Iona Bain is a UK-based award-winning writer, author, speaker, and broadcaster who specializes in personal finance.
Read her features on Financial Times - here. Excited by the dynamic vision of W1TTY, Iona writes...
How do you build a financial community?
Take the internet, add thousands of consumers hungry for advice and solidarity, sprinkle in a good dose of disillusionment with the financial establishment, all layered on a platform with solid checks and balances…voila!
FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early
Social media has given rise to an infinite, eclectic range of financial communities in recent years. There’s the infamous WallStreetBets group on Reddit, widely held to be responsible for several extreme events in the U.S. stock market, as well as the FIRE fellowship. FIRE stands for “financial independence, retire early”, a strategy that inspires folks to pursue a frugal lifestyle and invest the savings so they can jack in the 9-to-5 sooner.
W1TTY’s own study on gen Z has found eight in ten zoomers use social media every day with more than half expecting to find answers to their financial problems online.
At the same time, Gen Z is also more cynical, with 60% saying most people can’t be trusted and 48% saying people look out for themselves (though these levels of mistrust have fallen slightly since 2019). This generation is increasingly putting its faith in diffuse, egalitarian groups where there is no top-down leadership or commercial motivations.
The risks of anonymity, with its absence of real-world accountability, are outweighed by rules, governing who can post what, and a strong sense of fair play, which quickly lead to serial transgressors being kicked out into the wilderness. Alongside these niches are hundreds of broader monies and investing communities on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, and Instagram. Membership numbers range from the nano (less than 1000) to the macro (more than 100,000).
Many are run by influencers and entrepreneurs who profit from their expertise through sponsored content and events, affiliate promotions, or straight-up advertising. But many are moderated by anonymous volunteers who ensure these platforms remain safe spaces and repositories of crowd-sourced wisdom.
What makes these financial communities so appealing?
My own experience has shown me that young people do not typically receive enough financial education early on in life to make the right calls later. As a result, around a third claim to have achieved financial literacy by going on YouTube and Tiktok.
There are successful communities outside the social media realm too. Finimize, VestPod, and Your Juno are just three examples that meld an online presence with events and meet-ups so young people can learn and connect IRL (in real life).
Several banking and investment brands have also cultivated communities of loyal, engaged customers within their apps and websites. These help customers shape product development, provide constructive feedback and share best practices on how to optimize the brand’s services.
The most effective financial communities also emphasize overall wellbeing and work/life balance, as well as the need to consider moral, social, and political issues. This is nothing when over half of gen Z and millennials say they would leave a job that was undermining their personal life or wouldn’t accept it in the first place if they disagreed with the employer’s social or environmental policies.
Getting into the community spirit - could be a win-win for us all.
In other words, we are turning to such communities not just for suggestions on how to make and save more money, but how to do so in a way that is realistic, responsible, and respectful, both to ourselves and others. Brands can harness that impulse to foster trust, openness, and progress – crucial for fintech to thrive in the 21st century.