The Pandemic Turned Reddit Into a Go-to Source for Money Advice

  • Reddit’s personal-finance communities saw huge membership growth during the pandemic.
  • Users discuss everything from budgeting and debt payoff to homebuying and retirement planning.
  • These Q&A forums can’t replace professional money advice, but they’re good supplemental resources.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Reddit became synonymous with meme stocks during the pandemic as investors, new and seasoned, flocked to the stock market.

But Reddit, a user-generated online forum, hosts numerous personal-finance communities brimming with far more sound advice than the risky trades promoted on the popular and often crude r/WallStreetBets. In 2020, discussions on Reddit about government stimulus, budgeting, retirement, long-term investing, employment, financial independence, and frugality attracted users in droves. 

Membership on the subreddit r/FinancialPlanning grew 87% between June 2020 and 2021, according to Reddit, to more than 241,000. Users there share and solicit strategies for paying off debt, setting financial goals, and saving for retirement, among other how-to topics. A weekly “Moronic Monday” thread allows users to post questions in a judgement-free zone that they might be embarrassed to ask offline.

For investing-specific conversations and news, nearly 2 million users turn to r/investing — its cheeky tagline: “lose money with friends.” That subreddit’s membership grew 83% between June 2020 and 2021, Reddit said.

The subreddit r/personalfinance has more than 4.7 million members and hosts conversations about, well, anything and everything related to spending, earning, saving, and investing money. And these users aren’t just chatting about what they bought yesterday or how much their investments made; they’re helping each other. Two in three Reddit users have made real-life financial decisions based on advice they received from fellow Redditors, the company said.

But wait — is it smart to follow financial advice from random avatars? As a certified financial planner myself, my knee-jerk reaction is no. But what I’ve observed on these subreddits over the past several months has convinced me otherwise.

While there are limits to these Q&A communities — they’re not a stand-in for professional advice — I support them as a safe space to get feedback, ask about other people’s experiences and strategies, learn financial basics, and celebrate each others’ wins. 

Reddit isn’t like other social media

In the hierarchy of decent financial advice dispensed on social media, Reddit is at the top. Unlike Twitter and TikTok, the posts aren’t designed to be consumed in seconds. Unlike Instagram, you’re not up against the algorithm. 

Posts on Reddit’s personal-finance communities are often long-winded and thoughtful, full of caveats and follow-up questions for the original poster. There’s room for detail and nuance, which is crucial when it comes to dealing with money. The stakes are high, and these users seem to understand and respect that. 

And that’s to say nothing of the layered and deeply impressive wiki on r/personalfinance where US-based users could presumably spend hours getting up to speed on everything from how credit works to which insurance coverage they need. There are also elaborate answers to commonly asked questions and sound advice tailored for specific age groups.

I appreciate that each subreddit has a code of conduct, and users who disobey can be reported to Reddit or banned from posting. On r/personalfinance, you can’t talk about politics or breaking the law, and you can’t be abusive, unhelpful, or disrespectful toward others. Self-promotion and advertising are prohibited (there’s no #sponcon to speak of). In other words: Stay on topic and stay helpful, or you’re out.

It’s clear why, according to figures Reddit shared with me, more than three quarters of users feel more comfortable discussing financial topics on its platform than on other social media. Hang around often enough and you’ll probably stumble upon resources you didn’t know you needed. Earlier this year I profiled a Reddit user who shared her homemade budget template on r/personalfinance to much fanfare. She got messages from people saying it helped them pay off credit-card debt, save for a house, and cultivate a healthier mindset around money. 

Not everything you find on Reddit’s personal-finance communities is helpful, of course. I don’t think it’s the best place to go for high-level tax guidance, specific product recommendations, or estate planning, for example. It’s also not the best resource for people unwilling to do some of their own research. After all, no one cares about your money more than you.

Meeting face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) with a financial planner or CPA who has access to your financial statements and can advise you based on your unique goals is irreplaceable. But if you’re looking for a community of people who can help point you in the right direction, or keep you motivated and informed along the way, you might just find it on Reddit.