With young people on the market for financial education, the instinct is to turn to social media. On TikTok, tens of millions of posts have gathered under hashtags like #PersonalFinance, #MoneyTok or #HowToInvest. It’s so easy to find digestible, one-minute long videos of people rapidly spouting investing, saving and other personal finance advice.
However, as with anything from the internet, viewers would be shortsighted to wholly trust everything presented to them. So how much of the finance tips on social media is legit?
To answer this question and further discuss financial literacy in regards to young people, YR Media sat down with Youth Leadership Manager Angelie Miranda and Youth Leader Daniela Manzanares of MyPath, an organization bringing quality financial education to low income youth.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Michelle Hwang: What are some of the biggest financial myths you see circulating on social media?
Daniela Manzanares: Sometimes you will have to depend on loans to pay your way through college, and that’s perfectly okay. But you just have to be smart about it. You have to plan out how you’ll start paying it back. I feel like a lot of the content released [on social media] doesn’t really involve any of that. And it should because ultimately content creators are — in a sense — playing with our generation’s future.
Angelie Miranda: I think for me, content creators only tell half of the story. They’ll talk about the good things about getting a credit card, but they don’t really talk about what to watch out for. What happens if you don’t pay? There are consequences to that.
So I think that if social media is going to be used as a platform, creators need to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to financial products. We want to be able to give everybody the whole story, not just the good side of it.
MH: What are some ways young people can verify the credibility of educators on TikTok as well as other social media platforms?
DM: Some content creators specifically tag the articles or the resources where they got their information from. If it’s somewhere reliable, you can go and do your own research. Personally, whenever I see stuff around financial aid or money hacks or anything like that, I like to go and do my own research. Even if they don’t have any specific reliable companies or resources tagged, you can easily find your own information on the internet.
AM: I think people who are using social media as a platform for anything should also be held accountable for any misinformation that they’re leaking out — regardless of the intention. You’ve got to be careful of what you’re putting out there because it could be something that’s not reliable. So it’s really about holding folks accountable for the information that they’re putting out there. Or at least a little notice that says, “Hey! This might not be true.”
MH: What are some of the obstacles young people face when pursuing financial literacy and how do we overcome that?
DM: A lot of young people are scared to learn about finance and money. I think for me, being surrounded by people that want to know more and are in the same situation as you, gives a bit of comfort. When I first started attending the meetings at MyPath, that’s one thing that really helped me to speak a lot and ask questions. Everybody had the same questions. Everybody had the same concerns. What is credit? How do we start it? Where do we start?
I think it’s just really about questioning everything, asking for help from the people around you and using the online resources you have.
MH: Do you see any obstacles targeting marginalized communities, like based on race or gender or socioeconomic status?
AM: There are all these barriers that exist for young people. When a youth opens a bank account or a savings account, they are required to have a state ID. They are required to prove where they live, show proof of residency. And do they pay rent? Do they pay a utility bill to show that?
And there is still redlining with financial institutions — meaning that you’ll find a lot of banks and credit unions in rich neighborhoods, and you’ll find check cashing places in poor neighborhoods.
MH: What’s still missing in conversations about financial wellness?
DM: I noticed a lot of young people unfortunately don’t have the access to any financial knowledge, so they sometimes just don’t know any better. And they’re on social media like, “Oh look, there’s all of these great things that can help me pay for whatever.” But little did they know, there can be consequences later on. It’s really just crucial that information on social media, especially about money, is accurate.
I believe that once you grow up, everything’s about money. Whether you rent a house or an apartment, whether you want to buy a car — it all revolves around money. To be financially successful, you also have to be confident with [factual] financial information.
AM: And I think what’s missing in our educational system is this access to quality financial education — not just financial literacy. It’s not just reading and knowing, but it’s also being able to practice. At MyPath, we call it financial capability.
And once young people have that and practice healthy financial habits, they can actually build themselves towards financial wealth. So then, they bring their family with them. They’re not just living paycheck to paycheck anymore. All of this can potentially be opened up if we can get quality financial education to everyone.
Additional resources for finances
Understanding college costs
Create a student loan repayment strategy
Simple student loan calculator
Understanding compound interest
Credit card debt payoff calculator
New or used car loan calculator