Hand drawn picture of Jake Paul with a question mark in the middle of him.
Jake Paul back at it again with another scheme. (Illustration by Maya Vargas, Scripps College)

Jake Paul’s Financial Freedom Movement Teaches His Young Audience a Dangerous Lesson

The social media influencer’s back with another grift — this one ostensibly teaching his followers how to become entrepreneurs.

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Hand drawn picture of Jake Paul with a question mark in the middle of him.

The social media influencer’s back with another grift — this one ostensibly teaching his followers how to become entrepreneurs.

With the vast number of scandals Jake Paul has incited in the past, it should be no surprise that this infamous YouTuber is in the news yet again. This time, he has started an online entrepreneurship course known as the Financial Freedom Movement, a new incarnation of his previous failure, Edfluence.

The website is plastered with Jake Paul’s face and invites his young audience to pay $19.99 a month for perks such as access to “cutting edge mentorship, coaching and training,” “Jake Paul’s personal experience, rituals and secret formula,” “LIVE weekly video coaching calls with Jake Paul” and “a private community.” Sounds good, right?

It’s obvious that this is just a cash grab for Paul, who takes every available opportunity to exploit his young, impressionable audience. In his videos, he regularly spends about 50% of the run time advertising his products repeatedly, stuffing in as many keywords as possible in an attempt to brainwash his audience into buying his merch or seeing him on tour or purchasing his new song.

Paul is constantly coming up with new schemes to make more money, whether that be a pay-per-view fake wedding or a sketchy sponsorship that promotes gambling to his young viewers. The Financial Freedom Movement is simply the most recent in a long line of money-making plots.

But the Financial Freedom Movement is far from harmless. In a tweet advertising the program, Paul writes, “I’m sick of our education system and how it’s teaching kids zero real-life skills for them to secure there [sic] own future.” Paul has made it clear before that he is anti-education, even creating a diss-track against teachers, but his promotion for the Financial Freedom Movement goes beyond being anti-education: It presents Paul’s program as being an alternative to traditional education, which it most certainly is not.

Paul is essentially encouraging his young audience to drop out of school as he did, cheating his way through an online course to receive his high school diploma. While a well-thought-out criticism of the education system could be valid — it is not, after all, catered to students such as Paul, who may not be as academically-minded — this is an unacceptable message to send to young people who are likely already less invested in their own education than they should be.

And Paul is not the only one sending this message. With the rise of online influencers flashing expensive cars and roomy mansions, young people’s feeds are constantly inundated with material evidence of influencer success. It doesn’t take much to jump to the next logical step — young people want to become influencers, or, as Paul calls himself, “entrepreneurs.”

In a survey that included 2,000 Americans ages 13 to 38, 86% said they would post sponsored content for money and 54% said they would become an influencer if provided with the opportunity. On the broader topic of entrepreneurship, an NPR survey shows that 62% of millennials have considered starting their own business and 72% of all respondents know a person who has launched or worked for a startup and consider that person successful.

Paul is obviously tapping into this abundant entrepreneurial spirit, with website copy that reads, “They tell us to go to college, get a job, retire at 65. How’s that working out for us?” He’s appealing to the anxieties of the younger generation. The same NPR survey indicates that 78% of millennials are worried about having good job opportunities, and 79% believe that they may not have enough money to retire.

And these anxieties are valid. Because of America’s graying population and the government’s stubborn reluctance to raise the age to receive social security, that particular program will likely no longer be viable by the time those who are now in their 20s are ready to retire. Though the economy has mostly recovered from the recession in 2008, the employment rate for young adults in 2018 was still lower than the rate in 2000.

On top of all this, student debt has grown so much that we can joke about taking several lifetimes to pay it off — and it’s not all that unrealistic. It’s no wonder that young people are scrambling for new sources of financial security in an economy that seems completely unfriendly and incredibly unstable.

But, to Jake Paul and all his impressionable young fans — dropping out of school to become an influencer or entrepreneur is not the answer to our problems. Though the burden of attending college has increased significantly, statistics still show that education is valuable. The employment rate for young adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 86% in 2018, 79% for those with some college education, 72% for those with a high school diploma and just 59% for those who dropped out of high school. Education is still valuable, Jake Paul, and if you actually want your fans to be financially free, you would tell them that.

As the daughter of two teachers and a current college student on my way to getting a degree in history and English — two fields Paul no doubt found to be completely useless in his mission to buy a Lambo in cash — I believe that above all else, we should be encouraging the younger generation to stay in school. Yes, perhaps the vast majority of us will never use the quadratic formula in our everyday lives, but the public education system doesn’t just teach us vague mathematical concepts.

It teaches us discipline, social skills, problem-solving and literacy. School gives us the tools to teach ourselves whatever we wish. If you want to teach yourself to become an entrepreneur, that’s great; just remember that your education, as unenjoyable as it may be, will give you the foundation upon which to place that new learning.

Jake Paul’s Financial Freedom Movement is far from a substitution for school. It only presents you with information that you could easily find elsewhere, whereas an education provides you with the tools to go out and find that information for yourself. Stay in school, kids.

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