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Gen Z girl on her phone looking at TikTok videos.

If you ask mrsdowjones, a “zillennial finance expert,” financial education should be relatable and easy to understand. You can find her on TikTok and Instagram shelling out money advice, tips and tricks, and personal finance guidance for a broad audience of followers. She’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Fortune, and CNBC.

Mrsdowjones, aka Haley Sacks, is an entrepreneur who stepped into the world of personal finance guidance to solve her own problem with the industry: finance education is produced by a stale industry that is out of touch, boring, and unrelatable. (source: NYTimes)

Starting in 2018, she’s grown her brand from a single Instagram post to a lifestyle clothing brand, personal finance education programs, and media brand. (source: NYTimes)

She’s not the only one.

Scroll through #FinTok on TikTok or Instagram, and you’ll find a host of financial influencers dolling out advice on everything from snagging a discount to negotiation tactics to investment strategies.

Like all good financial experts will tell you—not all advice is worth following. But, some of it is. The growing category of social media financial influencers spotlights a very real gap the finance industry faces—the inability to communicate with a diverse audience. The reality is that, historically, the finance industry has only had to talk to one type of person.

But that’s changing.

An evolving audience.

As of 2022, 22% of the US population is considered the Millennial Generation (born 1981 - 1996) and 21% is Generation Z (born 1997 - 2012). Those born in 1997 are at least 25 years old. Millennials are in their early 40s.

More than just age segments, Millennials are more ethnically and racially diverse than the generations that came before, and the Gen Z cohort is on track to being the most diverse and best-educated generation.

From a financial perspective, these generations have spotlighted the conversation—or lack it—happening around money. In Rebel’s Consumer Journey in Finance report, 50% of adults reported first learning about money from their family, while 36% reported relying on past mistakes to teach them about finances.

Digging deeper, we find that while people reported learning about money from their families, ”learning” takes on a number of different definitions—from watching parents struggle through debt and financial losses to hands-on parental guidance in money management. We all know we pick up all kinds of habits, good and bad while growing up in our family—money habits are no different.

For females, this dynamic may be particularly acute. Research from Ellevest reported that more than 1 in 3 women were taught that talking about money is taboo. While they’d like to talk about money, 31% are unsure who to have the conversations with.

Couple this with mounting financial pressure and dismal outlooks on personal finance for Millennials and shifting financial priorities for Gen Z, and well… Houston, we have a problem.

I don’t feel like we really had any real broad discussions about money...It just was always, 'Hey don’t spend so much all the time’ and that was pretty much it. I wish I had a little bit more.

These populations specifically are the base audience for social media platforms where the #FinTok trend is happening. In 2023, 68% of TikTok's audience and 51% of Instagram’s audience are 18-34 years old.

The culture of closed-lip conversations around money, combined with evolving audience demographics and growing financial needs, creates a noticeable, unmet need that legacy finance brands have fallen asleep on and ushered in a unique white space the #FinTok trend seems to fill.

The question legacy finance brands should be asking is, what can we learn from the #FinTok trend?

Finance doesn’t need to be formal to be effective. Finance brands have a reputation for formality. And, in some cases, rightfully so. It’s an industry full of constraints, regulations, and compliance requirements—most of which are in place to create accountability and clarity. While formality may still be right for some verticals of finance—it’s best to avoid this when approaching the masses.

So what are brands doing about it? Turns out—#FinTok is doubling down on this casual approach. For example, SoFi leverages the stadium named after them to post quick game time spots about financial literacy.

Fidelity Investments on TikTok

Fidelity Investments has leveraged TikTok to create an open space to address financial literacy topics with a sense of humor and casual delivery.

Legacy brands. We’re looking at you—learning how to embrace a less formal approach for specific channels and segments will be an important step in your long-term relevance as a brand. At the end of the day, formality in finance is great for specific cohorts and segments—but it doesn’t, and definitely shouldn’t, apply to all.

Finance doesn’t need to be complicated to be engaging. There’s an old belief in finance that if you make it so complicated, people will reach out to ask questions.

Negative, Ghost Rider. They are not reaching out to ask questions because it’s complicated. They reach out to ask questions because they believe they have what it takes to take the next step. This is an important distinction we discuss in our finance report—Consumer Journeys in Finance.

The #FinTok trend demonstrates just how powerful quick, to-the-point, and simplified financial education can be when delivered to the right audience.

Finance doesn’t need to be “corporate” to be qualified. In fact, in some segments, the “corporate vibe” is likely working against you. Money is deeply human, and humans are deeply irrational. As a result, relatability matters. How you make people feel matters. And when money is unrelatable, hard to execute, or makes people feel stupid or incompetent—they disengage and default to “this isn’t for me.”

Gut check.

The finance landscape has been in a constant state of evolution for the last decade. As younger generations take the reigns of their personal finance decisions and goals and older generations retire, legacy finance brands have some hard conversations ahead.

Business as usual, or at least the delivery of services the same way we’ve always delivered services approach, isn’t going to work in the long run. You can quote me on that.