TikTok is a swamp of bad financial advice, and experts are fighting back

TikTok is a swamp of bad financial advice, and experts are fighting back

Some smart and savvy users are cutting through the hype on TikTok and Instagram

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Dr. Brad Klontz first heard about TikTok through his teen nephews.

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After they showed him some animal videos, he kept scrolling and watching more posts. Before long, the financial psychologist — who helps patients deal with money-related stress — stumbled across one user promoting day trading.

“I was sort of blown away because I thought, erroneously, of course, that day trading died in the tech bubble when everybody lost all their money,” says Klontz.

“But there’s an entire new generation of people who think they can beat the market. And then I got concerned, because I know how this ends.”

So Klontz — the managing principal at Your Mental Wealth Advisors, and an associate professor at Nebraska’s Creighton University Heider College of Business — started his own TikTok account. The “@drbradklontz” account seeks to dispel all those get-rich-quick myths being spread by thousands upon thousands of posts on the app. Klontz has made it his goal to get credible content out there in front of impressive young viewers.

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“I could make viral videos every day by saying stuff like, ‘buy this stock today, and you will become a millionaire next week.’ I mean… people watching those videos. It’s very clickbaity; it’s everybody wanting to become wealthy.”

Klontz is not alone in his aim to dispel dangerous money myths. Videos tagged with #PersonalFinance have generated over eight billion views. Financial TikTok, or FinTok, is one of the platform’s most popular realms, which can make it tougher to differentiate between good and bad advice.

While there’s plenty of mediocrity advice circulating these days, there are also knowledgeable and earnest voices like his, happy to share much more boring (but effective) ways to build wealth.

Kids are interested, but not educated

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The strong stock market of the past few years has led to a surge of young people interested in stocks and making fast profits. The GameStop fiasco in early 2021 is just one example of the stock-buying frenzies that have been triggered by “memestocks,” corporate shares that suddenly became popular through online buzz.

A survey from Wells Fargo in the US last spring revealed that 45% reported becoming more interested in investing after the GameStop “short squeeze” frenzy.

A December 2022 survey by the BC Securities Commission also reveals that 18-24 year olds are more willing (compared to those above 25) to take on more risk with their investments. This includes being more likely to believe that they can time the market and get a large profit with stock trading.

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“FinTok” (financial TikTok) is full of posts about how to make or spend money from experts and clout-chasers alike. For the average user, it can be hard to discern whose advice is trustworthy — especially when bad advice sounds so appealing.

What worries Klontz is that young people may be only setting themselves up for failure — and major losses.

So financial education through social media seemed like an opportunity to counter all that bad advice.

“You’ve got two seconds to get people to stick around to see what you have to say,” says Klontz. “I found it like a professional challenge for me to take personal finance and psychology and money information and try to make it short, punchy and entertaining [videos].”

His posts have helped balance out all that bad advice — and they’ve come at just the right time.

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Influencing others intentionally

Millennial money expert Jessica Moorhouse started her blog in 2011 as a way of documenting her own journey figuring out her finances, but at a certain point, she turned her focus from her own self-education to helping others in their financial journey.

Moorhouse is particularly worried about the advice people are getting about cryptocurrencies. She says she has been offered “a lot of money” to promote crypto, but refuses to do so.

“I’m probably leaving money on the table, but I don’t care,” she says.

Since launching her blog, Moorhouse has gone on to add a podcast, Instagram account and a YouTube channel, and financial education has become her full-time job.

“If it seems scammy, listen to that voice inside you… because that check is usually right,” she says. “We all know what a get rich quick scam looks like; they’ve been around for years. So a lot of it has to do with, internally, what do you feel?”

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Helping followers distinguish between good and bad advice

While Klontz says the advice he gives younger generations hasn’t changed in 20 years, the challenges young people face have. Misinformation spreads easily and quickly these days.

“There’s no barrier to entry in terms of who can put out a video on any topic,” says Klontz. “And with the younger generation, they don’t care about credentials as much as they care about clout.”

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On top of that, it’s easy these days to go viral or make a lot of money marketing faulty products or strategies, which makes it harder for consumers to discern between the “good” and “bad” advice they see online.

Moorhouse says that’s why it’s so important to look beyond just social media for information — read books, look into the credentials of those you’re taking advice from and consume everything with a grain of salt.

“It’s kind of like the fitness industry,” says Moorhouse. “You’ve got to be so careful who you follow and trust… are they going to give you bad information about meal planning and diet and exercising because they’re not actually trained to become a personal trainer?”

And the apps themselves are beginning to get in on the conversation. In fact, TikTok has been working with Klontz since 2020 through its #LearnOnTikTok initiative, helping him learn how to get his educational content in front of more eyes.

But the best thing about Klontz’s TikTok fame is how his nephews and other young relatives have reacted.

“’I’m the cool uncle, which is really nice,” says Klontz. “I have some clout — some of my cousin’s kids, when I get around them, they will look at me like I’m a celebrity.”

And even better, they come to him for financial advice, which he’s always happy to share.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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