FinTok: Is TikTok’s financial advice a game-changer?

The year was difficult financially, with an inflation rate at its highest for 40 years, a rise in real estate prices and a sharp rise in the cost of living. More and more Canadians are seeking financial advice on how to get the most out of their money, and Canada’s younger generations have turned to an unlikely but growing source for answers to their troubles.

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

At the head of the pack, several Canadian women, all from various professional backgrounds, have taken it upon themselves to pass on the financial skills and information they have acquired on their own.

“There’s a huge gap in financial education in Canada,” Jessica Rowat told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

Rowat and her longtime friend, Colleen Kormos, run a Yukon TikTok page called Two girls invest and racked up nearly 50,000 subscribers in less than a year. Their most watched videowhich has been viewed 1.6 million times, describes a step-by-step procedure on how to invest money through a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA).

“When I’m considering investing and starting out as a beginner, a lot of the language is in American terminology and…that’s where I thought more Canadians needed to know about it, and especially women,” she said.

Rowat has a background in health care, while Kormos works in the public sector. Both women learned about investing and banking independently and argue that they should not be seen as ‘financial advisers’.

“I think we’re mostly helping educate about self-directed investing and how the old, traditional way of using mutual funds just isn’t as relevant now,” Kormos told CTVNews. .ca Tuesday.

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

Toronto-based Ashna Mankotia never planned for her TikTok account become an important financial resource for young Canadians.

Starting his account at the height of the pandemic lockdown in 2020, his videos have now amassed over 2.3 million likes, one of his most popular TikToks regarding his financial following.

“I just never sat down and thought about what my assets looked like,” Mankotia told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

“I had no idea what it meant to invest 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 available for free on her account, as a “gift” to all of her subscribers.

“A lot of people told me I could charge for it, but it was good for me to know that a lot of people were getting value from something I had done for myself,” he said. she stated.

Nearly half of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 have used the internet for financial advice, according to a 2019 Statistics Canada survey found.

A investigation by investment firm TIAA also found that 32% of Americans believe social media can help them make better financial decisions, and many also trust celebrities and social media influencers to offer good financial advice.

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

BUT BE CAREFUL, EXPERTS SAY

Too much faith in FinTok is concerning, according to Caval Olson-Lepage, a certified financial planner with Saskatchewan-based agency Affinity Wealth Management.

“We must view all financial advice we receive with caution – especially if that advice comes from people who are not trained or licensed to provide 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 time on FinTok herself, she noticed very specific investment recommendations without “any mention of the potential risk of investing in these investments, such as potential financial loss.”

Viewers don’t necessarily understand the general nature of the advice they receive, which doesn’t always apply to their personal financial situation, she said.

“There’s a reason why every financial advertisement on TV or social media by a trader comes with a disclaimer – it’s to protect the consumer and encourage them to seek expert advice on whether this product would suit him,” she said. .

“These FinTok videos do not come with this disclaimer.”

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

“Scientific conversations aside, this was probably one of the earliest use cases for online discussion forums,” he said.

According to Park, there has always been an element of risk, as well as questions about misinformation, scams, deception and conflicts of interest when it comes to advice from an online space. He added that due diligence is required for all financial advice, regardless of its source.

“Scammers are definitely trying to tap into all the trust… but, again, TikTok is probably less anonymous than text-based social media and isn’t as amenable to fake account click farm scams – yet. .”

WHY YOUNG CANADIANS PREFER FINTOK

Cassandra Melo, a Toronto-based registered nurse with 123,000 followers on her TikTok account, @MoneywithCassindicates that many young Canadians are not necessarily confident that they will get proper advice from a traditional financial advisor at a bank, due to a “lack of transparency”.

“When (someone) sees a video on TikTok, breaking down the steps in a very honest and transparent way; a lot of people really resonate and appreciate that,” she told CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.

Park said there’s a generational disconnect between the kind of financial advice Gen Z seek out and that of their older counterparts, who aren’t necessarily supported by mainstream sources.

“Gen Z are, for example, interested in crypto-assets. 99.9% of financial advisors have no advice to offer other than platitudes. It doesn’t make them smart for young people, it makes them seem uninformed and disconnected,” he said.

He also argues that banks haven’t figured out how to engage with young Canadians, potentially driving many away to different sources.

According to Melo, TikTok has been a game-changer for anyone who wants to impart their skills and knowledge to the public, as it is relatively easier to get a large audience and views on the platform compared to YouTube and Instagram.

His own path to personal finance came from a book called, ‘rich dad, poor dad‘, which she describes as the “gateway drug” for many people in the world of finance.

“Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, released 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’re totally 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 making money from their content, through partnerships with financial companies.

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

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

TikTok asks all of its users to enable a “brand” toggle on their sponsored content which adds an advertisement on these videos, a service which the company says is available worldwide.

It’s also important for influencers to choose their collaboration partners carefully and be open to their viewers to avoid losing their trust.

“I only accept a paid video if it meets a few of my criteria, i.e. it’s about a brand or product that I use and that I like, and if I think the information in the video will be useful,” Melo said.

“Personally, I’m very careful who I work with and prefer to work with well-established brands or companies.”

Geraldine L. Melton