Making Dollars Make Sense? Count me in, Canada!

I will be the first to admit it; managing money is not my forte. I know very little about investing in RRSPs, stocks and bonds, and my idea of being financially literate is summed up by paying off my credit card bill every month. That’s about it, really. It was only after reading a passage from The Wealthy Barber (which my financially savvy younger brother gifted me in my twenties), did I start automatically siphoning 50 bucks out of my paltry pay cheques each month. Overall, I keep it simple. Managing my personal finances is one thing, but when you throw a kid into the mix, well let’s just say it’s a financial game changer. Simply put: ‘simplicity’ is no longer an option. Not only do you have more bills to pay, you have to think about your children’s financial future in the form of their education. So in June, the Canadian government’s new “National Strategy for Financial Literacy – Count Me In, Canada” was launched to make the confusing less complicated for people like myself. The new program is a way to guide the average Canadian through the jungle of financial options out there and expand their financial knowledge.

The Importance of Learning Financial Literacy

Cairine Wilson, of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, explains in a Huffington Post article that it’s a good time to educate average, hardworking Canadians on financial literacy because, frankly, we need it more than ever right now. We’re digging ourselves deeper into the debt hole. Wilson, who is also a member of the federal government’s steering committee on financial literacy, says research has shown that many Canadian households aren’t saving or paying off debt, and that more parents could be taking advantage of a Registered Education Savings Plan.

As the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada details on their website, the National Strategy “sets out goals and priorities to help Canadians better manage their finances and make appropriate decisions as their needs and circumstances change.”

The three goals for this National Strategy are to get Canadians to:

1) manage money and debt wisely;

2) plan and save for the future; and

3) prevent and protect against fraud and financial abuse.

Fifty-two new financial literacy initiatives are being rolled out across the country.  Everyone from adults to students, from elementary to post-secondary, are targeted. Small to medium-sized business owners, low income earners, newcomers to Canada – people from every walk of life – are all invited to attend these face-to-face sessions. Financial institutes and non-profit groups are helping the government provide these learning sessions.

The knowledge-building sessions are delivered in various formats: new websites and podcasts with educational resources for students, seminars and community workshops for seniors, and quizzes. There are even financial boot-camp programs for those in debt. They cover the basics: from budgeting, mortgages and loans to the more complex, such as using credit to your advantage, managing debt, retirement planning, and understanding the tax system.

You can even kick things off by taking a self-assessment quiz to gauge how well you’re currently managing your finances ( presently and for the future). Based on your responses, the quiz will tell you how you’re doing compared to others.  The quiz also gives you a list of resources from the Canadian Financial Literacy Database that can help you learn to better manage your finances.

The programs are designed to be rolled out over a year or two with plans to improve them as time goes by. You can join the conversation about this strategy with #CountMeInCA on social media.