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An Oakland finance company's budgeting ‘advice’: Stop buying $3 Boichik Bagels

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 6/11/2021 By Elena Kadvany
a box filled with different kinds of donuts: A test batch of bagels is seen at Boichik Bagels, 3170 College Ave., Berkeley. © Janelle Bitker

A test batch of bagels is seen at Boichik Bagels, 3170 College Ave., Berkeley.

An Oakland wealth management company that charges $2,000 for its services had some surprising financial advice this week: Stop buying Boichik Bagels.

“If you are buying Boichik Bagels, you deserve to be poor,” reads the subject line of a newsletter sent out by Lula Financial on Thursday, referring to the wildly popular Berkeley bagel shop that was recently lauded by The New York Times as being better than New York’s bagels.

“The sons of bit*hes charge $3 per bagel,” the email reads. “Effective immediately, I am prohibiting all clients from visiting Boichik Bagels more than once per year.”

Emily Winston, who owns the shop, was shocked, upset and finally amused by the email, which a customer forwarded to her. Instead of getting angry about the attack on her bagels, she decided to post a screenshot of the email on Boichik’s Instagram. It’s now picking up steam online.

“I thought it was just really kind of bananas,” she said of the email, which she provided to The Chronicle. “It’s the same old trope: Stop buying $3 lattes and you’ll have savings. It’s kinda saying the bagel is the new latte.”

Lula Financial founder Benjamin Packard, who wrote the email, said it was intended as a joke and he “never meant to offend a fellow small business owner.”

“I use humour to make financial planning more accessible to my clients,” he wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “I work primarily with young families saving up to buy their first home. Frugality is one of the core pillars I use to get them to the nearly impossible goal of buying a house in this crazy market. This was just a friendly (and funny) reminder to be conscientious about their spending.”

As a “Jewish kid from the East Bay,” he added, he actually finds Boichik’s bagels to be “delicious.”

The Lula Financial website is indeed full of cheeky language, like the final step in a five-step plan for getting one’s finances in order: “If you don't follow the plan, you'll die poor and alone.” Packard writes in his online bio that he started buying stocks at age 9 and is a terrible cook. Lula bills itself as “financial planning for people who hate financial planning,” and Packard also recently wrote a blog post comparing cryptocurrency to a “hot new girl.”

But for Winston, the email’s profanity and targeting a small business felt inappropriately “over the top” — especially coming from a company that charges $2,000 for financial planning and $100 per month for “ongoing advising,” according to Lula Financial’s website.

Joke or not, the comment section of Winston’s Instagram post, which drew well over 100 comments in less than two hours, quickly became a roast of Lula Financial.

For some, it echoed avocado toast-gate. Several years ago, a real estate mogul in Melbourne suggested that Millennials would be able to become homebuyers if they just quit their pricey avocado toast habit. The New York Times fact-checked this assertion, finding that even if young adults spent less on dining out, it would take around 113 years for them to afford a down payment on a home.

“This screams ‘you’d be able to buy a house if you stopped buying avocado toast’ energy,” one person commented on Boichik’s Instagram.

“This guy has some bagel trauma to resolve,” another quipped.

“I just signed up for Boichik Bagels financial advisory and my bank account has never been more full of dough! I don’t even “nova what to do with all this cream (cheese),” joked the owners of Square Pie Guys. “Share this post with 140,000 friends for 50 years of good luck in the stock market.”

Winston said she had never heard of Lula Financial or Packard before seeing his email.

“If he thinks the world should just be eating Costco bagels, that’s not the world I want to live in,” Winston said. “I want to eat good bagels.”

Elena Kadvany is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: elena.kadvany@sfchronicle.com

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