How TikTok is changing financial literacy in Canada

It’s been a tough year financially, with 40-year high inflation, soaring house prices and a sharp rise in the cost of living. As more Canadians seek financial advice on how to make the most of their money, Canada’s younger generations have turned to an unlikely but booming source for answers to their problems.

Financial TikTok – or FinTok – has become one of the most popular trends on the platform, which originally attracted users from around the world with dance videos, and is becoming a go-to place for Gen Z and Millennials looking to learn how to invest, budget or even spend wisely.

At the helm are several Canadian women, all from diverse professional backgrounds, who make it their mission to share the financial skills and information they have learned on their own.

“There is a huge financial literacy gap in Canada,” Jessica Rowat told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

Rowat and her longtime friend Colleen Kormos run a Yukon TikTok page called Two Girls Investing and have garnered nearly 50,000 followers in less than a year. Her most-watched video, which has been viewed 1.6 million times, describes step-by-step how to invest money through a Tax-Exempt Savings Account (TFSA).

@twogirlsinvesting Invest in your future #canadianinvesting #canadainvesting #financecanada #investingforbeginners #TFSA #canadatok���� #womeninvesting #moneyhacks ♬ Original sound – Two Girls Investing TGI

“When I’m thinking about investing and starting out as a beginner, a lot of the language is in US terminology and … so I thought more Canadians should know about this, especially women,” she said.

Rowat has a healthcare background while Kormos works in the public sector. Both women are self-employed in investing and banking and believe they should not be viewed as ‘financial advisors’.

“I think what we’re doing is mostly educating about self-directed investing and how the old traditional way of using mutual funds just isn’t that relevant now,” Kormos told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

“We’re not trying to tell people what to do with their money, we’re trying to educate them about what’s available so they can make informed decisions about their money based on their independent financial situation.”

@twogirlsinvesting ✨This is your sign. #canadiantaxes #2022taxseason #twogirlsinvesting #canadianmoneytalk #investingforbeginners #canadianinvesting #investingcanada #fintokcanada #PepsiApplePieChallenge ♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

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Toronto resident Ashna Mankotia never envisioned her TikTok account becoming a major financial resource for younger Canadians.

Her videos, which launched her account at the height of the pandemic lockdown in 2020, have now racked up more than 2.3 million likes, with one of her most popular TikToks being about her financial tracker.

@ohmygoshna in reply to @sincereinspo ♬ Original sound – Ashna

“I just never sat down and thought about what my net worth was,” Mankotia told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

“I had no idea what investing meant or what it meant to be financially conscious. What helped me was being aware of my expenses, that was the first step for me.”

Mankotia decided to make the spreadsheet template she used for her tracker freely available on her account as a “gift” for all her followers.

“A lot of people told me I could charge a fee for it, but it was nice for me to know that a lot of people get value from something I made for myself,” she said.

Almost half of younger Canadians ages 18 to 34 turned to the internet for financial advice, a 2019 Statistics Canada survey found.

A poll by investment firm TIAA also found that 32 percent of Americans believe social media can help them make better financial decisions, and many also trust celebrities and social media influencers when they provide sound financial advice.

Mankotia, whose account also serves as her life’s daily vlog, said it’s easier for followers to trust those who have had similar experiences and share personal elements about their lives.

BUT BE CAREFUL, EXPERTS SAY

There’s over-reliance on FinTok, according to Caval Olson-Lepage, a certified financial planner at Saskatchewan-based agency Affinity Wealth Management.

“We must be cautious of any financial advice we receive – particularly when that advice comes from people who do not have the educational background or license to give that advice, regardless of the platform on which it is presented.” , she told CTVNews.ca in an email on Wednesday.

Olson-Lepage pointed out that after spending some time with FinTok herself, she noticed very specific investment recommendations, “without mentioning the potential risk of investing in these assets, such as B. potential financial loss”.

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Viewers may not necessarily understand the general nature of the advice they receive, which doesn’t always apply to personal financial situations, she said.

“There’s a reason any financial advertisement on TV or social media comes with a warning from a professional — it’s to protect the consumer and direct them to seek an expert’s opinion on whether this product would be right for them,” she said .

“These FinTok videos do not contain this warning.”

While the financial content stream on TikTok is relatively new, seeking financial advice from online sources has been around for decades, Andreas Park, a professor of finance at the University of Toronto, told CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.

“Apart from academic talks, it was probably one of the first use cases for online discussion forums,” he said.

According to Park, when it comes to getting advice from an online space, there’s always been some risk, along with issues of misinformation, fraud, deception, and conflicting interests. He added that due diligence is required for all financial advice, regardless of its source.

“Scammers are definitely trying to tap into the whole trust thing…but then again, TikTok is probably less anonymous than text-based social media and doesn’t lend itself as much to fake account click farm scams — for now.”

WHY YOUNGER CANADIANS PREFER FINTOK

Cassandra Melo, a Toronto-based nurse with 123,000 followers on her TikTok account @MoneywithCass, says many younger Canadians may not necessarily trust a traditional financial advisor at a bank for the right advice due to a “lack of transparency.” .”

“If (anyone) sees a video on TikTok, break down the steps in a very honest and transparent way; a lot of people are really resonating with it and enjoying it,” she told CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.

@moneywithcass Replies to @WildFaith #Personalfinance #Moneytok #Canada #Investing #Stock Market #Ranking ♬ Darling – Trees and Lucy

Park said there’s a generational gap between the type of financial advice Gen Z seeks versus their older peers, which isn’t necessarily covered by traditional sources.

“Gen Zs are interested in crypto assets, for example. 99.9 percent of financial advisors have no advice to give other than platitudes. It doesn’t make them look smart to young people, it makes them look uninformed and out of touch,” he said.

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He also argues that banks have failed to connect with younger Canadians, potentially driving many to other sources.

According to Melo, TikTok has changed the game for anyone looking to share their skills and knowledge with the public as it is relatively easier to garner a large following and views on the platform compared to YouTube and Instagram.

Her own path to personal finance came from a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which she describes as many people’s “gateway drug” to the world of finance.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which came out in 1997, is considered one of the most popular books on personal finance and currently remains a bestseller on Amazon.

“I just want people to know that (they) are absolutely capable of learning something new,” she said.

“Anyone (can) learn this information and become financially empowered.”

WHAT ABOUT SPONSORED CONTENT?

Many successful influencers in the FinTok space have started to monetize their content through partnerships with financial companies.

For example, Wealth Simple, a Canadian online investment management service, has a popular ambassador program where influencers can sign up to earn money for referrals through their content.

According to the company’s policies, all Ambassadors’ content “may be subject to review and oversight by a range of regulatory bodies” and their relationship with WealthSimple must be disclosed in all videos related to the company.

TikTok requires all users to turn on a “branding” toggle for their sponsored content, which adds advertising disclosure to these videos, a service the company says is available worldwide.

It is also important for influencers to carefully select their cooperation partners and to be open with their viewers in order not to lose their trust.

“I only consent to a paid video if it meets some of my criteria, ie it’s about a brand or product that I use and love, and if I think the information in the video is helpful,” Melo said.

“Personally, I choose who I work with very carefully and prefer to work with established brands or companies.”