Haley Sacks wanted to be an entertainer growing up and pursued a career in comedy for years as an adult. Unable to land a job of her dreams, she decided to pivot.
In 2017, bothered by a lack of personal financial advice that resonated with her, Sacks set out to demystify finance for herself and others like her. To share what she learned, Sacks also came up with a social media moniker that has helped make her the notable comedian she wanted to be: Mrs. Dow Jones.
But Sacks, 30, wants to be more than the queen of finance gifs and memes.
This year, she launched a new website — financeiscool.com — where the self-described “financial pop star” offers a $150 course to help people set goals and achieve them with the support of like-minded savers and investors.
Some “finfluencers” have been criticized for encouraging risky investor behavior. Most famously, MassMutual employee Keith Gil, posting online as Roaring Kitty, coordinated a short squeeze related to video game retailer GameStop that nearly blew up a $12.5 billion hedge fund. (State regulators fined MassMutual $4.75 million for not properly overseeing Gil, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, recently began an exam sweep to learn more about how companies partner with finfluencers.)
Sacks wants to bridge the gap between the investors spending time on social media (and often getting bad recommendations) and legitimate financial advice. She’s constantly trying to learn more and working to become a Certified Financial Planner, she said.
Take us back to the beginning.
When I started Mrs. Dow Jones, there was no such thing as a financial influencer. I was creating it from my thirst for financial knowledge and a lack of resources that I could relate to. I knew I had this voice, but I wanted to use it to make an impact and talk about something confusing to me and hard to learn about.
What was your relationship to financial literacy leading up to Mrs. Dow Jones?
It was [something that put me] through all of the classic feelings you hear about: shame, embarrassment, ignorance, or even thinking about how a man will do it for you. You have those courses, which are made by financial employees and there's a lot missing. I had a lot of questions and wanted to create a space that was fun and entertaining and aspirational. I wanted it to be as cool to date Justin Bieber as it is to be financially fit.
Tell us about your interaction with advisors over time? Do you have an advisor? (Sacks answered this question and the three that followed via email.)
I've had plenty of experiences with advisors throughout my life, but what excites me is that I have cultivated amazing relationships over the years with fintech platforms such as Wealthfront, Fundrise, and Public.com. I regularly use their technologies and insights. It can be useful to reach out and have an advisor, but an individual should be their own advisor first and foremost. This means being as financially literate and empowered as possible, doing research, and carving out personal short- and long-term goals for guidance.
Can you talk more about your experiences with advisors? It doesn’t sound like you have one right now. Have you hired one in the past?
My dad is one haha. [But] I use fintech platforms and my own advice to manage my finances.
You mentioned relationships you have with fintech platforms — what do you like about those you mentioned? Are you paid to endorse those companies?
We are living in the golden age of fintech. Thanks to companies I partner with, I can give my audience actionable, safe financial advice that makes it simple for them to grow wealth through investing. My deals with these companies are cash and equity based. They complete me. I need places to send my community that makes it easy for them to invest. I am grateful for these partnerships and proud to work with such wonderful companies that share my mission of making wealth building accessible to all.
Some financial advisors only make money from the fees they charge clients, not from any products or services they recommend, and those advisors argue that’s the only way to align everyone’s interests. You’re not a financial advisor, but you are helping people make financial decisions. What would you say to anyone who might question what impact companies paying you have on the advice you’re giving?
Everything I do, whether I am compensated or not, is authentic to me and my brand. I am approached daily by companies that want to collaborate, but unless the offering meets the standard I have set for myself, it doesn’t matter how much money they are offering, I am not going to promote it. I’m always clear with my audience about what I experienced that works and what doesn’t and what I am being paid to promote and what is organic. If a company approaches me and the policies or offerings do not work for me, my audience is not going to see me promoting it.
You have amassed large followings on social media such as Instagram (over 200,000) and Twitter (10,000). What are some overarching themes people bring your way?
The biggest thing people come to me with is a lack of support and confidence. That's why it’s been so amazing to launch our community, the Three Comma Club [a reference to billionaires]. I can tell someone to open a high-yield savings account over and over but taking that action can feel radical for some people, as can being able to talk to others and make sure they’re doing things right. I never want people to say, ‘oh, I can't afford that.’ [I want them] spending according to their values and taking care of themselves.
Speaking of social media, you’ve leveraged your presence in ways the traditional advisor might not.
As a millennial, I understand the importance of social media as a tool to foster meaningful relationships with an audience. That said, this tactic might not be the preferred method for all advisors. It's important for [an advisor] to use their own skillset to provide financial advice. Given my background in comedy, social media has been a nice outlet, and I feel it has allowed me to be relatable to other millennials and Gen Z in the most organic way possible.
Tell us about your new course.
During the pandemic, when everyone was learning how to make sourdough, I was really deep in creating actionable financial content. I released something called the MDJ Stimulus Plan which was really cool and free and it was my first course, in a way.
People want actual resources, and it was important to make that crystal freaking clear with the course. It is easy for anyone to start their money journey, and that's what a lot of people want — someone to walk them through. [For example] The Money Book, which is a financial management system. [We spend the] whole time making it so clear exactly how to fill it out, so there's no question when you do it for the first time. The big question was how to give them a system that will allow them to manage their personal finances for the rest of their lives.
If you’re an entertainer, you should be able to make anything cool and my course literally is bingeable. I put a timer on it and [tell my audience] “you guys can only do this for 20 minutes.” I don’t want people to burn out, but [they’re] going to want to watch the whole thing. It’s really good and it’s also fun and there’s no reason it can’t be like that.
What made you decide to go for the CFP designation?
Educational content is something that I'm committed to for the rest of my life and we’ve leveled up the way that people can learn about money. I want to make sure that I'm the best out there and the most credentialed because I want to make sure the information and education I'm giving people about money is the absolute highest quality that they can find. There's a lot of people who do this mindlessly, or I think a little bit as a money grab, and that's just never really been my vibe. This is my life's work, so I need to do it to the best of my ability. We had to slow down my process on it [probably for another year] because of the release of my course.
I'm also growing with my audience. We're getting older together, and I want to tell them about whole life insurance and the different nitty-gritty things in financial planning that I want to know about so that I can then help them to learn together in some way, and then I translate it for them.
You encourage people to ‘be their own trust fund.’ Tell us more about what that means for women.
I don't want to just teach women how to save. We have to invest; we have to grow our money. Financial freedom is the ultimate form of feminism because it means that you have a choice. You can make those decisions. If you're in a bad relationship, you have an emergency fund, and you can move or get a new place. If you have an abusive boss, you can walk. Money gives women the power to choose, and that's so important.
What is financial success according to Mrs. Dow Jones?
I’m not telling everyone they should be billionaires. I’m really just telling people to buy back their time and find out what life feels like when [they’re] having impact and close with their family, and home and doing what [they] want to be doing in the world and not lying to [themselves] about what’s going on underneath or trying to rob Peter to pay Paul.