Wealth

Self-made millionaire Vivian Tu went from ‘scrimping and saving’ to creating wealth with this mindset shift

Vivian Tu.
Photo: Heidi Gutman

Building wealth and saving for retirement can be more difficult for women facing challenges such as lower wages despite their increasing levels of education.

An early-career mentor sparked a mindset shift for Vivian Tu, the founder of Your Rich BFF, who became a self-made millionaire by age 27.

“I learned very early on how to budget and how to save,” said Tu, speaking at CNBC’s Women & Wealth event on Tuesday. Before the mindset shift, however, she focused on “scrimping and saving versus creating more wealth” with investing.

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Here’s a look at more coverage in CNBC’s Women & Wealth special report, where we explore ways women can increase income, save and make the most of opportunities.

While Tu was working on Wall Street, a mentor helped her develop “healthy money habits” that paid off once she was earning a higher paycheck in the tech industry.

“I was still living below my means and then investing that larger proportional difference,” she said. “Over the years, I continued to ask for more and more money every single year.”

Those raises helped Tu invest and grow her wealth more quickly.

Why both saving and investing are critical

Tu’s mindset shift is one other women can learn from. Lifelong saving and investing are both critical for women, according to Boston-based certified financial planner Catherine Valega, founder of Green Bee Advisory.

“We miss so much time in the market,” she said, noting that women are more likely than men to leave the workforce to care for children or family members.

Indeed, some 14% of women ages 25 to 54 were full-time caregivers in 2022, compared to 1.5% of men, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Leaving the workforce reduces earnings and the chance to save and invest for retirement, Valega said. “That caregiving penalty is a double whammy,” she said.

That’s why she urges women to boost 401(k) savings — aiming to max out contributions every year, if possible — and consider higher stock market fund allocations, depending on risk tolerance.

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