Gen Zers can't stop talking about their money troubles on TikTok. It could come at a cost.

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Gen Zers can't stop talking about their money troubles on TikTok. It could come at a cost.
Gen Z is struggling with money and turning to TikTok for comraderie (stock image). Longhua Liao/Getty Images
  • Gen Zers are expressing their financial struggles on TikTok
  • As a generation, they favor paychecks over traditional career progression.
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Staring into the camera with tear-filled eyes, Gen Zer Abby Ferrell said she was "miserable" in her job and couldn't pay her bills.

In a raw TikTok video, she said she was spending weekends in bed because she felt she had no money to do anything else, and felt cheated because she'd worked so hard to get where she was.

"And you just feel lied to, because you thought that if you just went to college and got a degree you'd be able to afford a house and like things that make you happy," she said. "But yet you still barely can afford groceries or clothes or literally anything that makes you happy at all."

TikTok is full of videos like Ferrell's, with young people complaining that surprise rent increases, extortionate grocery bills, and minimal pay raises are making them feel trapped.

They are crying out about their finances to anyone who will listen — but it could come at a cost.

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Zoomers are a wealth-obsessed generation. They follow the money, putting paychecks above career steps that were once viewed as aspirational, like management positions or promotions.

A job is just a job to Gen Z, who feel like the juice of career progression is not worth the squeeze. They favor time off and an easier work life where they can "quiet thrive" in their lazy girl jobs or side hustles rather than out-perform their peers for little financial reward.

Even so, more than previous generations, they feel that the financial security of a staff position is not enough for them to feel wealthy, and they're more stressed about their savings than any other age bracket.

They have already had to contend with skyrocketing rents, a dire cost-of-living crisis, and multiple economic downturns in their short lives.

So it's no wonder that TikTok, the platform many of them use to communicate, is where they call out for help.

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Jareen Imam, a creator and media executive who makes content about money and work, told Business Insider that TikTok has normalized how openly people speak about finances, which is why these raw outpourings exist.

"There's something very vulnerable about sharing your money story online, especially through video," she said. "It almost feels confessional in a way."

The audience engaging with the story and discussing their own experiences makes people "feel valued," she said.

"It's also comforting to see people who are in the same financial situation as you, it can be motivating and empowering to know you're not alone," she said.

Markia Brown, an accredited financial counselor, financial educator, and TikTok creator with more than 200,000 followers, told BI TikTok also helps people find others who may be going through the same financial woes.

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"It can be a very isolating journey if you don't have supportive people around you physically, or if your family just doesn't have that experience," she said. "So it does help create that sense of community that is necessary for a lot of people to make certain changes."

Not everyone who reaches out has your best interests at heart, though, Brown warned. TikTok is rife with scammers, she said, who may try to push you into products that will get them a paycheck but not benefit you in any way.

"The internet is a cool place, but it's also a dangerous place," Brown said. "So you just got to be really, really careful with the content you're consuming and the people that you're trusting."

Gen Zers can't stop talking about their money troubles on TikTok. It could come at a cost.
Social media is full of rich influencers with enviable lifestyles.EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/Getty Images

Imam said social media also has the tendency to distort reality — particularly when it comes to money.

With rich influencers and people claiming to make millions, it can be hard not to compare lifestyles. This can lead to financial envy and money anxiety, Imam said, as well as something called "money dysmorphia."

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"Money dysmorphia is such a fascinating issue because, in short, it's when someone has a distorted view of their finances," she said. "They might think they are richer or poorer than they actually are."

This may manifest as someone using buy-now-pay-later apps for luxury goods they can't really afford to copy their favorite influencers, or it may mean feeling so anxious about money that you don't spend anything at all.

TikTok and other social media have democratized information, Imam said, which builds knowledge, such as how to optimize credit card use or find the best savings accounts.

But while this content can be aspirational it can also make people feel bad, she added.

"It's easier to feel worse about your financial standing when you see so many influencers portraying a curated lifestyle that shows off wealth, glamour, and success," she said.

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"We need to do a better job reminding people a lot of content on TikTok is meant to sell you something, if it's not a physical product, it's a lifestyle, or it's a brand."

Brown agreed that it's a mixed bag. But overall, she supports people opening up on the platform and crowdsourcing solutions to their problems.

"You just never know what part of your story could help somebody along theirs," she said.

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