TikTok Trend Watch   //   March 20, 2024  ■  5 min read

TikTok Trend Watch: Payday routines are boosting salary transparency

“My salary is $70,000 a year and my paycheck today was $1,997. First, I always pay off my credit card in full so I don’t have to pay interest. That was $385. Then I pay rent and car payments, so I’m putting $700 into a checking account for those bills.”

That’s a snippet from one of Lexi Larson’s payday routine videos, including hashtags like #salarytransparency and #paytransparency in the caption. Larson, 27, is part of a growing group of people who are sharing how much money they make from their jobs and what they do with it, including paying off credit card bills, rent and car payments. 

The folks sharing their salaries and payday routines are largely made up of the Gen Z population, but they aren’t necessarily the first to take to social media to shine a light on fair pay. On Twitter, now X, people have previously shared the realities of how much they made and how they got by with it. But, like many topics, Gen Z is amplifying it to try and push for more transparency around their work financials, and people are happy about it. 

“The younger demographic is becoming increasingly open about their financial situations compared to previous generations of Americans who tend to be tight-lipped about money and salaries,” said David Straughan, MarketWatch Guides personal finance writer and researcher. “We’re seeing a trend on platforms like TikTok of people sharing their salaries and budgets openly.”

Some people call it ‘loud budgeting.’ If you follow the budgeting hashtag, you’ll find scores of videos of people discussing their salaries and their spending. It’s helping end taboos around salaries and coincides nicely with legislative action that has grown over the past few years. This past September, employers throughout New York State had to begin disclosing the minimum and maximum salary or hourly range of posted job opportunities. 

“The younger demographic is becoming increasingly open about their financial situations compared to previous generations of Americans who tend to be tight-lipped about money and salaries.”
David Straughan, MarketWatch Guides personal finance writer and researcher.

It’s the latest salary transparency legislation in the U.S. and makes it the eighth state to have it in effect. In 2023, California, New York, Washington and Rhode Island joined the increasing number of states that have enacted salary transparency laws, all a part of a general trend to bolster wage equality. And last August, Illinois became the ninth state to make a law that will require employers to include pay ranges in job postings — it won’t begin until 2025 though. 

Many believe that workers who share their own salaries on TikTok help continue the conversation between more legislation getting passed in more states, which encourages employers to step up their salary transparency efforts. “It cannot be overstated how much people are struggling, or at least feel like they’re struggling right now,” said Straughan. “With costs of living increases outpacing wage growth, many Americans are likely feeling frustrated or demoralized about their financial situations. Payday routine content provides a sense of ‘it’s not just you’ while also sharing tips that might help people improve their financial health. It’s timely content that has real value.”

But, it is a risk to post about it. Larson ended up losing her job for sharing how she went from earning $90,000 to $70,000 at that place of employment (which was because she went part-time to focus on social). 

“Many people who have shared private information about their work online have seen it negatively affect their standing at a company or ultimately see them lose their jobs,” said Straughan. 

Hannah Williams has decided to make an entire career around this trend. She started Salary Transparent Street, which has 1.3 million followers on TikTok today who tune into her videos, in which she asks people on the street what they do for a living and how much they make. She also has a website dedicated to furthering their mission where people can input their titles and how much they get paid, as well as access a massive resource hub.

“We won’t know if we’re fairly compensated or what different roles are worth if we don’t talk about our pay,” said Williams. “Talking about money is self-advocacy, it puts you in a position to learn more, rather than less.”

Williams said they get tagged all the time in videos of people breaking down their paychecks and career journeys. “It’s awesome that we inspired a transparent movement,” she added.

“We won’t know if we’re fairly compensated or what different roles are worth if we don’t talk about our pay. Talking about money is self-advocacy, it puts you in a position to learn more, rather than less.”
Hannah Williams, founder of Salary Transparent Street.

One of those people is Lauren Schneider, head of brand and communications at employee stipend software company Compt, who recently shared her own story on social media about being underpaid and refused a promotion despite advocating for it.

“I felt like if I shared my story, I knew that there would be somebody out there who needed to hear it and realize that even in this market, where it’s so competitive to get and keep a job, people deserve to be paid what they’re worth,” said Schneider. “If a company is not going to pay you fairly, some company will.”

That’s why these payday routine videos can be so helpful to others. Gaby Mendes, podcast host of Talk Twenties, saw significant traction around her TikTok clip talking about payday routines and several comments were from people also feeling defeated. 

“TikTok has the power to amplify voices and create movements so it can put pressure on companies and organizations to do better for their employees,” said Mendes. “I’ve definitely seen an increase in transparency from young people openly sharing their income and payday routines on social media.”

Schneider agrees. “I realized companies don’t want us talking about it because they know then we will discover the pay gaps,” she said. The more we are transparent about our salaries, benefits and compensation, we will uncover what we should be paid.”

And while we won’t know if social media efforts directly impact a company’s decision to be more transparent with salaries, it does keep the conversation going and top of mind. “I hope we push forward pay transparency protections through legislation in all 50 states,” said Williams. It’s what future workers expect, and we need to normalize this.”