What comes to mind when influencers are mentioned? Detox tea? Relationship controversies? Rich, entitled people with seemingly weird behaviour? That seems to be all the rage on Snapchat or Instagram. Tabloids churn out exaggerated articles on influencers like Bella Thorne, who recently made the news for making $2 million on OnlyFans just earlier this month.
However, too much spotlight has been put on the bad apples of the industry. Due to the conduct of certain influencers, the general public has formed a negative stereotype of people who claim to be part of the industry. Although such blanket statements may be true for a part of the community, it is short-sighted to categorise and reduce all influencers as such.
Many are capable of doing good too. There are influencers who put out genuinely informative content for young adults like me and you, and one example of this is influencers who strive to help us with our problems with our own personal finance. Known as ‘fin-fluencers’, they have been rising in demand in recent days. In fact, I believe that some of them are good role models for us to emulate.
A quick run through of Patricia Bright’s YouTube channel ‘The Break’ shows her explaining how she manages her money, diversifying her income streams by having both active and passive income. She explains how active income is something you have to work for, like running a business, and passive income can be made in the background through things like investments in properties or stock markets.
These influencers help to demystify common misconceptions about money
People like Patricia are extremely relatable: before she was a influencer, she studied Accounting and Finance at university and worked in big-name institutions such as Merrill Lynch and Deloitte; she talks about her failures and how she overcame them to build her career and to where she is today. She inspires her viewers, and that’s why they keep coming back for her videos. The more she creates, the more the viewers learn.
We can also take a look at Humphrey Yang, with more than 865,000 followers on TikTok, who uses his passion for personal finance to create short videos that break down basic finance concepts like budgeting. One of his most interesting TikToks show him spending an entire Saturday night counting 10,000 individual grains of rice to explain the scale of money to teenagers on TikTok. This was mainly to help his audience visualise $1 billion and provide some context to what it means to have that kind of wealth.
These influencers help to demystify common misconceptions about money and help to provide a certain kind of financial literacy that most only realise later on in life. The rise in demand for personal finance influencers really underscores how many millennials or Gen Z’s are grappling with financial literacy and how many of them are turning to social media for help.
38% of millennials say they follow financial influencers on social media to keep up to date on financial markets
A Wall Street Journal survey found that 38% of millennials say they follow financial influencers on social media to keep up to date on financial markets and give such social media and blogs credit for shaping their outlook on money.
The interest for personal finance influencers have increased even more so amidst the pandemic, as people scramble to understand and make sense of the coronavirus economic impact. Ryan Scribner, a financial YouTuber with nearly 600,000 subscribers, has seen a fourfold increase in viewership on his videos concerning the coronavirus pandemic.
To the uninformed, these influencers give a more general understanding of certain trends and consequences that could occur due to the pandemic, and they provide certain tips and tricks to help the general public navigate their own finances.
I personally believe that students in particular benefit a lot from watching such videos. Many students do not have the chance to make financial decisions independent of parental support or guidance, and they are still heavily reliant on their parents before they head to university. So, university is the first time that they are expected to handle their own finances since they are away from home.
Long-term financial literacy is something that comes with practice
However, managing expenses comes with experience. Sixth Form does not teach students how to budget for weekly groceries, nor does it instil the importance of knowing how to handle finances in a responsible manner.
From personal experience, many university students find themselves broke after spending too much on alcohol and on partying (hopefully not in this pandemic!). This is increasingly worrying because research has shown that as many as two-thirds of all young adults do not have proper financial plans in place to help them transition from school into work, higher education or training. The most sensible way of preventing these issues from occurring is simply to learn how to do so.
In our internet-savvy generation, the easiest way to learn is to head over to YouTube and watch how other people do it. That is why such influencers are important in guiding young adults in managing their lives.
That said, long-term financial literacy is something that comes with practice. We should not expect ourselves to be able to plan the perfect budget or have the perfect saving plans instantly after watching a few YouTube or TikTok videos. We should not beat ourselves over not being able to spend within our budget once in a while. Most importantly, we should expect ourselves to get better at managing our expenses as we get used to university life and are better able to control our spending.
What matters the most is that we are conscious of how we spend now, so that we are able to plan for our future
What we can do is to be more aware of our spending habits and put what we learn in such personal finance videos to good use. Resist impulsive buys on ASOS despite really liking that new pair of boots and knowing deep down you already have three pairs that look almost the same. Give a budget for yourself when you go out partying so you can spend freely without worrying that you are going to deplete your bank account.
The route to building your personal wealth is a long and slow one. What matters the most is that we are conscious of how we spend now, so that we are able to plan for our future. As long as we own a social media profile, we will all subconsciously feel the effects of influencers, whether we like it or not. Even if we do not follow certain celebrity accounts, it is not rare to see sponsored posts on our Instagram promoting the next big trend.
We, as active users of such applications, must then take charge of our own followings. For example, decluttering our own social media following by subscribing to content creators like Patricia or Humphrey, whose videos allow us to learn and add value to our lives. Learning how to deal with financial matters is not easy. But we can start small and start now. I am genuinely grateful for such figures who share real life advice and their experiences to help us navigate growing up and making adulting a little easier.