TikTok isn’t just about dance challenges and viral memes—you might pick up some financial advice, too.
The short-form video platform has experienced breakneck worldwide growth over the past year, largely thanks to its virtual duets and short-form comedy. But a personal finance community is thriving on TikTok, too.
The platform isn’t perfectly suited for financial advice, but a crop of young experts is leading the way—and exposing a new audience to the fundamentals of money management.
Humphrey Yang, known as @HumphreyTalks, is one of the most popular figures in the TikTok personal finance community. With daily videos ranging from credit basics to cost breakdowns of popular items, he’s gained more than 800,000 followers in just eight months.
After discovering the personal finance community on Youtube, Yang, 32, was interested in sharing his own knowledge—he studied finance and previously worked as a financial advisor— but it didn’t take off. He came across TikTok in late 2019 and found there were very few creators making financial content on the platform.
“I thought I could help people by making short videos on personal finance,” he says. “There seemed to be an appetite on YouTube already, so I figured I could make it more applicable for TikTok.”
Quick Bites: TikTok’s Limitations
TikTok clips are, by nature, limiting. Broad economic concepts like interest rates and complex financial topics like debt strategy cannot easily be condensed into 60-second clips.
“How well can you address complex issues with good advice in that short a period of time?” asks John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. “I’m not saying it’s not possible, but it’s harder to describe these things in 60 seconds.”
Given the limitations, many creators view TikTok as a way to introduce their audience to personal finance topics, so they may be inspired to learn more on another platform.
Delyanne Barros, 37, who goes by @DelyanneTheMoneyCoach, began posting about debt payoff, investing and financial independence on TikTok in February 2020. Barros, an employment attorney by day, first began sharing her personal financial journey on Instagram, which evolved into a side business coaching others to do the same. She says her primary focus on TikTok is driving awareness.
“I just want people to hear the words index funds and ETF,” Barros says. “My goal is just to build that vocabulary for people, to pique curiosity.”
Financial Literacy for All
Yet the widespread accessibility of social platforms like TikTok, as well as Instagram, YouTube and others, may be exactly what’s needed to improve financial education and literacy, especially for traditionally underserved communities.
Americans today are predominantly getting their financial education through the school of hard knocks, Pelletier says: “They’re not getting it from their parents, they’re not getting it in school. Their knowledge of personal finance is trial and error.”
Barros, who is passionate about reaching the Latino community in particular, is optimistic: “I think it’s what’s going to close the gap,” she says. “Social media takes away that inhibition to talk about money. When you’re vulnerable, it helps others want to be more vulnerable too, and social media allows you to do that.”
Tori Dunlap, 26, known as @HerFirst100k on TikTok, began creating financial content online because of how intimidating topics like saving, debt payoff, and investing can be for everyone, but especially for women.
“Just by the nature of social media, it already becomes more accessible,” Dunlap says. “You’re not asking somebody to go to a different site or do something extra, you’re just meeting them where they’re already existing.”
Dunlap began posting under the name HerFirst100k on Instagram to share her own savings journey, creating a space for women to talk about money and learn more about financial topics, which is the same mindset she brings to every platform.
Pelletier likens today’s TikTok and Instagram financial personalities to industry giants like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey — who also made complicated financial topics accessible to a previous generation on the dominant media of their day, like television and radio.
“I’ve met people whose personal financial lives have been changed by these people,” he says.
The Risks of Online Advice
But not all the personal finance information on social media is accurate or helpful. Alongside good advice and introductory lessons, there are plenty of get-rich-quick schemes and false promises found in these personal finance communities.
On platforms like TikTok, with primarily young audiences, and in today’s economy — with millions experiencing financial hardship — that type of content is especially dangerous.
“A lot of people are really impressionable, especially online,” Yang says. “Maybe they’re in a really bad situation, then they see a predatory ad or content that promises them something that only a fraction of people can achieve. That’s really tough.”
On TikTok alone, there’s no shortage of day traders promoting individual stock-picking apps like Robinhood, often targeting teen audiences.
Stay away from anyone spending a lot of time pitching specific products without teaching general financial topics, like how to save money, how to budget or improve your credit score, Pelletier says.
How to Be a Smarter Consumer
Social media is a great way to gain exposure to financial concepts, but it’s up to you to take the next steps. Conduct your own research, find trustworthy sources and determine what information is applicable for your financial situation and goals.
“People should be careful,” Barros warns. “A lot of people are looking for specific advice in a cookie-cutter world. They need to take everything they see with a grain of salt and understand that their situation is unique.”
Start by vetting your feeds for trustworthy content creators, and look for any red flags.
“Make sure the people you’re getting advice from are not only credible, but share your values and are going about personal finance and money education in a way that feels good to you,” Dunlap says.
And before implementing any financial strategy, seek out a second opinion or more details from another reputable source.
“Do your own independent research,” Pelletier says. “Before you make a financial decision based on a 60-second TikTok video, you might want to spend a few minutes confirming that’s good advice, looking for other sources to confirm that advice is accurate and appropriate.”
Use these platforms to equip yourself with the knowledge to establish and achieve your financial goals over time, rather than find quick fixes to your financial troubles.
TikTok is an awareness driver, Yang says: “It’s where you can get into personal finance, learn a little bit more, or get a quick 30-second tip each day.” Then it’s up to you to continue your education.
Recently, TikTok has made headlines because of a potential U.S. ban by President Trump, following concerns about user data collection by its China-based parent company. Today, U.S.-based companies Microsoft and Oracle, among others, are in talks to buy the brand’s American operations.
Neither Yang, Barros, nor Dunlap is concerned about TikTok disappearing. But they are interested in meeting their audiences where they are, adapting to the possible emergence of new platforms — or using current ones.
TikTok already has a direct competitor in Reels, Instagram’s own offering for short-form, easily editable video content, though it’s far from catching on in the same way, according to these creators.
And with an audience made up largely of teens and young adults, how long can TikTok continue its astronomic growth before something new comes along?
Yang has begun shifting his focus to longer-form YouTube videos. Barros and Dunlap have growing communities on Instagram, and continue to develop ways to bridge viewers from one platform to another.
At the end of the day, these social media communities are built around helping people access financial concepts they may have never been exposed to before. Borrowing a phrase from NextAdvisor contributor Erin Lowry, another financial content creator who goes by Broke Millennial, Dunlap describes herself as a “financial translator.”
“What I’m trying to do is take these really complex topics that no one is teaching you and no one is talking about,” she says, “and turn them into things you can understand.”