Chelsea Fagan’s relationship with money was a mess – but only until she made a lot of money and paid off her debts.
As founder and CEO of The Financial Diet, a digital platform, Fagan, 33, has been teaching millennial women for more than seven years how to manage money smartly and avoid getting into their own messes.
The core of TFD is “the intersection of financial education and cultural commentary,” Fagan said in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
She gave an example of the latter when she blamed the TV show “Sex and the City” for having a financially “irresponsible” protagonist who “negatively” affected “women and their money“.
Since 2015, Fagan has hosted The Financial Diet YouTube channel, the largest personal finance channel for women and one of the first — with 957,000 subscribers and more than 96 million total views, she says.
The entrepreneur is neither a financial adviser nor a financial planner. But through TFD, she educates young women on the practicalities of money management.
Ninety percent of TFD’s audience are young women.
The Financial Diet focuses on the meat and potatoes of managing its finances, along with some neat treats.
It’s anything but suffocating. One newsletter topic, for example, was a “Night Time Get Your Sh*t Together Checklist.”
His interview podcast, “The Financial Confessions,” recently featured a psychologist on “How to Identify and Deal With a Narcissist – Financially and Otherwise.”
Stemming from a blog that Fagan started in 2014, her business takes a multi-pronged approach to helping young women through classes, workshops, conferences and other events, a newsletter, and a podcast.
In our interview, Fagan describes how she turns to financial experts to provide practical advice on how women can better manage their finances.
TFD’s investment expert is Amanda Holden, former investment advisor at Fisher Investments. On TFD, Holden recently spoke about “The Worst Investment Advice on the Internet”.
A former creative director of branded content at media company Thought Catalog, Fagan brings to the table his expertise in sponsored content: 30-40% of TFD’s content is produced in partnership with clients.
Sponsors include M&T Bank (identified as TFD’s ‘official banking partner’), Wealthsimple (its ‘exclusive investment partner’) and Intuit, a partner in the production of ‘The Financial Confessions’.
ThinkAdvisor recently spoke on the phone with Florida-born Fagan, whose company is based in Midtown Manhattan.
She admits teaching women about money is the positive outcome of having had a “negative experience” with her own finances.
Here are excerpts from our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: Why is your company called The Financial Diet?
CHELSEA FAGAN: Similar to the way we eat, the changes that are important to make are those that are lasting, rather than drastic overnight changes that may not work in the long term.
Why do women often waste their money?
According to statistics, women do not receive financial education while growing up, unlike boys.
Typically, women are brought up to assume that when they get married – which is usually to a man – it’s the man’s responsibility to handle longer-term financial planning. [aspects] and that women generally manage consumption choices and daily household purchases.
It’s kind of a self-perpetuating cycle in which we teach women a little less about money as we grow up; and then we assume that men are naturally better at handling money.
But this is not true. It’s just that men often learn more about it.
You spoke on a YouTube video about the negative impact of the TV show “Sex and the City” (1998-2004) on women and their money.
“The unspoken fifth character was money,” you said. Why was it important for you to talk about it?
It was a huge pop culture post that is still going strong 10 years later. Many young women grew up watching this show, not just in an aspirational sense, but they got a really formative idea of what adult femininity should and can look like.
It really reinforced many of the more negative messages women receive about money.
It was a financially irresponsible view of womanhood, what it means to be a woman, and what makes a woman’s life successful, especially how she handles financial matters.
There was a very strong implication that the financial irresponsibility of the protagonist [should be] considered aspirational. It was seen through a very positive lens.
Do men visit your website as well as women?
Yes but not much.
Still, a lot of your content would also apply to men, right?
It does. But historically, men, on the whole, generally don’t like taking advice from women.
You said you were “bad with money”. How?
I had a terrible relationship with money. I haven’t paid my bills. I had credit card debt. I defaulted on the loans. Ultimately, I was arrested for driving with a suspended license and suspended registration, both related to financial issues.
You have had your own business for eight years. I guess today you’re good with money. If so, what caused the change?
When I sold my first book in 2012, for the first time in my life, I had a decent sized windfall of money. I realized that I would be able to pay off my credit card debt, which was the thing that was hurting my finances the most.
So I did that, and the feeling of getting rid of all that debt empowered me and made me want to make more positive financial choices.
Does it strike you as ironic that someone who had so many problems with their finances now has a business that educates women on how to manage their money?