Amplify: A millennial financial literacy journey, from TikTok to banking

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Sierra Bein is the author of the Globe Climate newsletter and a content editor at The Globe and Mail.

When I was growing up, I had a whole plan that I would have a house and a husband at age…I am right now.

Spoiler alert: At 26, I have neither.

Most of my friends have come to the same realization as me: the world we live in is not the same as the one our parents lived in when they were our age. To get the same things as them, we have to be smarter with our money and make it work harder for us.

Growing up, many of us had little or no formal education about money. Luckily for my youngest sister, by the time she was in high school, her program offered personal finance lessons. My quasi-lessons came from my parents, both first-generation immigrants, who learned things the hard way as young adults in a new country. They shared those lessons, about interest rates and credit cards, with their parents then, and then with me. But even with this transfer of knowledge, our experiences are different.

These days, we are witnessing 30-year high inflation, record house prices and the virtual certainty of rising interest rates in the months ahead. Food and electricity prices are going up, and I put off having kids because I couldn’t afford them anyway.

The mainstream media tells us what’s going on, but it seems increasingly difficult to find solutions to the financial problems of people my age. But leave it to zillennials, that generation caught between millennials and Gen Z, to find answers to their own problems.

My social media feed is flooded with advice from people my age on how to handle hustles, multiple incomes, passive incomes and most applicable to me – how they invest it all to make those dollars grow.

I see most of these conversations on TikTok — tutorials, tips, and insider insights into how people manage their money. The social media platform is also where I learned that investing is the only way to keep up with the rate of inflation – otherwise your money loses value over the years. It occurred to me, that’s exactly what I was doing. In my early adult years, I simply emptied my savings into a TFSA and left it there. I thought that was enough to save for my future. Then, during the early days of the pandemic, as I spent more time online reading all this financial literacy content, I decided to give my savings another look.

But I wasn’t inspired by all the advice I found on social media. Cryptobros and NTF pushers felt too volatile; the DIY routes seemed a bit closer to what I wanted, but I didn’t feel like jumping into the depths right away. I knew I could find valuable information through Reddit threads, more TikTok videos, and of course reading endless resources online, but I was new to this and had so many questions. I wanted help. So I called an advisor from my bank and we talked about things I didn’t know.

We created mutual funds to start with. Because I want my portfolio to match my personal values, we found Socially Responsible Investments (SRI).

Now, almost a year after that initial conversation, I’ve set up pension investments, and I have an RRSP and a few other mutual funds going. Eventually, I plan to move into self-directed investing.

I am not here to say that I have become the most experienced investor. I learned from the resources available to me – and to you too. I was fortunate to also be able to learn from my colleagues here at the Globe. I even helped create our Green Investing 101 newsletter course, with valuable input from knowledgeable journalists.

But on this trip, I learned a few things about myself. I know for those who weren’t brought up with financial knowledge, it can be a little scary to start. And I have to admit, it can be even more daunting to get into investing, a male-dominated field, as a woman. (I’ve since learned that women are better investors than men.)

For now, I’m a fairly cautious investor – despite advice that I’m the perfect age to take risks. I think I will go this route when I have more to bet. I’ve also found that since I started investing in mutual funds, I read the news differently – I spend more time learning about the world, how news events affect my investments, and trying to grasp the complex realities of economics.

No matter where you get your information, it’s important to do what’s right for you. And learn from my mistake – don’t let your savings sit there, losing value with each passing day. I feel empowered to now have a plan for my money, and while I’m still learning as I go, as financial literacy expert @moneywithcass says on TikTok, it’s much better than nothing make.

What else are we thinking of:

Reading the news made me cry more than once. I actually consider it one of my admirable traits. Even though I work in the media, I may not have been totally desensitized. The last story that made me cry was about the water emergency in Iqaluit, Nunavut. My emotional reaction may seem strange to some people, but can you imagine waking up and smelling the smell of fuel in your tap water? I can’t, because I’ve never had to worry about whether my water is safe to drink or not. No one should.

Inspired by something in this newsletter? If so, we hope you amplify it by passing it on. And if there’s anything we should know, or feedback you’d like to share, email us at [email protected]