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TikTok is the new place to learn about managing your money

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Key Points
  • TikTok, the massively popular social media site, recently announced a new initiative: #LearnOnTikTok.
  • While the app owned by Chinese conglomerate ByteDance is mostly known for amusing song and dance content, financial experts like Dr. Brad Klontz are taking up the challenge of using TikTok for money education.
  • Most of TikToks users are young, with 41% of users between the ages of 16 and 24, and learning about personal finance earlier in life is key to financial security later on.
Social media application TikTok is displayed on the screen of an Apple iPhone.
Chesnot | Getty Images

Americans have a financial literacy problem: 63% of Americans are financially illiterate, according to a survey from the Global Finance Literacy Excellence Center.

This is not surprising when you consider that only six states require high-school students to take a personal finance course. But there is hope, and it comes from an unlikely platform: TikTok. 

Owned by Chinese conglomerate ByteDance, TikTok is having a moment. Most of the content produced on the platform is lighthearted and easy to consume like lip-synch singalongs or viral dance moves. Clips are limited to a 60-second duration but the average video is around 15 seconds. In March, the app was downloaded more than 11 million times, with many Americans starved for new content while under pandemic lockdown. 

TikTok recently announced a new initiative, #LearnOnTikTok. The program will fund various educational videos in order to provide learning opportunities during the Covid-19 lockdown. The content is being funded through TikTok's $50 million creative learning fund, which is apart of its broader $250 million commitment to assisting with the impacts of the pandemic.

Forget FinTwit

One of the content creators receiving funding is Dr. Brad Klontz, an expert in the science and practice of financial psychology, behavioral finance, and financial planning. Klontz joined TikTok in October of 2019 and now has over 72,000 followers. 

Dr. Brad Klontz on TikTok
@dr.bradklontz

While Twitter may have become the go-to forum for some of Wall Street's wisest, from billionaires to financial advisors, TikTok creates a cozy and arguably organic atmosphere. A great deal of FinTwit activity may be irrelevant to your investment portfolio let alone personal finance advice. "The information shared between members and then debated, seems like it would suffice for post-graduate education," Michael Policar, a Washington Stated-based wealth manager wrote in a LinkedIn post

Most of TikToks users are young, with 41% of users between the ages of 16 and 24, according to Influence Marketing Hub. Any of the platforms active users can interact with content creators. 

"I'm responding to hundreds of comments a day." said Klontz.

Klontz first learned about TikTok through his 14-year-old nephews and was shocked by what he saw. "I saw some absolutely terrible financial advice," he said.

Dismayed by what he saw, Klontz felt compelled to start producing useful content based on his financial expertise in the psychology of wealth.

Klontz's approach is simple: create content that allows him to educate young people about the psychology of wealth while allowing him to express himself. Klontz admits that TikTok lets his personality shine through, sometimes throwing in a dance move with valuable advice. Many of his posts are motivational clips, while occasionally revealing his own financial struggles.

"There are all these young people on the platform and I have a strong mission to educate people on the psychology of wealth. A part of that is because I grew up lower-income and for me (wealth) was this big mystery."

Financial education is a problem, but Klontz argues that most people already know what to do.

"I have yet to find a 16-year-old who doesn't know that they should save and shouldn't spend more than they make or at least they can tell you that," he said. The bigger problem is people's attitudes towards money, says Klontz. 

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Klontz's team at the University of Creighton conducted a study in 2017 that measured the effects of a financial education course versus the effects of mindset training. The team discovered that participants in the mindset course increased their savings by a whopping 67%, while participants in the personal finance course increased their savings by 22%. Since then Klontz has doubled down on mindset training, rewiring people's minds to have a positive association with their finances. 

While a video on Youtube may take up to eight hours for Klontz to produce, he says the ease of TikTok lets him reach more people. "With TikTok, I'll have an idea, I'll shoot it in five minutes and post it," he said.

Trust but verify 

Brittney Castro is a certified financial planner and founder of Financially Wise Women, and she was an early adopter of TikTok, joining four years ago.

"I thought it was just a dancing app back then, and I stopped using it. But a few months ago I rejoined. ... I saw it was a creative outlet to create content around money."

While Castro sees the platform as a way to spread financial knowledge she has a word of caution, "If you are going to go to TikTok for advice for a specific subject  keep in mind ...  it is TikTok. People are creating fun (engaging content). And two, still search for those professionals who have credentials." 

Brittney Castro, CFP, on TikTok
@brittneycastro33

If you're uncertain about a creator's credentials you can look them up at CFP Board or afponline.com. A little due diligence can go a long way. The financial industry is heavily regulated and you'll be able to find information about any licensed professional, according to Castro.

Castro believes that TikTok is lowering the barrier to financial education while allowing her to explain financial education and provide financial guidance in a way that is easy for people to understand. "I just want to make money fun for people," she said.

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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