People do not like to talk about finance on a personal level.
How much did your significant other make last year?
What does your cousin’s investment portfolio look like?
How much debt did your newly wed friends take-on to afford a house… in that neighbourhood?
Money is a taboo topic in culture today. It can have a variety of feelings associated with it, both positive (pride, security, happiness, etc.) and negative (shame, fear, frustration, worry, etc.). In most situations, talking about your positive money feelings can come off as shallow, uncouth, or insensitive. People generally do not enjoy the company of someone who continuously talks about how much money they made last year or how their investment portfolio is mooning thanks to an obscene amount of risk taking. On the flip side, when it comes to negative financial feelings, most people bury them at the very back of their mind, never willingly bringing them out into the open unless forced to.
We do not talk about money today because there continues to be a social stigma associated with the topic. Our financial health is not something that we wear on our sleeves, which leaves those facing financial hardship in the dark.
Not only can poor financial health translate into stress, anxiety and depression, but it also holds back financial education, minimizes the sharing of best practices, and keeps us from celebrating our financial victories.
But there is something we can collectively do to help solve this problem: normalize the #money conversation.
The more we talk about personal finance, the more it gets embedded in social norms, and the more it seeps into culture.
If we normalize the dialogue around the financial challenges we all face, then we can bring financial issues into the light and offer the requisite support, services or education for those who may suffer in silence.
Taking Cues from Other Facets of Wellbeing
Over the past decade, there has been an increased willingness to recognize mental health as a legitimate contributor to one’s well-being.
Historically, when people discussed ‘mental health’, they typically referred to severe mental illness. Today, however, this has shifted to include more commonplace conditions like anxiety and depression. People are more aware of mental health challenges and more commonly understand mental health to be just another aspect of our overall state.
This growing awareness and appreciation was not an overnight success, but rather the cumulative efforts of many. While clinical research certainly helped add clarity and dispel some myths, it has been the sharing of stories that has really spread awareness throughout culture. Both traditional media (TV) and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok) have brought forward influential people who have begun to speak more about their mental health, which has helped to reduce the stigma.
From Billie Eilish to Simone Biles to Bell Let’s Talk, the mental health conversation has been brought into the light, accelerated even further by the onset of the pandemic and the social isolation that large parts of the population had to endure.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a long way to go here, but there are lessons to be learned when it comes to normalizing the #money conversation. That is… we need to have more of these dialogs out in the open and in public.
Tiktok: A New Form Factor for Financial Advice
So where does Tiktok fit into this?
Social media is a powerful force. It is also often linked to negative societal impacts around things like consumerism, cyberbullying, extremism, and worsened mental health. Yet, the idea of connecting with a network of friends, strangers and media outlets to share our ideas and stories is not inherently negative in itself: it is neutral. But with great power comes great responsibility. Social media can be used for both good and evil.
One area of the online world that has received a particular amount of hate over the past few years have been financial influencers (Finfluencers).
Most of this has been for good reason. From crypto aficionados peddling the latest and greatest token to the Wall Street Bets crowd encouraging excessive risk taking, there was a lot not to like about the intersection of social media and finance.
Now, with interest rates rising and asset prices crashing, the roar of the speculative investing crowd is not as loud as it once was. Emerging from the rubble of risk-taking finfluencers has been a new class of personal finance experts showcasing helpful tips, foundational advice, and real stories about #money.
Take Taylor Price for example. Covering topics from how to invest small amounts of money to improving your credit score as a young adult, Taylor broadcasts useful and foundational advice to over 1.1M followers every day. Her following has also blossomed into a financial education website: pricelesstay.com.
It’s not just Taylor, though. There are many others like her.
John Liang offers his followers ‘personal financial cheat codes’, helping them make small positive money steps each day.
Parii Bafna’s content centers more around using money wisely and the power of budgeting, advising people on how to manage their money to become the best versions of themselves.
Tiktok is increasingly where people’s attention is, and while we can all take issue with how unproductive ‘doomscrolling’ can be, the ability to siphon that attention toward financial literacy is one way that good financial advice is going to reach the masses.
Social Media Can Help, Not Hinder
Given the expansive reach of platforms like Tiktok and the growing amount of time we all spend staring at our phones, I suspect these channels will have an outsized role to play in the future in both boosting financial literacy and engaging people to take an active role when it comes to solving their financial challenges.
Instead of looking at social media as an enemy of good financial behavior, we should look at it as an ally. There is a great deal of opportunity to be uncovered through advice that can be delivered online. In fact, since it is where most of today’s youth spend their time and attention, we should be looking for additional ways to make sure positive money conversations surface to the top of the pile.
Maybe one day we’ll be able to talk as openly about our credit scores as our follower counts, but until then, each video posted is slowly but surely helping to chip away at the stigma associated with the topic.
Taylor, John, Parii and many others are normalizing the #money conversation, one post at a time.