What new high school grads need to know about money in era of TikTok

As recent high school graduates move away from home or enter the workforce, they should keep in mind some financial tips.

As recent high school graduates move away from home or enter the workforce, they should keep in mind some financial tips. (Westend61 via CNN)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The trick to healthy finances as a young adult is being able to say "no."

As with most things, it is easier said than done. If recent high school graduates want to find their financial footing, as they head out into the world, they'll need to do the research and flex their willpower, according to a new book.

Laura Meier, author of "The Family Nest Egg," has seen Generation Z's financial struggles up close, as she's parented her own young adult son.

"I've seen firsthand, from his peer circle, how common it is to order food through DoorDash or finance trips abroad with credit cards — largely influenced by what they see on social media," Meier said.

Young people tend to be impulse buyers, shopping with not-quite-developed brains and without an established budget, she said. This makes them "easy targets" for marketers.

And, now, marketers can get into young people's wallets faster than ever, through social media. Gen Zers may not realize, when they're scrolling through TikTok, For You Pages and Instagram feeds full of influencers, they're subconsciously window-shopping.

"These social media platforms show the fun but not the financial aftermath, like accumulating bills and interest," Meier said.

Some TikTokers want to expose the financial and environmental cost of influencer-encouraged materialism by "de-influencing," or exposing trendy products that don't live up to the hype.

Other content creators have turned to "No Buy Years," swearing off discretionary purchases for a month or a year, usually in an effort to pay off debt.

TikToker @elysiaberman, a recovering shopaholic and one of the champions of the No Buy Year, has been very upfront about the "secret" of her designer wardrobe.

"How do I afford my amazing closet? I DON'T," she recently wrote in a caption.

@elysiaberman I'm not buying anything this year to tackle my debt FYI… and any Dave Ramsey financial trolls will be blocked. @hannah.lasche asked about savings and @corabrei asked about 401K… but let's normalize talking about consumer debt while we're at it!! #nobuyyear#nobuy#shoppingaddict#shoppingaddiction#recovery#shopaholic#debtfreejourney#debtfreecommunity#debtfree#nospendchallenge#noshopping♬ original sound - elysiaberman

Berman, 35, was wading through five figures of debt when she decided to make a drastic change. She decided she wouldn't spend any money on Botox, hair and nail appointments, clothes, beauty products, books, perfume, jewelry, new technology, takeout meals or home decor ... for a year.

She's now paid off thousands of dollars in debt. So, are No Buy Years the way to go? Yes and no, according to experts.

Social media finance gurus can provide helpful resources and tips, especially for young adults coming from families that weren't very "financially savvy," Meier said.

"On the other hand, social media often lacks detailed, step-by-step guidance, making it hard for young adults to understand how the information applies to their unique situation and personal goals," she adds.

Most young adults probably don't need to commit to a No Buy Year to stay afloat, but they should definitely watch their credit card balance. And recent grads without credit cards shouldn't necessarily run out and get one at the first opportunity.

"It's crucial to understand that credit cards should not be used for purchases they can't afford," Meier said. "Paying off the balance immediately is essential to avoid falling into debt and dealing with accumulating interest."

An important part of financial maturity is distinguishing between wants and needs, she said, especially when you're looking at dipping into savings.

These social media platforms show the fun but not the financial aftermath, like accumulating bills and interest.

– Laura Meier, finance author

"Sometimes even needs can be met more affordably, like cooking at home instead of using DoorDash or buying budget-friendly clothing instead of designer brands," Meier said. Bigger decisions, like starting school at a junior college or living with roommates or family, can also help young adults put cash into savings or retirement accounts.

"Even in college, young adults should think about how their spending and investing decisions will impact their future," Meier said.

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Emma Everett Johnson covers Utah as a general news reporter. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University.


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