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How Haley Sacks, aka Mrs. Dow Jones, is helping young adults financially survive the coronavirus crisis

Key Points
  • Haley Sacks is upending gender barriers on Wall Street and amassing a huge following by blending finance with humor and pop culture to relate to Gen Z and millennials.
  • Since launching in 2017, her Mrs. Dow Jones brand has expanded from videos and memes to events, merchandise and even a book club.
  • Her latest initiative, MDJ Stimulus, is an eight-week, unfiltered program helping Gen Z and millennials financially survive the coronavirus, featuring guests such as Daymond John and Chris Voss.
Haley Sacks hosts the "Bravoholics Meet Workaholics" panel at BravoCon 2019, Skylight Modern in New York City on Nov. 16, 2019.
Heidi Gutman/Bravo/NBCU

In quarantine for six weeks now, Haley Sacks, also known as Mrs. Dow Jones, is anything but bored. The financial influencer, who is revolutionizing financial education by blending her love for pop culture with finance using funny memes and videos, is working overtime to help her 150,000-plus followers — primarily Gen Zers and millennials — financially survive the coronavirus crisis.

"Right now it's boom time. There's so much interest for financial information from people who normally ignore it, and there's so many questions about the future of people's careers, and how they will make money, and how to manage the money they have now. It's a really hard time for everyone," says Sacks.

To provide guidance, on April 6 Sacks launched MDJ Stimulus, an eight-week unfiltered program that covers everything from "WTF is a stimulus package?" to personal finances, taxes, dealing with a job loss, health care and navigating a career.

Sacks says her humorous, informative teaching style puts her in the unique position to give direction on how to react and manage the curve balls that are throwing Americans into deep despair during this crisis. "It sort of takes some of the air out of it and lets people relax and feel empowered," she says.

Mrs. Down Jones

Only three years on the finance scene — and basically self-taught — this unconventional 28-year-old has gained her spot on Wall Street by offering a female perspective to the male-dominated world of banking, using pop culture to break down the dry lingo into terms outsiders can understand. Her strategy is working: 70% of her followers are women.

While some have criticized Sacks for lacking a formal finance background, it is Sacks' brutal honesty about her own financial missteps that makes her unique and keeps her fans coming back for more.

"I come at it in a way that I'm on the same playing field," she says. "I don't put myself on a pedestal and talk down to anyone. I myself have had my own financial journey and felt really disconnected from the advice and educational content that was available to me.

"I want people to feel really confident to take that first step, whether it is getting out of debt, understanding when you have your first job, how to direct that first paycheck, or what it means to max out your 401(k). All of the things that when you work in finance becomes rudimentary, but I see every day with people it's not."

In its fourth week now, her MDJ Stimulus program is receiving widespread support from some big names in business as well. Last week Daymond John from "Shark Tank" joined Sacks to talk about how to fight back and succeed during this unprecedented time. This week, for economy week, she is going live with the guys from Robinhood Snacks. During her first week, which covered coronavirus career curveballs, she role-played with featured guest Chris Voss on how to negotiate a salary cut.

"People just ultimately want to know am I getting money; when is my money coming; what should I do with my money. The government has done a horrible job about making it clear, and they keep passing new stimulus packages that are also not explained clearly," she says.

"There's a lot of questions from students who have had their internships canceled and who have sort of been promised this idea of the American dream and now feel like it's been ripped from them." 

Sacks says the uncertainty is having a profound effect on this younger generation. "You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. That's really the thesis of this whole program."

She believes her MDJ Stimulus program is helping her followers see things with a new perspective: "Like face masks and Purell, clear, actionable advice is now a necessity," she says, explaining that with all the news stories projecting a bleak future, people need a go-to where they can receive actionable takeaways. 

She's hoping her program will cause a chain reaction. "I think of each person as an individual ripple, and if they can see my program and then go out and change their own lives and empower themselves but also then maybe bring other people back to our community, that's all that you can hope for."

Making finance cool

Since launching her Instagram account, @MrsDowJones, in 2017, Sacks' world has exploded: She has gone from a solo act to now employing four part-timers, including an assistant, graphic designer, editor and producer. Her MDJ brand has evolved from memes and videos to merchandise, events, a newsletter and a finance-related book club, #MDJReads, featuring high-profile guests such as Ellevest CEO and co-founder Sallie Krawcheck. In November, Sacks hosted a panel at 2019 BravoCon in New York City; in January she was invited to Georgetown University to give her "Finance Is Cool" Ted Talk

Currently working on receiving her financial planner certification, Sacks, who's often likened to Suze Orman meets Paris Hilton, hasn't always been so money smart. Graduating from Wesleyan University in 2013 with a degree in film studies, she briefly worked at Lorne Michaels' production company Above Average in New York before being laid off.

It was at this job, though, when she was faced with all the financial decisions that came with being a full-time employee, that Sacks says her lack of financial knowledge really hit her — when she had to figure out where to direct her paycheck, whether to put her money into a Roth IRA or a 401(k), what percentage she should contribute to her retirement fund. Then, when she was laid off just six months later, she decided she never wanted to work for anyone else again. "I got my heart broken with layoffs too many times." 

So through reading and the power of Google and curiosity, she said, finance quickly became as much a passion as her love for pop culture.

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Her thirst for learning has never since wavered, and with each meme, each video, each newsletter, Sacks' aim is always the same: to educate young adults and give them the confidence to secure a healthy financial future.

"When you're young, you think a lot about what's going to make you happy now, what looks cool on TikTok — I want to get that, wear that, whatever. You think about today, but you don't think about tomorrow or 10 years from now. I don't want anyone who is young to get into the habit of sacrificing money that they don't have yet." 

She's not surprised, though, about how much young people don't understand when it comes to finances. "It has nothing to do with their intellect. They are at a complete disadvantage because of the education system, and then they are just expected to know it. And the ways they are supposed to learn about it just automatically makes you feel terrified, confused and about 8 million steps behind and like so much more stupid than everyone else."

'What's up, rich people?'

Sacks points to a number of women who have contributed to her unconventional style and strength. "I love Helen Gurley Brown, Zsa Zsa Gabor. Women who are strong and confident and had these sort of wacky and totally personal views of the world but it worked for them. We are lucky enough to live in a time where there are so many great examples of women who are killing it." Another one of her heroes is Spanx founder Sara Blakely. "I'm so obsessed with her."

Referring to herself as eccentric — "Anna Wintour meets Rihanna meets Blair Waldorf pretty much sums me up" — she says that she dresses for her mood. "Right now in quarantine I've been really into the 2000s — Juicy Couture sweatsuits, rhinestones, things like that. It makes it more fun."

Sacks' confidence and edgy style are also apparent in her work. Starting off with her trademark "What's up, rich people? It's me, Haley, aka Mrs Dow Jones," her videos are both inspiring and funny. Her memes — Tiger King's Joe Exotic to explain first-quarter earnings, and Taylor Swift to clarify the meaning of a hedge fund — get shared thousands of times every day.

Mrs. Dow Jones

What is surprising, though, is that while she focuses largely on empowering women, 30% of her followers are male. "I'm Mrs. Dow Jones, and I'm a woman, but oddly enough, my audience is not all women."

Nevertheless, Sacks says her mission to empower women in finance has received some pushback: "I get cyberbullied all the time from financial meme accounts. But we have really different goals of what we are creating. I'm a financial pop star. So it brings up all these issues that are so apparent today in these companies. Why are these guys scared of me that I'm making this content and building this community and that I'm sort of bridging this gap? I think it's that they are scared that it's going to take away from this Illuminati outsider-insider vibe of Wall Street, but it's also that they don't like women that much."

But Sacks says this isn't going to stop her. "If you find your passion, it doesn't matter what will get in your way, because you will keep going. I really believe in just failing upward."

Giving back

The final week of Sacks' stimulus program, beginning May 25, will focus on giving back. "The best way to stimulate your personal economy is to give back," she says. "Generosity makes you happier. And no matter where you're at financially, you can always find a way to do good." 

Sacks is also donating all the profits she makes from her MDJ merchandise collection — which includes everything from "I Miss Janet Yellen" crop tops and "Startup Ideas" notebooks to "angel Investor" hats — to the New York City's Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund. To date, she has contributed more than $5,000.

Sacks says it is her mother, who had a successful career at IBM and then went back to school to become a social worker and now works in inner-city schools, that has been one of her greatest role models.

Concerned about young adults' mental health in a world where work and success goes hand in hand with a great deal of societal pressure, Sacks also sits on the young leadership committee of the JED Foundation, a mental health nonprofit that empowers teens with the skills they need to grow into healthy, thriving adults.

"We are in a great time to create our own opportunities," says Sacks, "but with all this comes a lot of pressure. I try to make clear to my audience that you have to be kind to yourself and create balance. Pick and choose and be careful of your time and don't put too many eggs in one basket, because then you will wake up 20 years from now and you wont have any other pieces of your life together. I say this to myself as much as anyone."

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.