Don’t Be Fooled by Fake Financial Influencers: 8 Ways to Spot the Real Deal
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Social media is revolutionary. Never has there been a time in human history when we’ve been able to group-source so much information from so many people to make a thoughtful decision about our finances.
But when it comes to TikTok financial gurus and influencers, don’t be a sheep. Beware of false prophets who might lead you astray with impressive content, follower numbers, and clout, but all they know is flashy promises and gimmicks between memes and dance moves.
Social media is simply a medium for delivering a message, whether it’s about side hustles, reducing the stress of living paycheck to paycheck, or saving for retirement. These are platforms where personal stories and anecdotes about financial literacy can be inspirational and empowering. Depending on what creators you follow, there’s a treasure trove of valuable information from trustworthy creators with the best intentions for their audience.
But it’s also important to have some street smarts about anyone who claims to have all the answers, but can’t back it up with facts or credentials. They know that money is emotional and part of the formula for driving their virality and popularity. Do they show receipts for their claims? If not, it could be a sign they’re just gaming the platform to clout farm about financial matters without actually providing anything useful.
Trustworthiness is important. Sincerity is important. Remember, your hard-earned money is valuable, so don’t let some fancy influencer take advantage of you.
Instead, do your own research and seek the advice of a trusted financial professional who can help you make smart decisions that will set you up for success. A little critical thinking goes a long way.
Below are eight ways to tell if a financial guru on TikTok or Instagram is legit or a grifter.
Do they have brand deals with legit financial services companies?
We live in the attention economy. Everyone is vying for everyone else’s attention, including financial services brands looking to pay social media creators for content that aligns with their customer acquisition and marketing strategies.
Simply put, if someone on TikTok or Instagram has a big following, is generally likable, and doling out great advice, the advertising world will notice. In fact, in many instances they’ll pay a premium to be around that sort of content, since it aligns with their values and customer acquisition process.
If a financial guru on TikTok has brand deals with legit financial services companies, it can be a good sign that they are a legitimate and trustworthy source of financial advice. This is because reputable financial companies typically have strict criteria for choosing influencers to partner with. They will only work with influencers with a solid reputation and track record of providing sound financial advice.
When a financial influencer or creator has a brand deal with a reputable financial services company, it shows that they have passed the company’s vetting process by their marketing and, most importantly, legal team. Therefore, the company is willing to put their name and reputation behind the influencer’s content. This can give viewers more confidence in the advice being offered, and can help to build trust between the influencer and their audience.
Usually this also means the creator is set up as an actual business, as either a sole proprietor or LLC with a tax EIN number, showing that they’re serious about the content they make.
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Sometimes this requires a deep dive into an influencer’s socials to see what brands they’ve worked with to piece together the extent of their work with reputable companies. Some categories to look out for include financial technology companies, tax services, or other investing brokerages or services
In addition, working with a reputable financial services company can also provide the influencer with access to resources and expertise that can further enhance the quality of their content. This can include access to exclusive market research, data, and insights that are a part of that company’s overall marketing objectives, as utilized by the creator.
You don’t have to have flashy brand deals to be legit and have great intentions, of course. Great, authentic advice can come from anyone. But it’s something to think of when considering the legitimacy of a creator’s message.
However, it’s important to note that while a brand deal with a reputable financial services company can be a good sign, it is not a guarantee that the financial guru is providing accurate or suitable advice for everyone. It’s still important to do your own research and make sure that any financial advice you receive is suitable for your individual circumstances and goals.
Is their only way of monetizing their content and following by asking you to buy an ebook or sign up for only courses?
There’s a good chance you’ve come across a TikTok creator that’s constantly promoting their own ebook that unlocks all the secrets to health and wealth. This can be a major red flag.
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If a financial guru on TikTok’s only way of monetizing their content and following is by asking you to buy an ebook or sign up for their courses, it can be a warning sign that their primary focus may be on making money rather than providing quality financial advice.
While it’s understandable for so-called financial gurus to want to monetize their content and make a living from sharing their expertise, if their only focus is on selling products or services, it can indicate that they are more interested in making a quick buck than in providing value to their audience. If the information in that ebook is so useful, they probably aren’t afraid to let bits and pieces of it out to their audience with their free content over time.
In addition, offering courses or ebooks can be a profitable business model, but it can also create a conflict of interest. A financial guru who is selling a course or ebook may be more focused on promoting their product than on providing unbiased and accurate financial advice.
Moreover, many ebooks or courses may not be tailored to the specific needs of their audience. Instead, they may be general or generic, which can limit their effectiveness in helping people with their specific financial goals and situations. Then you not only threw your hard earned money away, but also didn’t learn something useful as a result.
Do they spend more time flexing about their net worth and success than providing specific actionable steps for building yours?
If a financial guru on TikTok spends more time flexing about their net worth and success than providing specific actionable steps for building your own wealth, it can be a warning sign that they may be more interested in self-promotion than in helping their audience achieve their financial goals.
Look out for the usual warning signs like flaunting a lifestyle of luxury or exclusivity where everything looks…. expensive. Cars, clothes, watches, vacations – the telltale signs.
While it’s understandable for financial gurus to be proud of their accomplishments and want share their success with others, if they are not providing concrete steps and actionable advice for their audience to follow, they may not be fulfilling their role as a financial educator.
Moreover, constantly flexing about their own success can create unrealistic expectations for their audience, and can give the impression that building wealth is easy and straightforward, which is not always the case. Building wealth often requires hard work, discipline, and a solid plan, and financial gurus who only focus on their own success can create a false sense of what it takes to achieve financial success.
Instead, look for financial gurus who provide specific and actionable steps for building wealth. These are the kinds of creators who aren’t afraid to share stories of their own mistakes and failures. They know this helps put things in perspective to learn.
A good financial guru should focus on empowering their audience with the knowledge and tools they need to build wealth, rather than just bragging about their own accomplishments.
Do they use generic language? Or are they specific about the steps taken to achieve financial success?
If a financial guru on TikTok uses generic language or fails to be specific about the steps they’ve taken to achieve financial success, it can be a warning sign that their advice may not be based on personal experience or suitable for your individual circumstances.
A massive pet peeve, for example, is when someone talks about “investing” without specifying what they actually invested in. Yes, investing is usually a big part of the roadmap for building long-term wealth. But there are all kinds of things you can invest in. Residential real estate? Commercial real estate? Index funds? Specific growth stocks? Bonds? Cypto? Gold? A business? Heck, simply putting your cash in a high yield money market account can classify as investing.
Another is constantly talking about side hustles without specifically stating what the side hustles are and what actions must be taken to do them.
Generic language can be a red flag because it suggests the financial guru may be using broad and unspecific terms to appeal to a wide audience, without actually providing concrete or actionable advice.
On the other hand, a financial guru who is specific about the steps they’ve taken to achieve financial success is likely to have personal experience and insights that can be valuable to their audience. When they discuss investing, they should be able to provide specific details about the types of investments they have made and why those investments have worked for them.
For example, someone who talks about how they grew their retirement nest egg over decades in a low and slow way in an index fund. Or had a side hustle reselling sneakers for extra cash in their spare time.
By being specific, a financial guru can show that they have a deep understanding of the financial principles they are teaching, and that they are not just regurgitating information they read somewhere else.
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It’s important to look for financial gurus who are specific about the steps they’ve taken to achieve financial success, and who can provide personalized advice tailored to your individual circumstances and goals. This can help ensure that you receive the most relevant and effective advice for your own financial journey.
Do they promote get-rich-quick schemes?
If a financial guru on TikTok promotes get-rich-quick schemes or if their advice seems too good to be true, it can be a warning sign that their advice may not be reliable or credible.
Get-rich-quick schemes often promise easy and quick ways to make money, without requiring much effort or investment. However, in reality, building wealth takes time, discipline, and careful planning.
Financial gurus who promote get-rich-quick schemes may be more focused on making money themselves rather than providing valuable advice to their audience. They may be motivated by a desire to sell their products or services, rather than a genuine desire to help people improve their financial situation.
Moreover, financial gurus who make unrealistic promises or claims can create false expectations among their audience, which can lead to disappointment or even financial loss.
It’s important to be cautious of financial gurus who promote get-rich-quick schemes or who make unrealistic claims about their advice. Look for financial gurus who provide practical and actionable advice, who are transparent about their own experiences and success, and who prioritize the needs and goals of their audience. This can help ensure that you receive reliable and effective advice that is tailored to your individual circumstances and goals.
Are they transparent about how they built their wealth?
If a financial guru on TikTok is transparent about how they built their wealth, it can be a good sign that they are trustworthy and committed to helping their audience succeed.
Transparency is important because it allows the audience to see how the financial guru has achieved success and what strategies they have used. This information can be valuable for anyone looking to improve their own financial situation.
A financial guru who is transparent about how they built their wealth is also more likely to be credible and trustworthy, as they are willing to be open and honest about their own experiences.
Some examples: Do they have a high paying six-figure job? Did they get a head start with a big inheritance? Did they not have any student loan debt? Did they have a financial windfall when they sold a company?
You should have a sense of clarity on how a someone earned the bread on their table before you start to take any kind of advice from them.
Additionally, financial gurus who are transparent about how they built their wealth can also provide valuable insights and guidance for their audience. By sharing their own experiences and strategies, they can help their audience avoid common pitfalls and make informed financial decisions.
Overall, it’s important to look for financial gurus who are transparent about how they built their wealth and prioritize the needs and goals of their audience. This can help ensure that you receive reliable and effective advice tailored to your individual circumstances and goals.
Are they credentialed?
Accreditation is important. Doctors, nurses, real estate agents, teachers, and, heck, even barbers need to be licensed by state governments before they can put their profession into practice.
If a financial guru on TikTok is credentialed, it can be a good sign that they have the necessary education and experience to provide reliable financial advice.
Credentials such as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), or a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) indicate that the financial guru has completed rigorous training and testing, and has met strict standards of professionalism and ethics.
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In addition to providing evidence of the financial guru’s knowledge and expertise, credentials can also provide a sense of trust and confidence for their audience. It shows they have met certain qualifications and are recognized by reputable organizations in the financial industry.
It’s important to note, however, that not all credentials are created equal, and not all financial gurus may have the same level of education or experience. It’s important to research the credentials of any financial guru you are considering following, and to make sure that they have the appropriate training and expertise to provide the advice you need.
Do they cite sources?
Consider the source. A legitimate financial guru will cite their sources and use reliable information to support their claims. If they make claims that seem too good to be true or don’t provide any evidence to back them up, that could be a red flag.
When checking the sources of a financial personality on TikTok, it’s important to look for reliable and reputable sources of information. Here are a few examples:
- Industry publications: Check if the financial guru references industry publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, or Bloomberg. These publications often have rigorous standards for accuracy and are trusted sources of financial news and analysis.
- Government websites: Look for references to government websites such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or Federal Reserve. These sites provide valuable information on taxes, regulations, and other financial topics.
- Academic journals: Check if the financial guru references academic journals or studies. These sources provide in-depth analysis and research on financial topics and are often peer-reviewed to ensure accuracy.
- Reputable financial websites: Look for references to reputable financial websites such as Investopedia, Morningstar, or NerdWallet. These sites provide information on a wide range of financial topics and are known for their accuracy and credibility.
- Experts in the field: Check if the financial guru cites experts in the field, such as financial advisors, economists, or other financial professionals. These sources can provide valuable insights and perspectives on financial topics.
It’s important to note that while these sources can be helpful in evaluating the advice of a financial guru, it’s also important to do your own research and consider multiple sources of information before making any financial decisions.
Do they have a track record and real-world success stories?
If a financial guru on TikTok has a track record of real-world success stories, it can be a good sign that they have the experience and expertise to provide reliable financial advice.
A track record of success can take many forms, such as achieving financial independence, building a successful business, or making wise investment decisions. It’s important to look for financial gurus who have a history of success in areas that are relevant to your own financial goals.
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In addition to a track record of success, it’s also important to consider the financial guru’s peer group. Do they have friends and family that seem to have benefited from their success alongside them? A financial guru who has achieved success alongside a like-minded peer group can be a good sign that they are part of a community of individuals who share similar values and financial goals.
A like-minded peer group can provide support, accountability, and valuable insights and perspectives on financial topics. It can also help ensure that the success of the financial guru is not isolated, but part of a larger network of individuals working toward similar goals.
As the saying goes, it takes a village.