One thing I love about Millennials and Zoomers is how freely we share advice.
Case in point, there are now countless wealth coaches and personal finance gurus on TikTok recording their best tips on saving, investing, and achieving financial freedom faster.
And we’re hungry for their advice. According to CNN, the hashtag “#personalfinance” alone has a total of four billion views, with “#financialliteracy” and “#financetiktok” not far behind.
However, while the intent is always sound, the tips themselves aren’t. There are some misguided and potentially devastating personal finance myths being perpetuated on TikTok these days, so I am here to address them head-on.
Let’s debunk seven of the most common TikTok money myths before you make a potentially dangerous financial move.
1. “You can (and should) get rich quick”
“Get rich quickly and easily by following my personal finance advice.”
Here’s how to instantly spot a personal finance influencer who abides by a “get rich quick” philosophy: just look for the lime green Lamborghini in the background.
Once they’ve given you a few seconds to lust after their six-figure Italian whip, they’ll start telling you how they “turned $5,000 into $723,000” by following “three simple rules of investing” or some such promise. Sounds appealing.
Multiplying money on that scale, in that little time, always involves a staggering amount of risk, luck, or both. This is assuming, of course, that the influencer is even being 100% truthful – and that background Lambo isn’t a rental.
Actual financial advisors, and their very rich clients, will give you this advice:
“Get rich slowly.”
If you wouldn’t spend your life savings on lottery tickets, you shouldn’t get your financial advice from TikTok influencers who got lucky, either. The key is to get rich without the risk, and here’s exactly how to do it, step-by-step.
2. “Day trading is easier than you think”
Historically, only the rich and well-connected could make money on the stock market. But now that we have apps like Robinhood and Webull, everyday investors like you and me can buy, sell, and trade stocks ourselves, getting rich in the process just like day traders on Wall Street.
97% of day traders lose money.
That’s according to a large-scale study of day traders, where the researchers concluded:
“We show that it is virtually impossible for individuals to day trade for a living, contrary to what course providers claim.”
By contrast, “only” 70% or so of gamblers in Vegas lose money, according to the Wall Street Journal. So your money is safer on the roulette table than taking a TikTokers’ investing advice (but still, don’t gamble).
3. “Rich people look rich”
Earn big, spend big. As your income level rises and you start to feel “rich,” it’s time to start acting like it. Get a luxury apartment, lease a Mercedes, and don’t hesitate to buy that $2,000 purse.
Besides, what’s the point of working hard if you’re not playing hard?
This one is definitely more of an implication than a direct piece of advice. I don’t know of any TikTokers who are outright saying “spend all of your money” – but there are certainly plenty who are leading by example.
Rich people become rich precisely because they don’t spend money – they invest it. There’s a saying by famous-yet-frugal YouTuber Scotty Kilmer that I think about all the time:
“Broke people buy BMWs, and rich people buy Toyotas.”
Rich (or soon-to-be-rich) people know that if they buy a Toyota instead of a BMW at age 30, and invest the $30,000 difference at 10% APY, they’ll have:
- $77,812 when they’re 40.
- $201,825 when they’re 50.
- $843,073 when they retire at 65.
The point of this anecdote isn’t to throw shade at Bimmer, but rather, to highlight how rich people think differently before making a purchase. They don’t think:
“How much can I afford?”
“How much can I save and invest?”
In short, rich people don’t lead extravagant lifestyles – they lead frugal, yet comfortable lifestyles now so they can live however they want later.
4. “Live on a shoestring budget”
On the complete other side of the spectrum, there are TikTokers who advocate a shoestring lifestyle, where rigorous budgeting and extremely limited pleasure spending are the only viable pathways to financial freedom.
It’s totally OK to buy nice things and treat yourself.
In the previous example, yes, a BMW costs $30,000 more than a Toyota – and if you invest that money instead of buying a fancier car, you’ll have a fortune waiting for you by retirement.
That being said, if the BMW brings you joy and makes you happy (and you can afford it), buy it.
The key to achieving financial mindfulness isn’t to spend less – it’s to spend more mindfully on the things that truly matter to you. There are influencers out there who say you should stop going out to eat cold turkey because a restaurant meal for two can easily exceed $60 or even $100.
But financial mindfulness says that if that meal helps you build a relationship with someone, it’s worth it.
Draconian saving can be just as misguided as wanton spending. The key, then, is to determine how much you can safely spend each month, and then to spend that money on the people and things that bring you the most joy.
5. “Cryptocurrency will make you rich”
This one’s pretty straightforward, and I have heard it straight from countless TikTokers’ mouths: crypto will make you rich.
I mean, what other investment vehicle has provided anything even close to the 750,000,000% ROI that Bitcoin has since 2011?
I got rich off crypto and you will, too – hop aboard before it’s too late.
Cryptocurrency is like a fast-moving, rickety roller coaster at the county fair. The foundation hasn’t completely crumbled, but the wooden boards and screws holding it up are falling off with each passing car.
Hop aboard the crypto train at your own peril.
It’s true that Bitcoin has had a miracle run since 2011, rising from $0.008 to a peak of around $65,000 in April 2021 and making a lot of people very, very rich. But even diehard crypto fans have acknowledged that a “Bitcoin winter” is coming – that is, if it hasn’t already.
The Bitcoin winter is just one of the many huge risks to a crypto investment. The others (like China’s clampdown on mining) are fast approaching the roller coaster’s foundation with a sledgehammer.
Can Bitcoin still make you rich? Maybe, but there are plenty of safer rides at the carnival.
6. “Just copy the investments of rich people”
You can’t copy athletes to win gold medals, nor can you copy New York Times Best Sellers to sell more books.
However, you can totally copy the investing strategy of rich people to get rich.
In fact, they want you to copy them – either because your investment makes their investment more valuable, or simply out of the goodness of their heart. Warren Buffet famously shares his trades with the public so they can borrow and benefit from his wisdom.
So why spend 14 hours a day researching good trades when you can just copy someone else’s homework – especially when they ask you to?
Rich people can afford to make extremely risky investments and lose money that you and I can’t afford. For that reason, they shouldn’t always be followed into battle.
Warren Buffet is also famous for admitting when he’s made a mistake. In 2014, he confessed that he’d held onto shares of Tesco for way too long, costing him and his investors $444 million. Berkshire Hathaway’s investors may have been able to shrug off the loss, but any outsiders emulating Buffet’s moves may have been screwed.
Copying the investments of rich people may be a viable strategy if their investments fit within your financial goals and risk tolerance. For help determining whether that’s the case, you want to talk to a wealth advisor.
7. “You don’t need a wealth advisor”
Thanks to zero-commission trading platforms, you no longer need to buy and trade stocks through a sweaty stockbroker in some Manhattan office.
By that same logic, the emergence of robo-advisors and the fountains of free financial advice on TikTok have eliminated the need for old-fashioned wealth advisors. After all, why give someone 2% of your hard-earned gains when it’s never been easier to invest your money yourself?
The recent trifecta of online brokers, robo-advisors, and personal finance gurus on social media has done wonders empowering Millennials and Zoomers to handle our money better. The TikTok DIYers certainly have one thing right: it’s never been easier to make your own trades.
However, despite birthing a renaissance in financial literacy, nothing on TikTok can replace the tailored, one-on-one advice you’d get from a professional wealth advisor.
Robo-advisors can personalize your investing strategy to an extent, but they can’t play a direct role in helping you navigate the markets and make good decisions.
There’s plenty of sound personal finance advice on TikTok, but it only takes one bad tip to cost you money.
For that reason, it literally pays to separate the wheat from the chaff. Not everyone who’s made money is a skilled investor – some are just lucky.