They lack professional credentials and are sometimes thousands of dollars in debt, but a community of young bloggers are teaching each other how to manage money.
“Growing up I didn't learn anything. There were no resources available,” says Marianne, the 23-year-old blogger behind moneyrabbit.ca. She prefers her last name be withheld because her blog divulges personal details on her spending habits and savings.
Under the pseudonym Money Rabbit, Marianne is open about almost every aspect of her finances, dishing on her income, monthly budget and updating readers on her overall net worth. And she's vocal about the fact she learned nothing about money management in school.
“I can do the quadratic formula, but that doesn't matter … what does matter is taxes,” she says.
Financial literacy is beginning to make its way in to elementary and high school curriculums across the country. Starting in the fall, students in Ontario will learn about money management in class, and a financial literacy curriculum has existed in British Columbia since 2004.
Unfortunately, many of today's grads missed out on this education and feel they have been left to fend for themselves. Most of the bloggers are self-taught and make it clear on their websites they cannot offer professional advice. For the most part, they cite books, websites and other blogs as places they've gone to learn about personal finance.
Clare, who blogs at youngandthrifty.ca and also wants to protect her last name because of the personal information on her blog, writes under the tagline ‘Saving generation Y.' She's referring to those born in the 1980s and '90s who are clueless about how to manage their money.
In the About section of her website, Clare writes that until she began blogging, her 21- and 23-year-old sisters didn't even know the difference between a debit and a credit card.
“I thought I could start a blog whereby I communicate these concepts in an easy-to-understand way, and hopefully spark personal finance passion in Canadian generation Ys,” Clare says.
Clare has written posts on taxes, mortgages, TFSAs and even how to get your money's worth from an all-you-can-eat-buffet. (Lunch buffets are half the price of dinner buffets.)
Marianne has had almost 10,000 hits at moneyrabbit.ca in six months. Serena, 28, started her blog, fabulouslybroke.com, four years ago. Now, she says 50,000 people visit the website each month.
The bloggers say their sites fill a void in personal finance resources for young people.
For people their age, it can be tough to find advice through traditional means.
They say their lack of substantial wealth means financial adviors are reluctant to spend time on them, preferring richer clients.
The first advisor Marianne went to sent her away emptyhanded.
“He told me, ‘I'm sorry but we cannot do anything with you under $1,000,' ” she says.
At the time, she was looking to invest only $50 per month.
There are government and non-profit websites that aim to help young people navigate their finances, but the bloggers say these sites don't engage young readers the same way blogs do.
“I think there are plenty of resources out there, but they're not done in such a way that appeals to our generation,” Serena says. She says there is a big difference between an article on personal finance and a blog post, where the writing is more personal and casual.
Canada's non-profit Investor Education Fund has a website called Get Smarter About Money. It aims to teach young people about personal finance and has arranged its information by life events, such as having a baby or getting a new job.
“A blog is a great way to learn from other people,” says Tom Hamza, president of the Investor Education Fund. He agrees there are not many good financial literacy resources out there for young people and hopes the blogs will encourage young people to pay attention to the dry personal finance material.
Bloggers often mix lifestyle writing with money matters. They discuss personal relationships, yoga and shopping, but they always tie it back to the reality that these things cost money. Serena says she blogs about a recent trip and then includes the steps she took to budget for travelling. Learning about the personal experiences of other young people as they struggle with spending and saving can inspire readers to do the same, Clare says.
Any resources can help with what Clare sees as a big problem among young people.
“We grew up with the concept of instant gratification,” Clare says. “We aren't saving like we should be. We aren't thinking enough about the future.”