People are handing out financial advice to Gen-Z on TikTok, and making money from it

Before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Zac Hartley, 28, had been giving money tips on YouTube for several years. Then, during the 2020 lockdown, Hartley decided to try a new platform: TikTok. Within a few weeks, his following grew dramatically. He inadvertently tapped into a younger and financially anxious demographic: Gen Z.

“TikTok really blew me away,” he says I. In just three months, Canada-based Hartley has surpassed 100,000 followers on the platform. He realized that many young people had no idea where to start when it came to money. “I think my content struck a chord because young people are never taught these things unless they find out for themselves.” Hartley explains basic concepts like creating a budget or what’s needed for a retirement plan.

And Hartley is not alone. TikTok has seen an explosion of “fin-fluencers” — financial influencers — sharing money tips and investment advice with their thousands of followers. Type “money advice” into the platform’s search bar and tons of videos will pop up. At the time of writing, one of the platform’s top money-related videos is titled “How I Made $600 (£520) In 30 Minutes (My Current Favorite Activity)”. The next is “Turn $1000 (£880) into $20,000 (£17,600) in 30 days by doing this”.

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Sharing financial advice on social media is proving to be a lucrative venture. A recent study by financial services firm CMC Markets analyzed TikTok’s most popular financial influencers and reported that the accounts with the most followers earned more than £1,000 per minute-long post. The most popular YouTuber in the UK is Mark Tilbury, 53, from Kent, with 7.1 million followers. CMC Markets estimates he earns up to £5,000 per sponsored post.

Hartley’s followers may not number as millions as Tilbury, but interest in his 60-second money tutorials isn’t waning. Why? “Now there’s this need and lack of financial information that wasn’t available to our parents,” he says. “I find [the] perspective has changed. The older generation was used to working from 9 to 5 until they turned 65, then collecting a pension or saving really hard for retirement.

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“The younger generation is not enthusiastic about it. They don’t want to accept that; They want to make more money faster. They want to retire early and prioritize freedom.”

Georgie Lavin, 24, from Manchester, who consumes financial advice on TikTok, agrees with Hartley’s analysis. She says: “I feel like me and my friends really want to enjoy our money and treat ourselves. Like going on vacation and really trying; stay in a nice place. I think for my parents it’s more about stocking up on this money. At the moment, for younger people, I think it’s more [living] Hand to mouth,” she muses.

In the summer of 2020, 23-year-old Timothy Paul from London found himself in a pandemic job market. Paul had been offered a position on Deloitte’s graduate program but his starting date was pushed back to the following year. Suddenly he didn’t know what to do with himself.

“I thought I might get a part-time job, but then I was on TikTok and I saw a few financial content creators,” he says. “Back then, financial content creators were just emerging. They were more of a random people who decided to do some videos about current events and talk about GDP and the impact of Covid. I figured that’s something I could talk about given my finance degree at university.”

“Gen Z wants to retire early and prioritize freedom” (Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty)

Paul found success very quickly: his first video was viewed more than 200,000 times. “I realized there’s a huge audience out there: young people like me who are finishing school, who don’t really know much about the world of finance and are just trying to make money,” he says.

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Now Paul has over 500,000 followers. When it comes to his loyal viewership, almost all of them are under the age of 26. Within this demographic, Paul sees a fairly balanced gender ratio. And there are topics that are always called up a thousand times – especially home ownership. “I made a few videos about mortgages and got 400,000 followers in two months,” he says. “I recently did one about programs for first-time buyers and it got about three million views. It was crazy.”

Although not a qualified mortgage advisor, Paul is quick to say he only wants to share the information that is already available. “I don’t go into super specific details,” he says. “It’s about educating people about things they might not have [heard] beautiful.”

Through conversations with his friends and his followers, Paul believes his generation is more money-shy than their parents of the same age. “I think if you look at the current climate with the aftermath of Covid and even Ukraine; it’s just a bit messy. I think there’s a lot more money stress among young people and people realize, ‘Right. OK. I have to have the finances under control,” says Paul.

Peace Immanuel, 26 from London, has been making money advice videos on TikTok for over a year. She was surprised to learn how little Gen Z knew about personal finance. “I made a video that I almost didn’t post because I thought it was so simple.

“The video explained why you should put your money in an account that is growing faster than the inflation rate,” says Immanuel. “It got so much good feedback. People commented that they were 25 and just found out about this. I just thought, wow, that just goes to show that right now people really want it and need money explained in a really simple way,” she says.

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Because of this — people are largely ill-informed about personal finance and receptive to even basic information — she also worries about bad advice being given and solicited on the platform. “I was very aware of that,” she says. “I’m not an expert. I’m not trying to be a financial coach or anything. I’m just explaining concepts so they can make informed decisions for themselves.”

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Immanuel warns against personal advice that some YouTubers give young people on TikTok. “If someone asks, ‘Which savings account should I use?’ or ‘How much should I spend on this?’ I will absolutely not answer that. That’s not my position. I don’t think anyone owns it,” she says.

Hartley agrees that some financial influencers cross the line: “There’s a difference between giving someone financial advice on what to buy or sell and just explaining how things work. You can’t recommend anyone to buy or sell a stock. So there is bad advice [TikTok].”

For Hartley, however, that shouldn’t stop young people from listening to what’s available. “There will always be bad advice on the internet. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about it,” he says. “But I would advise people to always do background research on the people who are disclosing this information. Do you actually know what you are talking about?”

Financial advisor Ruth Whitehead of Ruth Whitehead Associates warns that the only good financial advice is deeply personal. “The best money advice is tailored to the individual. TikTok videos offer a certain level of generality, which means it’s not possible to find one setting that applies to each individual in their unique circumstances,” she says I.

Paul agrees, “I think it’s just about making younger audiences more aware of what’s out there, what’s happening and ultimately how it can affect them.”

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