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The FinTok Manifesto


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I should hate TikTok. I’m the perfect demographic for such loathing. I’m a middle-aged father of two college-aged children, and I only use social media – mostly LinkedIn and Facebook – to discuss issues related to my businesses. In other words, I don’t video myself dancing or post photos of the meals I eat.

Yet I admire TikTok. Or rather, a specific subset of it called “FinTok.”

FinTok is shorthand for the financial professionals who have creatively manipulated a platform meant for entertainment and made it all about education. At first, I was skeptical that even the keenest money minds could cram credit-and-debt lessons into three-minute videos – and get TikTokers to watch them.

Yet it’s been happening, and no one has acknowledged this strange fact, much less rewarded them for the meaningful work they’re doing. Until now. Debt.com has rolled out The Fintok Awards to recognize the best financial advice on TikTok.

Go where the audience is

The winners of our inaugural contest are an impressive group – not just for their financial acumen but their creativity in reaching an entirely new audience.

“I think TikTok is a very unique platform,” bankruptcy attorney Adrienne Hines told Debt.com. The winner of our Best Bankruptcy Advice category explains how she started teaching on TikTok…

I had been on there for about a year, talking about a lot of stupid stuff going on in my life. It never occurred to me that anybody would want to know about bankruptcy. So I was just kind of toying around, playing on social media. But every now and then, I just threw a little bit out about what was going on with me at work. 

Believe it or not, TikTokers wanted to know more. As she talked more and more about bankruptcy, Hines jumped from 300 to 39,000 followers. That’s not a lot compared to, say, Charli D’Amelio, a professional dancer who became the first TikToker to break 100 million followers. But it’s still stunning: Nearly 40,000 young people on TikTok – and 70% are between the ages of 18 and 34 – are following a bankruptcy attorney from Ohio.

Any platform can teach money

None of this surprises me. As my children grew up, the CPA in me saw the value of the video games they played. All video games involve scarcity of resources. You need to gather stone to build fortresses, powerpacks to upgrade your weapons, or even straight-up cash to become a powerful warlord.

In fact, the only place you can’t learn about money is in school. Back in 2017, I wrote, “Teaching children about money will help them save more as adults. Yet another year goes by with nothing being done about it.”

The sad truth is, if we want to teach young people about smart spending and how to stay out of debt, we need to get creative. Video games, TikTok, even TV shows and movies can be instructive.

This is why I avidly defend seemingly frivolous platforms like TikTok. In a country where the average household is saddled with $96,000 in debt (according to Experian), we can’t afford to be arrogant about where our financial education comes from.

I don’t know the future of FinTok, but as long as financial experts continue to teach there, I’ll support that – and Debt.com will make the FinTok Awards an annual event.

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