossed more than $3.4 million last year, she said, spurred on by a pandemic that has raised the popularity of investing and swelled the ranks of self-made online experts.

But rather than rallying behind meme stocks or the latest hot crypto trend, she is part of a growing tribe of largely millennial women aiming to change the narrative around women and money, often by drawing from their own experiences. There’s Berna Anat, aka Financial Hype Woman; Melissa Jean-Baptiste, the Beyoncé of Personal Finance, also known as Millennial in Debt; Delyanne the Money Coach; and Haley Sacks, founder of Mrs. Dow Jones and Finance Is Cool.

They are latter-day Suze Ormans without the latte shaming, using TikTok and podcasts instead of TV and radio to dispense practical financial guidance.

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