I Worried About My Teen Son and ‘FinFluencer’ TikTok, But Then I Fell Down My Own Rabbit Hole

A mom’s user guide to FinTok

finfluencers advice: young man holding cash with a mobile phone
Getty Images/WiroKlyngz

In my day, it was the custom that friends gave each other bad financial advice in person (shout out to you and that $2K in crypto I’ll never see again, bestie!). So, when I heard about finfluencers, the crop of financial influencers churning out 45-second TikTok videos about how to grow wealth, I was alarmed. Was social media going to be a new way to spread misinformation to young people about money? As a mom of a teen son, I am concerned.

Full disclosure: I’m no financial wizard. Not only have I never had much interest in personal finance, but I’ve also made some big errors. In college, for example, I ruined my credit rating when I signed a gym membership contract..and then never paid it. I lived paycheck to paycheck, paid off student loans so slowly I could have earned a second degree and never budgeted or did long-range financial planning. Thank heavens for automatic 401K contributions, solid life partners and lifesaving no-interest loans from frugal family members, or I’d be writing this from a lean-to using purloined Starbucks Wi-Fi. I mention all this so that you understand, I’m not a certified public accountant who is pooh-poohing social media money advisors…I just don’t want my son to make the same sort of thoughtless mistakes around money that I did.

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A study of 2,000 Gen Zers reports “social media contributes to feelings of inadequacy not just about our bodies, families or love lives, but also about our money.”

Because there’s a good chance he will. A recent TIAA Institute report on “financial literacy and well-being in a five-generation America” found that only one-third of Gen Zers could correctly answer more than 50 percent of financial literacy questions, compared with 60 percent of baby boomers and Silent Generation respondents. We’re talking relatively straightforward questions about paychecks, budgeting, saving, managing debt, insurance and risk assessment: Common sense to some people, whereas others would just as soon ignore thinking about it and charge another pitcher of margs to a maxed-out Amex.

Rather than finding nothing useful in FinTok content, I was happily entertained, enlightened and educated by the posts I reviewed, if not 100 percent bullish on the idea of non-degreed civilians telling me and my kid what to do with our money. I came away with these four tips for my teen on using FinTok:

1.   Following A Couple Creators Is a Good Idea

For kids who, like my teen (and me, back in the day), are financial-planning avoidant, the upbeat and encouraging messages from finfluencers help reposition finance as a creative opportunity rather than dreary homework. While my son might never go searching for an explanation of compounded interest, watching a quick explanation of it between a dance challenge and political outrage is at least going to keep it in front of mind. Financial literacy win!

2. Pay Attention to Scam Warnings

I appreciated warnings about scams I didn’t even know existed, like CPNs (basically, fake SS#s) that are traded in order to open falsified accounts. Knowledge is power, and if a TikTok warning can stop my son from getting fleeced, I am here for it.

3. Use FinTok to Normalize Talking Money IRL

A study by Intuit of 2,000 Gen Zers reports “social media contributes to feelings of inadequacy not just about our bodies, families or love lives, but also about our money.” (Further, the study said that 66 percent of Gen Zers say they are more likely to tell their friends about their sexual experiences than about their debt.) From personal experience, I can say that repression isn’t the way to solve a problem, so I’m hoping that lighthearted and encouraging posts can be shared by friends and family, starting an open dialogue about making smart financial choices.

4. Fact-Check Any Investment and Go Slowly

Everyone has their own philosophy of life and money, so I’m not here to yuck anyone’s financial yum. (Although, still waiting on that Euphonium crypto to show a profit, bestie!) However I’m concerned that my son or any young person’s interest in managing their money could be ruined if they took a big swing early on and suffered a massive setback. Therefore, I recommend doing extensive research on any tip that comes from a FinTok account (as from anywhere) and making conservative moves whenever possible at the beginning, whether we’re talking a high-yield savings account or a stock or yes, a crypto buy. And above all, I’ll be telling my son to consider the source of who suggested the financial move. Remember that these influencers are not credentialed; ask yourself what that creator gains by recommending it. (According to the CFA Institute, financial firms are hiring finfluencers to grab the attention and funds of 18-to-25 year olds, and the sponsored relationship may not always be readily apparent.)

TLDR: I’m telling my son to look at FinTok and appreciate it as a way to prioritize personal financial goals, at least as prominently as the sports, sexy people and hip-hop in his social media feed. Just don’t go believing that any one move needs to be fast and final—life is long, and there’s a lot to learn.

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...