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'Pay Off My Debt' TikToker Explains How Much Money He Made from His Viral Video and the Inspiration for the Trend Jake Burgett told Entrepreneur how he came up with the idea for the personal finance trend sweeping social media.

By Sherin Shibu Edited by Melissa Malamut

Key Takeaways

  • The recent "pay off my debt" trend has TikTokers posting videos to earn money from the platform, and all they need in return is the viewer's attention.
  • Entrepreneur spoke with Jake Burgett, who started the trend, to find out how it all started and how much money he made on the platform.

TikTokers are coming together to help each other pay off student loans, mortgages, credit cards, and other debt — but the now-serious "pay off my debt" trend started as a "goofy idea" from an iCarly episode, says the person who started it all.

Jake Burgett is a recent Physician Assistant school graduate who's beginning a critical care fellowship at the end of the summer — but social media knows him less for his blood pressure jokes and more for the personal finance "pay off my debt" trend he kickstarted last month.

Burgett told Entrepreneur that the video "gained so much more traction" than he thought it would.

Related: Here's How Much an Influencer With 21 Million Followers Makes on YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok

"I didn't initially post the video to start a trend or movement," Burgett said. "I mainly just thought it was a goofy idea with a theme that people might resonate with."

Burgett posted a one-minute, eleven-second TikTok video on May 12 that has now been viewed over 25 million times.

"So, I've done the math and, apparently, in order for TikTok to pay off my student loans in one fell swoop, I would need 247 million people to watch this video for five seconds, which you've just done," Burgett says at the start of the viral video.

He then gets the video to be longer than a minute by eating cereal on camera.

@jheisenburg If you're reading this just know I appreciate you. I'm so happy we could share this moment ❤️? #fyp #studentloans #viral #cereal #icarly #spencershay #whynotdatemedotcom ♬ original sound - Jake | ⚕️Jheisenburg ⚕️

TikTokers have made similar videos since Burgett started the trend.

Related: Pleasure to Work With? You'll Never Get Promoted, Per TikTok

How did the 'pay off my debt' idea come to be?

Burgett was intrigued by the amount of money available for content creators and thought other people might be too.

Burgett said the video idea partly came from an episode of Nickelodeon classic iCarly, in which Jerry Trainor's character Spencer tries to set up a dating profile by creating a video of him eating cereal.

The other half of the idea came from some napkin math that Burgett did about how much money he would have to make from TikTok to pay off his student loans.

"So naturally, I thought that the most absurd thing to do would be to combine the two and tell people I was going to be sitting there eating cereal for a minute and that they could hang out if they wanted," he said.

Related: This Obscure Product Gained Viral TikTok Fame and Soared to $125 Million in Sales

Burgett just wanted the people to find the video relatable and expected maybe 10,000 views, though seeing millions of people like, comment, share, and rewatch it was "genuinely touching."

How much money has Burgett made from the 'pay off my debt' video?

The viral video did not pay off Burgett's student loans, he told Entrepreneur.

It did, however, earn him more than he made in two months at his old job.

In a follow-up TikTok, Burgett explained that the loan amount he had to pay off was in the low six figures and the video he posted with 25 million views made comparatively less: $4,200.

The TikTok Creator program, which Burgett attempted to tap into, takes qualified views and RPM, or the amount paid per thousand views. Burgett's RPM was lower for that video, resulting in a lower-than-expected payout.

Despite making money off of the video, Burgett said that he doesn't think creating another video with the same concept would feel as genuine.

Related: UPS Driver Stuns TikTok With Paystub Breakdown, High Salary

"My goal is just to continue to create content that I like and grow a community to see where this takes us, and to see if we can help others along the way," he told Entrepreneur.

While making videos as a side hustle can be lucrative, Burgett isn't quitting his day job and cautions people against making sacrifices for social media content that could negatively impact their finances.

"We have to remember that financial stability is usually a long game," Burgett cautioned. "Social media gives the illusion of a quick financial fix, and I am glad I got to put that theory into motion… But remember not to sacrifice more than you are able to along the way."

Sherin Shibu

Entrepreneur Staff

News Reporter

Sherin Shibu is a business news reporter at She previously worked for PCMag, Business Insider, The Messenger, and ZDNET as a reporter and copyeditor. Her areas of coverage encompass tech, business, strategy, finance, and even space. She is a Columbia University graduate.

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