6 red-hot, real-deal personal finance influencers
Ignore the flaks, connect with these respected experts on social media
By Erica Sandberg | Published: July 27, 2017
Consumer finance expert, author and “Opening Credits” columnist.
Need solid financial advice? You need to look no further than your favorite social media platform.
Social media influencers are people who share experiences, advice and recommendations on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For influencers in the personal finance space, the best have risen to the top of their field as genuine experts. Although they connect with their followers on a variety of subjects, their primary focus is to help people improve their financial health.
Not all influencers are who they seem, however. The Federal Trade Commission recently cracked down on those who push products on social media sites without disclosing the fact that they’re compensated. Others buy followers, inflating their numbers to make them appear more popular. Between 9 and 15 percent of Twitter accounts are bogus, a 2017 Indiana University study found. When seeking money and credit guidance, choose quality over (what could be false) quantity.
Because due diligence can be tough, we did the vetting for you. Here are six of the best personal finance influencers online today.
Tiffany Aliche, aka “the Budgetnista,” is author of “Live Richer Challenge: Learn How to Budget, Save, Get out of Debt, Improve Your Credit and Invest in 36 Days.” In her eponymous Facebook group, which she says is predominantly comprised of women of color, she leads participants to meet specific goals, such as raising a credit score.
Aliche describes herself as a financial girlfriend, not a guru. “I don’t believe in those,” she says. “It’s like a sorority. I encourage and offer ways to do better. In our Facebook community, people share a lot. They say, ‘I feel like I can trust you guys,’ and they can because we are strict about banning and blocking.”
This former schoolteacher also has a simple command plucked from that profession. Show your work. “You bought a car?” Aliche asks. “Great, now tell how you did it. Your story inspires. I want others who are struggling to see themselves in your position.”
Much of Aliche’s appeal is the prolific affirmation received in her group, from her and others. “We’re always here, and it’s free,” says Aliche. “Online you can touch so many people all at once. People share good news on their personal page and they may get 40 likes. Here you can get 4,000! That gets you excited. It validates all the hard work you do and makes it important.
“The most was for a woman who started out in a homeless shelter. Two to three years later, she wrote me and said she was closing on a house. She shared it in the group and got 10,000 likes. It motivated everyone.”
As a certified financial planner, author of “Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future,” blogger at GoodFinancialCents.com and Iraqi combat veteran, Jeff Rose has a passionate Twitter following. His mission is to show people how to dominate their financial problems, and he does it by simplifying complicated concepts. (He says that big words make him nauseous because they lose the interest of 99.9 percent of the population.)
Rose believes that he’s relatable because he has young children and is candid about his life. “I have a lot of GenXers and families, but I also get baby boomers,” he says. “I share my personal experiences, including the credit card debt that I had.”
Before social media, such openness wasn’t common among personal finance advisers, says Rose, who finds the change exciting. “It gives people confidence,” he says. “They know they’re not the only one.”
Rose covers topics gleaned from real-life encounters. “If a client tells me a story, it may become a blog post and then a tweet,” says Rose.
Stylistically, Rose can be blunt, which sometimes causes a stir among his followers. “I had a blog post titled ‘7 financial advisers I would like to punch in the face,’” he says. “It wasn’t serious, but a man left a comment, calling me a certified financial idiot and would welcome a chance to punch me in the face. I got a chuckle out of it.”
Although Rose already has a healthy YouTube presence with more than 9,500 subscribers, more videos are in the works, as well as Facebook Live posts. “It’s just more real and in the moment,” says Rose. “It’s like reality TV. Everyone watches.”
Dominique Brown has crushed Instagram with his “Your finances simplified” posts, where he helps people improve their credit rating so they can become homebuyers, savers and investors.
“They’re my demographic,” says Brown. “I’m a real estate agent and a financial adviser and the people who follow me, for whatever reason, can’t buy a home because of their credit. I help. They’re people who are renting and tired of it.”
Brown prefers Instagram over other social media. “It’s an amazing platform,” he says. “When it came around I staked my claim and it worked out well. I like how the feed is laid out, with pictures and videos. Followers see my stuff and want to interact. People like the vibe. I can sneak in financial quotes. In my experience, people will follow your Instagram page more than Facebook. You can show your personality.”
Most of Brown’s crowd has questions about their credit ratings, but he uses that angle as a draw. “Most people think they have a credit score problem so they come to me about it, but in reality they have a money management problem,” says Brown. “But they’re focused on that so I lead with that. I teach them to have better credit by planning, not credit repair.”
Still, he says, getting the information about how to change and improve is easy. “The execution, though?” says Brown. “That’s the hard part. They have to put the work in, but I get them ready.”
As a nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for The Washington Post and author of “The 21 Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom,” Michelle Singletary entered social media with serious journalism chops - and doubts.
“I used to be a naysayer,” Singletary says of social media. “Then my team at the Post convinced me to start tweeting. I did just a couple and in an instant I had 4,000 followers after some guidance from the Post team!” Now she loves it because it’s the quickest way to communicate dense material to people crunched for time.
Her followers aren’t easily typecast. “It’s older people, younger people, anyone,” says Singletary. “I cover so many demographics myself. I’m a woman, wife, mother, raised by my grandmother, then I raised my brother who had epilepsy (he passed away at 32), I’m a Christian, a volunteer at a prison. I’ve been poor to upper middle income. I appeal to a little bit of everybody.”
Singletary attributes much of her success as an influencer to being candid. “I share a lot of my personal stuff online,” she says. “My struggles and triumphs. I fell victim to a scammer at the gym and my card was stolen. I wrote about it and got a lot of response.
“On my feed, I posted a pic of my daughter, who wrote about what it’s like to graduate from college debt-free. That alone has 15,000 views. It’s amazing what you can do on Twitter.”
Consumer debt is Singletary’s favorite topic to discuss. “If debt was a person, I’d slap it!” she says on her Twitter profile.
And if she can do that on video, things may really get interesting. Singletary is now dabbling with a YouTube channel.
There is a reason the founder of Rockstar Finance and Budgets Are Sexy shows up on just about every “personal finance influencer to follow” list. He goes by the pseudonym J. Money, and his approach is distinctly irreverent. His audience is anyone who wants to have fun while talking about money. Unlike most influencers, he prefers anonymity. It enables him to freely discuss his past challenges and current successes without anyone he knows identifying him.
“Finance is generally a boring subject, so when you have a mohawk and talk like a normal, everyday person, it seems to help connect better with people versus suits and ties,” says Money. “People are everything to me - the business, stats, money is secondary.
“I’ve also shared all my financial data with the world going on nine years straight,” he says. “People suck at talking about money in the real world, so I try to have an open and accessible place for it across my projects. It's one thing to give advice or share tips, but it’s a whole other thing when you can show how it directly affects your money or not.”
As far as what his followers are looking for from him, “it spans the board from paying off debt to managing their money to finding the best savings accounts or financial apps,” says Money. “I also get a lot of questions on entrepreneurship and how to make a living off blogging since I’ve been self-employed doing it going on seven years here.
“I spend hours a day chatting with them, whether it’s responding to gobs of comments on my blog, questions in my inbox, social discussions, connecting in our forums or building out our industry’s first personal finance blog directory.
Farnoosh Torabi, is the host of the So Money podcast, which has been downloaded 4 million times. Her favorite topic is what she believes to be a neglected financial subject: How to increase your income. Torabi’s legion of fans follow her online to learn how.
“Social media helps to get the word out about the work that I do,” says Torabi. “It’s a great way to connect. Twitter is strongest because I was an early adopter, way back in 2008.”
That was just two years after the social media platform posted the very first tweet, and to become a successful influencer with a substantial base, such timing is important. “I took advantage of it,” says Torabi. “I didn’t understand what it was at first.”
Torabi describes her followers as an even split of men and women. “But they tend to be post-college graduates,” she says. “They’re in their 20s to 40s, ambitious, and follow other business and money handles so are often pretty knowledgeable already.
“If I post something incorrect, I will get corrected! The other day I was talking about IRAs and there was a detail I misunderstood and reported it wrong. I was called out on social media. I appreciate that! It was done in a thoughtful way.”
Moreover, says Torabi, it proves that the people who read and respond to her tweets are real.
“Twitter can be disingenuous,” says Torabi, who has banished a fair number of fake followers. And that makes fan mail that arrives the old-fashioned way special. “Just yesterday I got a handwritten thank-you card,” says Torabi. “I was so touched.”
Ready to be inspired and educated about all things money and credit? Follow the right influencers and participate on their social media platforms and you’ll be off to a smart start. But, as Brown notes, no matter how much support and information is available online, taking real-life action will always be up to you.
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