Author Gaby Dunn Wants to Help You Get Your Financial Sh*t Together

The out writer, filmmaker, and podcaster opens up about her aptly titled new book, "Bad with Money."

Gaby Dunn is taking the entertainment world by storm. This bisexual filmmaker, YouTuber, and comedian has a diverse range of work under her belt, including a YA novel she co-wrote with her comedy partner, Allison Raskin; a queer short film, Dick Sisters; and Bad with Money, her aptly titled podcast about getting your financial hot mess of a life in order.

As NewNowNext’s resident bi babe with an expensive iced coffee problem, I caught up with Dunn to chat about her latest literary pursuit: Bad with Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together, a hilarious and heartfelt memoir-slash-financial-advice book, out January 1, 2019 from Simon & Schuster.

People are so afraid to talk about money. In the intro to the book (and first ep of the podcast!), you tackle this head-on by asking people to talk about their favorite sex positions…and how much money they have in their bank account. Why do you think money is such a taboo topic?

I think because there’s such an intellectual connection to money, where people believe that it says something about their intelligence. That causes it to be very isolating because nobody wants to seem ignorant.

Especially in the digital age, when we share so much of our lives so publicly on social media.

Yeah, especially now! People like to seem like they’re up on everything. Maybe that’s because of social media and how fast things go. I felt like there was a day in school where everybody learned this, and I missed it. And I hate feeling foolish, so I never wanted to talk about anything that made me look like I wasn’t an expert. Maybe that’s just ‘cause I’m a Gemini.

I’m also a Gemini, so that’s probably why I get it.

Oh my god, you and I should never be speaking! [Laughs] Kidding. No, but there’s also this thing where we’ve connected money with morality. So like, if you’re bad with money, you’re a bad person, or you’re worthless. We’ve wrapped money up in this stuff that it isn’t meant to be wrapped up in… I think there was a lot of change around [attitudes toward] sexuality. Some really awesome people have done a lot of amazing work with slut-shaming, sex positivity, and body positivity. Obviously, it still needs a lot of work, but there just hasn’t been as much work around the idea of, like, “You’re not an idiot because your financial situation isn’t great.”

Do you think the problem is worse for women?

Oh, men in particular love to come to [women] with financial advice. They’re waiting, like, “Oh, a lady has a question?” [Laughs] And they love to come at you with money advice because, and I say this in the book, people love judging other people for their money. It’s this sick schadenfreude feeling, like, “Oh, at least I’m better than this person.” And it creates so much extra shame that doesn’t have to be there about this thing that, like sex, is just a part of life!

Identity plays into this too, right?

There’s this idea [for women] that our husbands will take care of it, which, LOL. Typically, cis women outlive cis men, so retirement homes are full of widowed cis women who were never brought up in a generation where they were expected to learn anything about money. The big spending and the big decisions were made by the men. It’s so ingrained [in our society]—and there’s no role models out there for people who live outside of the norm. Anybody who is queer, or is polyamorous, or has a lifestyle that’s different than the one we see in all of the retirement commercials… If we do get any sort of financial literacy training, we’re not taught things that are specific to our niche situations. Which, honestly, I would argue that they aren’t even that niche; I think there are more of us than there are of them.

And when we do get information, the context is totally wrong.

Yeah, we’re just like, “Okay, so what if I don’t have one male partner?” “What if I have multiple partners?” “What if I’m married to a woman?” And they’re like, “Oh, what? Sorry, I can’t hear you!”

Atria/Simon & Schuster

So you’ve had the Bad with Money podcast since 2016. How did the book come about?

I met with Simon & Schuster about a different book, which ended up going to a different publisher. But I wanted to do a Bad with Money book, so I pitched it to them there, and they were like, “Yeah, great, we love it!”… I really wanted the book to be more personal. I wanted to share more stuff. There’s some revelations about my life in there. The podcast also isn’t really a tips and tricks podcast, but since the book has to appeal to a broader audience, there are tips and tricks, all within context.

What were your goals with the book?

I wanted to contribute to financial media so when you go to that section of the bookstore, and you see all the books and they’re all yelling at you, I wanted someone to be able to pick up this book and say, “Oh, here we go. This book is for me, a real person.”

I remember when I first saw the podcast, the title was what grabbed me. I was like, “Oh, shit, that’s me. I can relate to that.”

Sometimes, people are like, “The title isn’t aspirational.” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s the point.”

In the book, you’re extremely candid about your own experiences—how things like mental illness and relationships affected your financial situation. Was there anything you were scared to release into the world?

I’ve read the book over and over again. I read it back when I was [narrating] the audiobook, and I was like, “Oh man, this girl is really going through it.” And then I was like, “Crap, that’s me.” I think it’s good that I seem to lack that shame factor that might make me not want to write about things… In the book, I talk about how I was concerned about writing the mental health stuff. I didn’t want a sort of scarlet letter on me. Especially for women, it’s hard to say you have a mental illness; suddenly, everything you do is sort of changed by that mental illness… It was terrifying.

The book comes out January 1, 2019. Was New Year’s part of the peg?

Yeah! We were thinking, “Oh, are people going to be too hungover to buy the book, or are they going to stumble into Barnes and Noble and be like, ’Save me from myself!'” [Laughs]

What’s the number one thing you hope readers take away from Bad with Money?

You’re not alone, and there’s nothing wrong with you. I think everyone individualizes this problem that is clearly a larger issue, and the reason that we do that and the reason that we’re taught the etiquette around money talk is to keep us at a status quo. It benefits the people at the top. You see it a lot with media about millennials. We’re sort of mocked by older people.

Oh, all the time—we’re “killing” every industry.

Yeah, and if you dig into it, you realize that they’re mocking us because they want us to shut up so they can keep making money. In the book, I talk about the Parkland [youth activists]. One of their rallying cries is, “They just don’t understand how things work.” And I’m like, “No, no, no: They do understand. And how things work sucks.” I think if we eliminate the shame and stigma of talking about this stuff, we can get a lot more done—and we can stop listening to people who it financially benefits when we keep quiet.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
@_sammanzella