What can TikTok tell us about the finance habits of Millennials and Gen Zers?

Aoife Loy
Aoife Loy

What’s this all about?

In our new series, we’re looking at popular social media platforms to examine the kind of financial content being shared and consumed by the younger generations through these platforms. Today, social networks play a significant role in the spreading of information across the globe and saw a massive increase in usage during the pandemic. First up, we look at TikTok, a video-based social media app, the user base of which skews particularly young, to discover what we can learn about how interested they are in finance and what they’re talking about.

Read on if you:

  • Want to know more about TikTok
  • Are keen to learn about the finance niche on TikTok
  • Have an interest in discovering the kinds of things Millennials and Gen Zers are talking about online without having to ask your teenager!

The coming decades will see a tremendous amount of wealth transferred to Millennials and Generation Zers. According to CB Insights, Millennials are expected to control as much as $20 trillion of assets globally and their parents (the Baby Boomers) are expected to pass down another $30 trillion by 2050 in North America alone.

At the same time, Millennials and Generation Zers are the generations most likely to ‘use an app for that’. Controlling an estimated spending power of $143 billion annually, Gen Zers spend 10 per cent more time on non-game apps than older generations, while young internet users in general are also more likely to say that it has a positive impact on society.

Unpicking the various dynamics of the impact of social media could easily extend to an entire article in itself. However, in understanding the information which young people are consuming — and indeed sharing — about banking and finance, a couple of factors stand out. Firstly, social media is deeply embedded in the purchase journey, particularly in the discovery and research aspects. This is not limited to such products that can be ‘added to cart’ but also extends to services and experiences.

Secondly, as revealed by a Social Flagship report by Global Web Index, social media is the bedrock of our digital news habits. Regarding the pandemic, the report notes other trends including:

  • The use of social media for entertainment purposes is now on a greater scale than before
  • Younger consumers are using social media, messaging services and apps more due to the outbreak
  • Many younger consumers have taken to livestreaming in the last few months

TikTok sits at the intersection of these trends being video-based and skewing towards younger users in particular. In 2020, it saw a huge growth of 75 per cent as users were locked down and gravitating towards fun, relatable and easily digestible content. In fact, TikTok is the origin point for many of the short clips which appear on other platforms. Although it was thought to be primarily a Generation Z thing, a significant portion of its user base is now made up of Millennials too.

Millennial and Generation Z: Breakdown

Birth years
Population size
Ages in 2021
1981 – 1996
1.7 billion
25 – 40
Generation Z
1997 – 2012
1.8 billion
11 – 24

The 411 on TikTok

If you’ve never used TikTok, it’s a social media app that allows users to create 15-second videos soundtracked by music clips. It’s also possible to string four 15-second segments together to create a one-minute video.

ByteDance, its Beijing-headquartered parent company, is recognised as an AI tech leader and some attribute its success in large part to the AI and machine learning algorithms that deliver customised content feeds to its users, noting that ByteDance has succeeded where Alibaba and Tencent have not in finding success beyond China. While not the most populous of the social media apps (Facebook has 2.8 billion monthly active users), it was the most downloaded app of 2020 in a strong year which saw an estimated revenue of $1 billion and a valuation of $50 billion.

Meanwhile, its user base continues to grow with 2.6 billion downloads and over 1 billion monthly active users globally.

TikTok users generally skew particularly young

Source: Statistica

TikTok has a statistically younger demographic with over 50 per cent made up of under 30s. Another 16.5 per cent of its user base is made up of those aged between 30 and 39 — grazing the oldest age of those born within the Millennial age grouping.

The social media app has an age limit of 13 but many pre-teens still use it, with a recent survey citing it as the most popular app amongst children aged 8-12. Its gender split is thought to be 53 per cent male and 47 per cent female.

TikTok is primarily known for its light content and leans heavily on influencer culture. Its user base is described in the Global Web Index report as wanting brands to be young, in comparison with Instagram which wants brands to be trendy or cool.

The report also finds that TikTok users have been sharing more of the following:

  • Funny videos 48%
  • Personal news/updates 47%
  • Memes 39%
  • News stories related to coronavirus 28%
  • Influencer social media posts 24%
  • A brand’s social media posts 21%
  • News stories not related to coronavirus 21%
  • Brand/product recommendations 21%

ByteDance, the parent company behind TikTok, has succeeded where Alibaba and Tencent have not in finding success beyond China.

So where does finance fit in?

Despite perceptions about TikTok and its content, the finance niche is well and truly active on the platform with billions of views accumulated for hashtags like ‘finance’ and ‘personal finance’. There’s also a specific hashtag used to refer to finance TikToks, ‘fintok’, which has 171.1 million views alone.

A look at the combination of words that make up these hashtags reveals a recurrence of those relating to guidance such as ‘tips’, ‘literacy’, ‘advice’, ‘guru’ as well as those which broaden out to enablement such as ‘financial freedom’. There are also hashtags like ‘financebro’, which suggests a more mano a mano way of sharing information.

From this brief analysis of some of the popular hashtags used to share videos about finance, it’s clear that finance is a popular topic and that knowledge is shared with that blend of informative and entertainment which is so prevalent on TikTok.

Popular finance-related hashtags on TikTok

Number of views
3.6 billion
1.6 billion
270.2 million
171.9 million
137.7 million
104.3 million
78.7 million
57 million
37.3 million
26.7 million
10.3 million

There are many content creators who focus solely on finance

While the above hashtags are collection points for content from a range of accounts, there are a number of TikTok creators who focus solely on finance. The profile names similarly see a recurrence of terms that convey to followers that their content is all about guidance, relatability and enablement.

A snapshot of the most popular posts by a sample of creators see a lot of references to stocks, investing, purchasing property, building credit and preparing for retirement. This may be a surprise for a platform with such a young user base but the number of views and followers suggest that this content resonates with its niche.

Some TikToks include recommendations for apps such as:

  • TD Ameritrade
  • Wealth Simple Trade
  • Questrade
  • Trading 212
  • CMC Markets
  • TradingView

A snapshot of financial content creators

Number of followers
Most popular post
An easy way to build credit
10.1 million
How to buy stocks
6.9 million
Identity theft explainer
3.9 million
The smartest way to buy your first property
2.6 million
$1 million worth of stocks by retirement??
2.5 million
Retirement formula
Basics of stock investing
1.5 million
Leaving banking for the buyside
Stocks before Biden’s first 100 days
1.4 million
Long-term investing
If you invested $1000 10 years ago
1.1 million

There’s a lot of knowledge-sharing around building wealth

An analysis of the titles/topics of 50 TikToks taken from various hashtags and creators shows that similar terms come up in this broader sample: stock, millionaire, credit, retirement, money, house etc. There’s also fairly prominent mention of Tesla, a nod to the fact that many Millennials revere Elon Musk.

The high prevalence of the term ‘millionaire’ suggests that creators and their users share an aspirational goal to build a high level of wealth and attain a certain lifestyle. Peppered amongst these recurrent terms are others like ‘first property’, ‘average person’ and ‘blueprint’, further underlining that this content is very much directed towards beginners and lower to middle-income earners.

At the same time, users on TikTok are creating lots of content about the ‘best way’, ‘smartest way’, ‘basics’, ‘explanation’ etc, suggesting caution and a desire not to get stung.

TikTok wordcloud
Word cloud of the titles or topics of 50 TikToks taken from various creators and hashtags.

Alongside these helpful ‘how-tos’ and ‘easy ways’ type videos, there are also purely humorous videos related to trends, experiences or news stories such as a song about taking Dogecoin ‘to the moon’ which was shared frequently on other platforms, even making a cameo appearance in a Wall Street Journal article.

Key takeaways

One key place to start with our final summations is that TikTok users are young and see an entertainment element in creating and consuming content around financial experiences. They are also actively engaging with digestible sources of information about how they can build wealth, buy homes and set themselves up for retirement.

Indeed, it’s evident that this youthful, finance-oriented subculture on TikTok is interested in hitting the ground running and building wealth in the best way possible.

Natural questions arise from this study such as the quality of information that can be conveyed in such short bursts; the reliability of advice which may be given anecdotally and without detailed context.

As we’ve seen in recent weeks, it can be easy for young people to be misled while navigating the swathes of information and tools at their fingertips. Above all, the content shared and consumed on TikTok suggests that accessible, relatable information about how to manage their financial wellbeing is in high demand by Millennials and Gen Zers. It might just be the right time for financial institutions to capitalise on this opportunity.

Aoife Loy
Aoife Loy
Aoife is Lead Content Marketer at LEVERIS. She writes about our mission and approach to technological innovation.

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