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Millennials, Gen Z turn to TikTok for financial advice

Social media "influencers" bring financial literacy to a younger generation that for the most part was never formally taught about it.

SEATTLE — With more than 100 million monthly users in the United States alone, the social media app TikTok proves to be a never-ending rabbit hole of 15-second videos. Videos that, if nothing else, proved during the worst of the pandemic that most of us just can’t dance. 

But before you dismiss an entire generation of kids -- Moji Igun of Seattle is about to make a bold claim.

“I was able to leave my job and start a business without having any financial stress – I was prepared, set up and ready to go. It was an easy switch,” Igun said.

Igun said that social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram introduced her to personal finance in a new way. Bite-sized content that, for the first time, made the lessons stick.

“I have been running my own business for six months now and I work for myself and I’m able to sustain myself which is not at all what I thought was possible two years ago,” Igun said.

Moji isn’t alone. The hashtag “personal finance” (#personalfinance) on TikTok has 4.2 billion views.

Enter 26-year-old, self-taught finance expert Tori Dunlap and her 1.5 million followers.

“For many years the only people that were talking about personal finance were mostly old, straight white men and they were telling you that the reason you're not rich is because you don’t work hard enough or you buy too many lattes,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap and her coaching service “Her first 100k” works to bring financial literacy to a younger generation that for the most part was never formally taught about finance.

Each year finance professor Ying Li at UW Bothell gets a new crop of business majors. Here’s what she says about most.

“They are very interested in being one of the successful people in managing money or dealing with their own finances but they have no clue how to do it,” Li said.

Though, as Li points out, the desire to learn about finance is there. Short snippets such as the ones found on TikTok are planting the seed.

Remember Moji? She became one of Tori’s students and today is one of her success stories.

“Right now I feel so secure in my financial situation. It’s wild, the transformation,” Igun said.

For the first time in her life she has an emergency fund, doesn’t have any debt, and is a proud business owner.

“Basically, I’m trying to build a zero-waste world and I’m trying to do that by helping small businesses find creative ways to keep trash out of the landfill,” Igun said, describing her business Blue Daisi Consulting.

It's a life change that Igun said, in a way, started one, 15-second video at a time.

“Where else would we learn this stuff? We didn’t learn it in school or college. What kind of forum would we learn this stuff in and it’s only been social media in my experience," Igun said.

However, Tori encourages people to not solely rely on social media platforms for financial advice. People should also verify the sources of the information and not take advice at face value.

“Don’t just rely on these platforms with this bite sized content – actually take the advice and actually use it to better your money. Don’t just be a passive consumer. Don’t just go on to the next dance video or whatever you’re doing,” Dunlap said.

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