- Bernadette Anat is a 30-year-old “finfluencer” and the founder and owner of Hey Berna, a company aimed to make personal finance and financial literacy more fun and accessible for all.
- When she graduated college she had plenty of debt to pay back, including $38,000 in student loans and $12,000 in credit card debt.
- She started her career working at Seventeen Magazine, then the YMCA, then Instagram, where she became familiar with the trends and habits of young adults on the platform.
- Leveraging this experience and her own journey paying off her loans, she set out to start a company and build a platform centered around personal finance.
- She shared with Business Insider how she became a “financial hype woman” on Instagram and built her following to over 18,000 people to rack in an impressive five-figure salary.
- Click here for more BI Prime stories.
Two years ago, Bernadette Anat was researching the data and trends of young adults’ digital habits and presenting them to the product teams of one of the largest tech companies in the world: Instagram.
Today, the 30-year-old “finfluencer” is the founder and owner of Hey Berna, a company aimed to make personal finance and financial literacy more fun and accessible for all. Now her days consist of heading to a coworking space in San Francisco to edit videos, package her $129 financial education course, and set up speaking engagements and posting regular financial tips, tricks, and support to her over 18,000 followers on Instagram.
After only a year, Anat has racked in an impressive five-figure salary that only plans to grow from here on out. With features of her work on Forbes, Vox, and Refinery 29, Anat has hit the mark when it comes to the social and cultural perspective around money — turning it from a begrudgingly resentful chore to an exciting, community-fueled conversation.
“Honestly, what motivated me to get into personal finance was anger and indigence,” Anat told Business Insider. “Why is there no one [who] sounds like me translating these wild words? Why is that not accessible at all?”
Anat has partnered up with companies like Yahoo Finance, Girlboss, and BuiltByGirls to teach young people, especially young women, about the necessary tools to manage, save, and invest their money properly. She spoke with Business Insider about her own journey to financial freedom and entrepreneurship.
A goal to pay off debt leads to a business idea
It all started when Anat noticed how much debt she had accrued during her college years at the University of Southern California, including having to pay back $38,000 in student loans and $12,000 in credit card debt. Luckily, after graduating in 2011 and freelancing for a bit, she was able to land her first “big girl job” as an executive assistant at Seventeen Magazine and start chipping away at her debt.
“I knew I’d be getting a paycheck every two weeks. Some higher power was like, ‘Berna, this is the moment to get your financial ish together,'” she said.
After her stint at Seventeen, Anat got a job at the YMCA as the teens program director building leadership programs across New York City.
“It was really fun and I think really built up the leader and facilitator in me,” she said about the experience. Next she landed at Instagram in a role as a teen community lead, “which basically meant my job was to translate the teen trends in the US to the product team and keep track of amazing creators and influencers,” she said.
While at the Facebook conglomerate, Anat documented the struggles and challenges of paying off her debt on social media to prove she could take control of her own financial earnings. That said, she didn’t really have much of a finance or banking background.
“I’m just a regular person who Googled the hell out of personal finance. I got really passionate and started translating things for people [both in person and online],” she explained.
By focusing on making budgeting fun, Anat used practices like habit stacking and the famous snowball and avalanche methods to zone in on her goals. “I’d sit down with my seaweed [snack] and listen to ‘Hamilton’ while I was budgeting. It turned into this fun self-care budget association thing I did for myself every week,” she said. By 2018 — seven years after graduating from college — she was officially debt free.
Leveraging her experience going debt free and the relationships she built from working for Seventeen, The Y, and Instagram, Anat decided to spearhead her personal finance project — launching an Instagram profile and website all about budgeting, banking, and being a boss for a largely young adult audience. She was simultaneously working full time at Instagram, teaching herself the ins and outs of finance, and building the starting stages of Hey Berna (initially, the project was called “Felicia’s Wallet,” inspired by the internet catchphrase “Bye Felicia” in 2016).
As she started teaching herself more about financial literacy through YouTube, speaking with financial advisors, and the internet, she noticed that there seemed to be a gap between where the resources were and who had access to them.
“The more that I tried to teach myself about personal finance, the more that I saw that there [were] so few women, and so very few women of color, in the space. Which made me very confused because money as a topic isn’t specific to a group, class, or demographic; we all deal with money,” she said.
She also noticed that finance was difficult and bland to learn about. This opened the door to build a new kind of personal finance brand.
“I didn’t see anyone being excited about money,” she explained. “I didn’t see anyone being super encouraging about money … so I made my own lane. I tell people to find an empty spot on the dance floor and fill it yourself.”
Growing the brand of a ‘financial hype woman’
“While I was at Instagram, I recognized the importance of branding yourself. What I mean by that is the importance of what you bring to the game. At this point, there’s an influencer and a niche for everything,” she said. Given that her previous role involved tracking Instagram trends and influencers, growing her own following and brand came easy.
“I know that I’m a very good cheerleader,” she explained. “I’m good at being very enthusiastic for people and I’m just really good at hyping people up. It was a simple as that. If I’m really good at hyping people up — do people need hype in the financial world? And how can I build a brand around that?”
In the beginning of creating her finfluencer account, it was all mainly about trial and error and figuring out what a “financial hype woman” could look like. “What if I just danced every single time someone had some sort of financial win? What if I just made that a thing?” she said.
The thought of dancing around anytime anyone added $100 to their savings account might flabbergast a financial advisor, but to Berna, the method is what spiked up her engagement by 3% every Friday.
“That’s what I started doing every Friday. I dance all over Instagram [Stories] and people just started to expect it and that sort of gained more and more of a following.” She also found success with memes and enthusiastic captions. “That’s like the language of young people. How could I then use memes for personal finance?” she said.
Balancing the responsibilities of an entrepreneur and influencer
One massive change Anat noticed when it came to running her own brand and business was having to create her own routine and practice self-discipline. While she was used to having a manager assign her responsibilities and schedule out her day in past jobs, her current entrepreneurial venture doesn’t offer those same privileges.
“This is the first time I’ve gone out and given myself structure. [It was] massively terrifying.” she explained. “In a corporate structure, to get help, it means going to your manager and being like, ‘I need help.’ But as an entrepreneur, getting help literally means paying someone for help.”
To stay organized and on top of her daily to-do list, Anat uses sources like Later and Thinkific to keep her posts and tasks set for the following week. She also hired a part-time business coach and digital manager to support her business’ online strategy and action plan.
Making her income was another hurdle to jump over. As an entrepreneur, you can set your own income, but finding the right price point is key. Currently, Anat charges anywhere between $4,000 to $10,000 per event or engagement depending on the client, audience, training, and workshop activity. At the end of this year, Anat would have done an average of one engagement per month. She also makes revenue from selling her online course and monetising her social media through occasional sponsorships.
“The biggest reward has been the amazing connections [I’ve made],” Anat said about her journey. “Joyful and emotional waves come at me from other people when we speak about [personal finance issues] and realize how common [they are].”