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FinTok 2024 Awards

Debt.com » FinTok Awards 2024

For the second year in a row, Debt.com had the public vote for the best finance content creators on TikTok. The 2024 FinTok Awards saw 20 candidates vie in four categories: Best Debt Payoff, Credit Education, Personal Finance, Money for Under 30, and Hispanic Money Advice.

Throughout April, Financial Literacy Month, our readers voted for their favorite FinTokers. The results are in. Meet this year’s FinTok Awards recipients:


Being Debt-Free Helped This Dad Overcome Adversity

Debt.com's 2024 FinTok Award winner for Best Debt Payoff Category: Brad Nelson from Debt-Free Dad.

A divorce inspired Brad Nelson to get out of debt. Being debt-free helped him focus through his daughter’s health scare. 

Over a decade ago, Nelson lost his first home and first marriage – to foreclosure and divorce. After that, he had $49,000 in debt. By 2018, Nelson was out of debt and remarried. Life was going good.

Then he was hit with his first challenge to stay debt-free: Nelson’s daughter Avery was diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, a type of brain damage caused by lack of oxygen during labor.

After dealing with that, in 2023, Nelson’s wife took her own life after years of living with and treating mental illness.

“It’s been a tough year trying to rebuild and figure out what to do next,” Nelson reflects. “I can say having done all the work that we did on our finances, having a will in place, having life insurance in place, having all those things done many years ago, has been a great blessing. Because when something like that happens – and tragedy happens – the last thing you want to be worried about is money.”

Nelson goes by the Debt-Free Dad on TikTok. He says, “I’ve been where most people are.” Sharing his raw and personal stories helps get his audience to open up and talk about why they got into debt. That way they can make meaningful change in their finances.

That relatability and no-nonsense outlook on personal finance advice earned Nelson Debt.com’s 2024 FinTok Award for the debt payoff category. Here’s what makes him stand out from the competition.

All facts, no flash

Other FinTokers use over-the-top content strategies to win over users and the app’s algorithm. Two years ago, Debt.com reported the headline “Be a Millionaire in 60 Seconds, Guaranteed!

Brandon Schlichter, who goes by Investment Joy on TikTok, films many of his videos with a briefcase full of cash. His cash props have earned him 3.7 million followers.

But gimmicks don’t matter to Nelson.  

“I’m not going to show you any flashy stuff,” Nelson says. “I could easily create content that would get more followers, but not the followers trying to get their finances under control.”

Instead, he focuses on tried and true money management to stay debt-free. Nelson only recommends strategies that have worked in his personal life.

“I’m a middle-income earner and I feel like our messaging just hits home for a lot of people out there who are living the typical American life, and they want to do better,” Nelson says. “I’m just showing people how they can do that while making a normal income without having to give up everything.”

His content matters now more than ever

Credit card debt hit $1.13 trillion at the end of last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Many Americans have had no choice but to rely on credit cards with rising inflation.

It’s easy for people to fall into a negative spiral, Nelson says. He feels TikTok videos focused on rising grocery prices confirm a bias in people: Everyone’s hurting, so getting out of debt is hopeless.

That’s why he focuses on having honest conversations with his audience – even the tougher topics from his personal life. His story helps others open up about what got them into debt.

Debt-Free Dad is more than a TikTok profile, it’s a financial coaching business. The goal is for Nelson to talk with members one on one to uncover their spending habits. He’s able to consult them over time to overcome their own adversity. 

Nelson has dealt with three of the biggest reasons people end up in credit card debt. The most recent tragedy was a shock to him and his whole family.

Helping others achieve financial freedom is now also a tool to heal. On the worst days, he reminds his clients and himself that there is “always a brighter day ahead.” 

“A lot of my personal therapy has come from pouring myself into helping other people change their lives,” Nelson says. “It gives my life purpose to wake up every day to do the stuff that we’re doing, to produce our podcasts and get on Tik Tok to help our members.”


Going Viral Talking About Credit

Debt.com's 2024 FinTok Award winner for Best Credit Education category: Chris and Justin Steil from The Credit Brothers.

The Credit Brothers explain complex credit advice in plain English, bite-sized videos.

Would you watch a 42-second video titled “Three Reasons Why You Never Pay an Account That’s Been Charged Off or Sent to Collections”? Three million people did and over 3,700 people commented on it. If that shocks you, it shocked Chris and Justin Steil too.

It was the fourth video the two launched on their TikTok account, The Credit Brothers, four years ago.

“Within one month of posting on TikTok, we had over 100,000 followers,” Justin says. “In June of 2020, we created the business. At that point, we had enough visibility and were starting to get people asking for help every day. We started creating solutions to help people with their credit problems.”

They just won the Best Credit Education category in Debt.com’s second-annual FinTok awards. We recently spoke with the Credit Brothers about the win and how they took a fledgling TikTok profile and turned it into a lucrative account with 731,000 followers. 

Same upbringing, different talents

Chris and Justin may have grown up together, but they each bring something unique to content creation. The former was a project manager and the latter an electrical engineer before launching The Credit Brothers full time.

Justin may now handle more of the forward thinking of the business but Chris had the initial know-how.

While Justin was cutting his teeth in the engineering world at Lockheed Martin, Chris was learning the ins and outs of the credit industry while living in Las Vegas.

Chris took a credit card hacks course branded by YouTube marketer Tai Lopez. The older Credit Brother learned to get the best travel rewards and perks from credit cards with little to no cash.

He also just happened to be living in the “Entertainment Capital of The World” at the time. That’s where he opened his first real credit card.

“I got a $22,000 credit limit on a Chase Sapphire Preferred – it was phenomenal,” Chris says. “I could get a ton of free upgrades and get into a lot of places that I otherwise couldn’t have. By learning the hospitality industry, it indirectly helped leverage a lot of the things I learned about credit.”

“Getting excited about this credit thing.”

Meanwhile, Justin graduated from college and started working for Lockheed Martin. He was living in the Boston area with a childhood friend.

Chris moved across the country to be with his brother. He shared all he had learned about credit card hacking, rewards, and repair.

Naturally Justin wanted to learn more.

“Growing up, it’s been a continuous train of Chris getting into something, whether it’s cooking, magic, WWE wrestling, and I see that he’s doing something and I’m like, ooh, now I’m interested in it,” the younger Credit Brother says. “When he started to get excited about this credit thing, I started to get excited about it too.”

In 2020, the Credit Brothers were formed.

Their mission is to bring complex information to the masses in an easy, digestible format. Justin says there’s no need to put out anything they don’t find useful or valuable themselves. “We try not to overcomplicate things,” Justin says. “Credit is so wide ranging. It finds its way into so many areas of your life. The more independent somebody tries to be, the more they’ll find out credit matters.”


“Being a Teacher Is in My Blood”

Debt.com's 2024 FinTok Award winner for best Money Under 30 category: Melissa Jean-Baptiste from Millennial in Debt.

For a decade, Melissa Jean-Baptiste taught high-school English. Now she gives financial literacy lessons on TikTok. 

Over a decade ago, Melissa Jean-Baptiste graduated with a master’s degree in education – and $50,000 in student loans. When she made her last payment six years ago, she suddenly realized she had spent $102,000 to pay them off.

That’s when Jean-Baptiste truly learned about the high cost of interest rates.

“I was extremely confused, frustrated, embarrassed,” she recalls to Debt.com. “I didn’t know I was being charged more interest than my monthly payments. That conversation really pushed me forward to not only pay off my debt, but also become financially literate.”

With her newfound literacy, Jean-Baptiste changed careers from a high-school English teacher to become the Millennial in Debt. She now teaches a TikTok audience of 45,000 how to avoid her mistakes.

While she’s no longer in a classroom, “being a teacher is in her blood.”

Self-taught personal finance

Jean-Baptiste was a high-school English teacher in New York for 11 years. In her third year, she tried to buy a house but couldn’t get a mortgage. Her “debt-to-income ratio” was too high.

Jean-Baptiste had never heard the term before. Even worse, she learned her student loans were nearly $30,000 more than she’d originally taken out for school – and growing.

It surprised her. She had a master’s degree in education but not that kind of education. She was teaching teenagers who weren’t required to learn about money.

Jean-Baptiste decided to learn by herself.

“I really started initially leaning into books. And it was disheartening because no one really looked and sounded like me,” Jean-Baptiste says. “Everyone made it seem like it’s something that you should just know. Or if you didn’t go to school for math or finance and you don’t know you’re just out of luck.”

She now owns a home and is an entrepreneur with a net worth over $500,000.

Looking ahead

Growing up, Jean-Baptiste’s younger brother was troubled and struggling in school. He felt his teachers didn’t care about his success.

The oldest daughter in a family of three became a teacher because she “wanted my brothers to see themselves as people who were appreciated with thoughts to share in the classroom.”

Being denied a mortgage all those years ago was a similar disheartened feeling. 

“I started creating content in the finance world for the same reason – I didn’t want people to feel left out because they didn’t know a specific term, or how to explain it a certain way,” Jean-Baptiste says. “Everyone deserves to learn about money.”

Jean-Baptiste hopes TikTok isn’t officially banned in the U.S. but doesn’t plan to end Millennial in Debt.

Before TikTok, she’d already built up 44,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, 176,000 followers on Instagram, and has published a book. Jean-Baptiste’s long-term goal is to expand as a media company, and maybe potentially bring it on TV.

“It’s really important as the company grows, we continue to share content for people from different income levels so no one feels shut out,” Jean-Baptiste says. “I don’t want people to feel like only Wall Street executives can talk about money. “


From Felon to FinToker

Debt.com's 2024 FinTok Awards winner for Best Hispanic Advice category: Juan Sanchez from JuanCSanchezOfficial.

Juan Sanchez teaches people the warning signs of mortgage fraud. How does he know? He went to prison for it.

Juan Sanchez served nine years in a Florida prison for mortgage fraud. That’s where he learned the power of social media.

In March 2013, Juan Sanchez asked a family friend to make a Facebook post asking for 10% of his $45,000 attorney’s fees. But he ended up getting the full amount.

Sanchez was released from prison three years ago. Ever since, he’s been using TikTok to warn the Hispanic community of the same crimes that sent him away.

“When I got released, I realized there is a new vehicle that people are using to provide wrong information to the community,” Sanchez tells Debt.com. “I started researching TikTok and Instagram. They’re great platforms for people to give wrong information and assist others in committing fraud.”

Sanchez has grown the account to 156,000 followers by exposing signs of business, mortgage, and tax fraud.

His in-depth, insider information just earned him Debt.com’s 2024 FinTok Award for the Hispanic Money Education category.

Debt.com recently sat down with Sanchez to learn his story from fraudster to FinToker.

“My past helps me”

Sanchez has been exposing scams for 2 ½ years now. When he’s not on TikTok, he hosts seminars to teach the Hispanic community how to build personal and business credit.

It’s a two-day workshop marketed to “change your finances in the USA forever!!!” Sanchez aims to help his community “understand a system that is very different from where they came from.”

Two of his talking points are on credit repair and signs of identity theft. His background serves as a teachable moment.

Standing in front of a screen with images of him in prison, Sanchez explains to a room of 400 people how he could’ve scammed each of them by showing up to his seminar.

“I tell them not only do they know I was a con artist and an ex-convict, they paid with a credit card, which means I have their credit card information,” The Venezuelan-born FinToker says. “That’s the first five minutes of my class. When I see them getting uncomfortable, I say, that’s how easy it is. And that’s why their information is exposed all the time.”

Ironically, people trust him more because he’s so candid about his past.

“Let’s get real, I’m no different than any other criminal that is out there. The only difference is that I’m talking about it and most criminals are not,” Sanchez says. “I’m teaching others how to protect themselves from people like I used to be.”

Redemption

Sanchez says many white-collar criminals have what he calls a “Robin Hood complex.” He viewed mortgage fraud as an act of stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

People wanted to buy homes they couldn’t afford. His cons, he felt, were stealing from the banks who wouldn’t lend them a mortgage.

“What I want people to understand is that criminals think like that,” Sanchez says. “When you are committing a crime, you are a hero. We have a way of justifying our behavior when we’re committing fraud.”

He’s had more than a decade to reflect on his crimes. But that chip on his shoulder is still there, except now it’s aimed at a different foe. 

“The criminal you should be concerned about is your everyday financial influencer,” Sanchez says. “Content creators who give financial advice about how to become a millionaire but have no money in the bank.”

Sanchez has paid his debt to society. Advising people to learn from his mistakes keeps him going. “Everybody has the right for a second chance. Everybody can turn the page on their past and help others,” Sanchez says. “I see myself as shining a light of hope to people who don’t believe in second chances.”

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