Talking about personal finance on social media isn't a new trend, but financial advice on TikTok spreads like wildfire. Scroll through the app, and you'll see personal finance content that ranges from everyday budgeting and savings tips to aspirational "what I spend in a day" videos.
While many people are using TikTok to share experiences and valuable guidance, following other advice on the platform can be risky. Here are some ways to check whether that TikTok influencer is giving great advice—or leading you afoul.
1. Google It
When someone recommends a sound financial strategy, chances are you'll find information about it elsewhere online. And if a TikToker says financial information is a little-known secret, it could be a secret for a reason—maybe it's impractical or even illegal.
For example, registering a business doesn't give you free rein to write off personal bills for business, and doing so could have tax repercussions. Yet that doesn't stop TikTokers from saying you should do it to get a tax break. Investing in a brokerage account and selling assets without paying taxes on gains is another big no-no, but some TikTokers give tips on how to do it.
When in doubt about a strategy, Google it. Below are some solid resources you can tap into for information on tax rules, how financial products work and more.
- IRS.gov: The Internal Revenue Service website is the place where you can find information on tax forms, tax rules and how to pay your tax bill.
- ConsumerFinance.gov: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website has an expansive database of consumer financial information, from different mortgage programs available to student loan debt repayment options.
- Investor.gov: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's consumer education website has introductions to investing, including basics on how the stock market works and an explanation of different investment products.
- FTC.gov: The Federal Trade Commission website has several guides, including explainers on debt vehicles and how to avoid and report scams.
2. Check Credentials
Credentials are technically not required to offer general tips on saving money, repaying debt, negotiating a raise or buying a home. However, advice on more complex topics like stock picks should be backed by experience.
Anyone touting themselves as an expert in a given field should put their credentials upfront in their bio. This is particularly true in areas such as real estate, tax planning and investing, where there's a risk that a mishap could lose you money or get you in trouble with the IRS.
Check profiles and search names to suss out the real experts from the pretenders. While this isn't an exhaustive list, types of financial experts include certified financial planners, chartered financial analysts, certified public accountants and enrolled agents.
3. Look Out for Get-Rich-Quick Advice
Someone teaching you how to amass thousands or millions of dollars overnight in a 20-second video is either leaving out details (at best) or embellishing the story (at worst). One tactic TikTokers preach is making regular income from the stock market, but strategies like day trading could put you at risk of losing significant sums of money.
It's natural to be curious or have some FOMO (fear of missing out) when someone online appears to make big bucks, but truthfully, there's no way to tell what's really happening behind the scenes. Taking steps to create a budget, build emergency savings, pay down debt and invest in retirement plans can help grow your own nest egg over time. And if you want to confirm you're on the right financial track, consider speaking with a financial planner—one you find off TikTok.
4. Figure Out the Motive
Using social media to talk about money isn't always a bad thing—many legitimate public figures, coaches and advisors use it to teach financial literacy concepts. However, these professionals generally have a passion for helping communities improve their financial well-being.
Others giving money advice could be jumping on a trend for a payday. Your job is to suss out their motive, which could be selling a product or amassing a following by sharing financial hot takes. Figuring out that motive can help you determine if advice is legit or if it's shady.
5. Beware of Guarantees
When it comes to money, not many things are guaranteed. For example, past investment performance isn't a guarantee of future performance. Similarly, buying real estate and flipping it isn't guaranteed to turn a profit—despite it looking easy from afar.
If a TikToker guarantees that a strategy will work, proceed with caution even if that TikToker has been successful in using it. Many variables have to fall in place for a financial move to be fruitful, and following up with your own research can help you decide if it makes sense for you.
The Bottom Line
Doling out money advice on TikTok is a hot trend, but not all advice is good advice. While those giving out bad advice might not do so intentionally, it's important to vet the information. Cross-checking recommendations against other sources, reviewing credentials or even consulting with a financial advisor can help you identify advice that is and isn't worth following.