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In this video, we dive into the appeal of MLMs, and why they can be so harmful for women especially. Prepare yourself with knowledge for the next time you receive an "exciting business opportunity" in your Facebook messages.

(If you or someone you know has been affected by involvement in an MLM, you can find help and resources here:

Through weekly video essays, "Making It Work" showcases how *real* people have upgraded their personal or financial lives in some meaningful way. Making your life work for you doesn't mean getting rich just for the sake of it. It means making the most of what you have to build a life you love, both in your present and in your future. And while managing money is a crucial life skill for everyone, there's no one "right way" to go about it — you have to figure out what works best for *you,* full stop.

Video narration by Christine Cote

Video by Grace Lee

Based on an article by Holly Hobkirk


The Financial Diet site:

This week's video is sponsored by Fidelity Investments. [PAGES FLIPPING] I recently received an amazing business opportunity.

A stranger named Amara, whose Instagram bio reads, own your story, DMed me to tell me I can earn a high income with low effort, all from my phone. It's completely free and full training is provided.

But I should probably spend $725 on a starter kit as an investment to myself. Wow. If you've been on social media over the last three months, there is a good chance you've received a similar opportunity.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, just about every woman I know has been asked to join a multi-level marketing scheme. If you're not familiar with MLMs, they're product-based businesses that recruit un-salaried sales staff to recruit more un-salaried sales staff. A study on MLMs indicates that the majority of sales staff make a loss.

And reps are required to engage in constant and aggressive recruitment of new members. So why are so many young women joining them? MLMs have a new target audience-- the girlboss.

In the early 2010s, MLMs main clientele were suburban women in their late 30's to early 40's. One paper reported that a popular beauty-based MLM typically caters to the needs of persons between the ages of 35 to 45 years old with higher education above high school. MLMs were even parodied in a 2015 episode of Schitt's Creek, when David and Moira joined a pyramid scheme only to learn the craze had swept through the town two years prior.

At the same time this show aired, Sophia Amoruso's #Girlboss had just been published, and a new generation of younger women were becoming empowered by the idea of owning a business, smashing their goals, and living their best lives on Instagram, all in the name of feminism. Recent essays, like Leigh Stein's "The End of the Girlboss is Here," have shed light on the demise of this mindset. Outdated girlboss messages, like the popular, you have as many hours in the day as Beyonce, lend themselves perfectly to MLMs because they promote the message that women are failing because they aren't working hard enough, rather than acknowledging the simple fact that 99% of sellers end up losing money when they invest in multi-level marketing.

You can see this in action on pro-MLM social media accounts. They post the same unactionable advice we've seen since the dawn of Tumblr feminism, like, girl, get out of your own damn way, and hustle beats talent. Delve a bit deeper into these millennial ping posts and you'll find problematic, shame-based messaging, like, if you're not careful, your own fears and insecurities can trick you into a mediocre life.

And you spend $10 a day on breakfast and lunch. That's $300 a month. You can start a business.

You just won't prioritize. While pyramid selling may seem like a clear no-go, it's easy to understand why some see the appeal. As the Instagram account @mlmdebunked states, "the pandemic has left a lot of people in positions of financial uncertainty and distress, which makes them primed for an MLM pitch or opportunity." They add that MLMs flourish amongst vulnerable and desperate populations.

The global financial crisis has disproportionately impacted women, especially women of color. And lockdowns have created increased isolation and mental health issues. Both MLMs and girlboss culture offer a way to fix this.

Improve your mindset, join a community of like-minded women, and above all, get rich. Unfortunately, they also encourage excess spending and an unhealthy work-life balance. For instance, the MLM recruiter I spoke to told me, the harder you work, the more money you'll earn, and listed "showcasing your life and making it look attractive" as a selling tactic.

Just as joining a pyramid selling scheme is unlikely to bring you financial freedom, working to exhaustion and spending your earnings on non-essentials to appease your Instagram audience is rarely a recipe for happiness or personal success. Until we all begin to acknowledge there is more to life than the hustle, and that struggling financially is not a personal failure, MLMs will continue to recruit and exploit aspiring girl-bosses under the guise of female empowerment. As I mentioned, this video is sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

They are here to help you reach your savings goals. And if you're looking for an easy way to finally start investing what you save, check out Fidelity.