Personal finance on YouTube is booming: brands, wake up!

How hobbyists turn their YouTube channels into incredibly successful businesses

In the last three years the personal finance and investing niche on YouTube has grown nearly tenfold worldwide from 8 mln. views in august 2018 to 75 mln. views in february 2021*. This growing interest brings a lot of opportunities for banks, financial institutions and professional financial advisors to claim market share, however when we analyze the biggest YouTube channels they are primarily non-licensed individual creators who accumulate millions of views and engagements. Which YouTube channels are the most successful in the investing and personal finance niche and what is the secret to their success?


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But if it’s not the banks, financial institutions or professional finance advisors who claim this extensively growing finance niche on YouTube, who is? As mentioned before it’s the individual creators who put disclaimers in all their videos that they are not licensed financial advisors and that their videos on investing are for entertainment purposes only. And the biggest creator within this domain is Graham Stephan who currently has 3,34 mln. subscribers and generates around 8 million views a month.


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Graham of course implements the various aspects of a successful YouTube channel that we have discussed in previous articles such as The Success of Gordon Ramsay & The Success of Red Bull. For example:

  • He has excellent thumbnails with large, readable text, plenty of contrast, a close-up of his face and lots of emotion.
  • His videos are long enough to generate significant watch time (mostly between 15-20 minutes).
  • He uses creative and clickable titles while keeping his explainers clear and concise, with a healthy dose of humor added to improve retention.
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But we can learn way more from Graham Stephan and other investing channels. Mostly their diverse formats and their combination of uploading evergreen content and topical content.


It is important to note that the investing and personal finance niche might overlap with, but is also very different from the active (day)trading niche on YouTube (e.g. best online pokies Australia). Mostly, in the advice they give. Graham StephanAndrei JikhFinancial Education and Dave Ramsay’s investment advice all focus on budgeting, saving and investing in long term diversified investments like index funds such as the S&P500. Help content videos that explain these investment strategies function as evergreen videos on the channels. They rank for keywords that people always will be searching for such as ‘index funds’ or ‘investing tips’. These videos will consistently gain views over a longer period of time.

But these individual creators interchange these evergreen videos with topical videos. Topical videos are videos that react to market movements, videos from other YouTubers and news articles about financial markets, investing etc. These topical videos create spikes in generated views as there’s a lot of interest in specific topics for a short while. These videos do lose relevance with time. Therefore, by using both topical and evergreen videos, Graham profits from the best of both worlds. This strategy is further explained in the video below that partly inspired this blog.


We can identify several successful formats on Graham Stephan’s channel and throughout the personal finance and investing market as a whole. Often these formats overlap with each other creating cohesion on the channel and linking different videos together. This stimulates the binge-watch effect which of course significantly increases the total watch time.

Explainers: this is the core format that we see on every major finance channel. As explained above these videos handle ‘evergreen’ topics such as ‘explaining inflation’, ‘what index funds are‘ and how to ‘create personal budgets’ that are always relevant and searchable. This is combined with more topical videos that explain what is happening in the current economy and the stock market. These videos often react to current, trending financial news which makes the videos extremely popular in the short run, creating view spikes on the channel.

Reactions: as explained above, topical explainers on channels like Graham Stephan often react to current financial news and market movements. Reactions to specific articles, other YouTube videos and stories from callers on the channel are also a very successful format that is present on channels like Graham Stephan, Dave Ramsay and Andrei Jikh. Graham Stephan, for example, has a popular reaction format on his second channel where he reacts to a well-known format from the channel CNBC ‘Make It’, called ‘Millenial money’. ‘Millennial money’ profiles people across the globe and gives details on how they earn, save and spend their money. Reaction videos tap into the popularity of this series. Graham Stephan adds additional value by deconstructing the spending and saving of the subjects. He also givies tips on how to improve their financial situation.

Personal success stories and vlogs: An important driver of the success of personal finance and investing channels on YouTube is not only the explainer and help content but also the transparency of getting a look into other people’s earnings and financial situation. This is true for the ‘Millenial Money’ series and Dave Ramsay’s reaction format, but another format that taps into this are personal vlogs and success stories. In these videos, channels like Graham Stephan, Andrei Jikh give insight into their personal income, expenses, savings & investments. This transparency in their (successful) personal finances functions as inspiration to viewers but also generates attention just by the fact that these finances are openly shared. People often don’t talk openly about their financial situation which makes it evermore interesting to listen to those that do.


The growing interest in investing, both on YouTube and in the actual markets, creates a big opportunity for banks and financial advisors to target potential customers through a well defined YouTube strategy. But right now the most successful channels within this niche are individual creators who, as they disclaim themselves, are not financial professionals. These hobbyists often build lucrative financial coaching businesses behind their channels. On top of that, the advertising income from YouTube itself is also significantly higher than in other niches because of higher CPM rates within this market. This makes these hobbyists and their content incredibly fruitful on this popular video platform.

The question now is which brands within the financial sector will claim their market share in this growing domain. Looking at successful creators, we know that a combination of topical and evergreen explainers videos is effective. It is also important to be transparent when talking about finances. This transparency about a formerly ‘taboo’ subject captures the attention of audiences and more importantly, can teach people principles to improve their own finances.


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