Can You Trust That Financial Influencer?
Welcome to Saving Money with Andrew!
First, an important note: a reader pointed out that there was an optional donation link in my last post. This was in error: please do not donate. I will never accept any advertisements, sponsorships, or other financial support for this newsletter. Substack included the button by default, and I have removed it.
Now, on to the post. Friends and readers often send me links to “financial influencers”, or people who share snappy and entertaining videos on social media about personal finance and investing. Some important questions:
First, Are They Qualified To Offer Advice?
Most financial influencers have little to no real-world experience. Almost none of them have more than superficial experience in any related field (finance, accounting, law, etc), and many of them are college students or recent graduates who are often just repackaging advice they’ve heard elsewhere. Occasionally they will have experience in one area but freely opine about just about anything personal finance-related. Be wary.
Next, What’s In It For Them?
Why are they offering financial advice? Sometimes it’s to build an audience. Often they are selling something. In the past few months, I’ve seen many short-form influencer videos that claim to be about a certain topic but then lead into ads for specific credit cards, financial apps, or even dodgy crypto investments. While this does not presumptively disqualify them, it raises enough questions about objectivity that you’re better off simply ignoring the video and moving on. I rarely see a financial influencer post about anything without attempting to sell something.
Finally, Are They Appealing To You As A Member of An “Affinity Group”?
People more readily trust others with a common background or identity. This often leaves us vulnerable. I have come across many influencers who make their identity (often gender, race, or religion) a major part of their pitch.
While you may feel more comfortable taking advice from someone who looks like you, is part of the same group, or shares common experiences, it may also cause you to let your guard down to misinformation or bad advice.
At worst, note that many questionable financial products are promoted aggressively within specific groups—for example, “Christian cost-sharing ministries” by influencers popular in the evangelical community, or crypto investing or costly personal finance courses often promoted by influencers who target women in their 20’s and 30’s.
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