The blog Jessica Moorhouse started about a decade ago wasn’t motivated by anything other than wanting to chronicle her quest to become more financially literate.
Fresh out of university with a degree in film, she couldn’t find work in her field. So she got a job in sales and marketing. "But I was always fascinated by the world of money, and I wanted to learn more," says the 34-year-old Torontonian.
And personal finance blogs were particularly appealing, often written by women who were "so open about their own finances," she adds.
"So I thought, ‘I want to jump on this train too… and it was really just about being part of this new community."
Never did Moorhouse imagine blogging about money would evolve into a career as social media influencer.
Yet here she is today, the host of the popular More Money Podcast with tens of thousands of followers on other platforms too like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Posting videos about how to file taxes online using a popular tax preparation software, or promoting via Facebook, a podcast featuring an interview with a female author of a book on holistic wealth planning, Moorhouse has long since left her office job to become a full-time influencer.
She’s in good company.
According to a 2019 report by Klear, a social media marketing platform, almost eight in 10 social media influencers are women. It also found that despite dominating the field, women still receive less compensation than men.
Yet while Reddit’s wallstreetbets and other testosterone-laden social media focused on speculative trading have garnered all the attention with their shenanigans in recent weeks, Moorhouse and other women influencers in personal finance have long been offering a more down-to-earth approach to advice about money.
As International Women’s Day approaches on Monday, celebrating women and gender equality, social media — despite often being a venue for a cacophony of unsavoury ideas clamouring to be heard — has actually empowered women to share stories about budgeting, debt repayment and investing.
"Definitely on the personal finance side, there seems be a lot more women using social media to their advantage," says Kelley Keehn, a personal finance educator and author of the recently updated book ‘Talk Money to Me: How to save, spend, and feel good about your money during COVID and other times of financial distress’.
Keehn adds she is "very active" on social media, but further notes she shies away from the ‘influencer’ title.
"Where I would differentiate myself is I actually worked in the financial industry and did sit across the table from clients for a decade." As such, she largely uses platforms to promote her books and events she hosts, opposed to talking about her own finances while promoting goods and services of third parties.
Indeed, being an influencer involves a mix of advice based on personal experience carefully blended with marketing products and services.
Companies — financial firms included — often compensate influencers for ‘reviewing’ their products and services. In the gig economy era, in which young adults have struggled to find nine-to-five job security, influencers have become ubiquitous. So much so that the federal government now regulates the activity through the Competition Act, requiring influencers to disclose relationships with organizations compensating them, be it with money or free stuff.
But the federal Competition Bureau warns consumers must be vigilant when viewing social media content, always asking themselves whether individuals are offering honest opinions, or speaking glowingly of a product because they’re being paid.
"It’s best to take online reviews with a grain of salt," the Competition Bureau stated in an email to the Free Press.
Of course the same rule applies for any personal finance guidance — new or old media. After all, the industry is in the business of profiting off advice about money.
The potential conflict is not lost on Moorhouse, who earns a sizable portion of revenue from brand partnerships but is careful to only promote things that align with her values.
"I say ‘no’ to a lot of offers," adds Moorhouse, also a trained financial counsellor.
"The worst thing you can do is promote something for money and your audience gets turned off because it conflicts with what you’ve been talking for years."
Given influencers’ economic clout comes from their legions of followers, pitching a bad product could spell doom for credibility.
For that reason alone, many Canadian women taking about finances via social media often see their role as educators rather than influencers.
That includes Janine Rogan, 29, a finance writer, speaker and tax specialist, who blogs and actively posts about money on Instagram and, increasingly, on TikTok.
"I love teaching and helping people understand their money, and social media are a way to do so."
Yet what makes these platforms so powerful as financial literacy tools also comes with a word for caution from those adept at using it.
"It is a great way to share information with a large audience of people."
But the emphasis on the ‘personal’ in ‘personal finance’ can pose challenges, adds Rogan, an accountant.
"There are lots of individual nuances that need to be considered as personal finance is not one size fits all."