As Canadians sink deeper into debt amidst a growing consumer culture, the idea that Canadians need an education in financial literary is gaining traction. This is exactly what the Investor Education Fund (IEF), a non-profit established by the Ontario Securities Commission, has been doing for the last decade.
“It’s a tough subject. People don’t like to speak about it and they’re not necessarily all that interested in it, so you really have to engage them on a level that they’re comfortable [with],” explained IEF vice-president Perry Quinton.
Quinton was at this year’s kickoff of Financial Literacy Month, a new annual event each November aimed at helping Canadians strengthen their knowledge, skills, and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.
School boards across the country are integrating financial literacy throughout the curriculums.
This year launched with a performance of “Funny Money” at a Youth Summit at Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. The seminar for teens was created and curated by comedian James Cunningham to teach teens about money through humour and modern tech.
While a projector plays a slide show guiding the presentation along, the theatre full of 10th-12th graders watched a live feed of their tweets of the show. Social media is one way the Funny Money program reaches out to teens.
Through the program, IEF reaches some 100,000 students per year. Presentations for high school students typically speak to the issues that the students are interested in, like credit management, the impact of debt, budgeted savings, and compound growth.
Some 11,000 teachers in Canada have also been trained in financial literacy, and school boards across the country are integrating financial literacy throughout their curriculums.
The Ontario Ministry of Education have made changes to integrate financial literacy education from grades 4 to 12. In grade school, a lesson on making a duct tape wallet can lead to a conversation about what a wallet is and what it’s used for.
Another lesson involves receiving a reward card that students can then store in their wallets, which leads to a continuous discussion about saving and spending.
“There are lessons that can apply to any age level, the trick is—it has to be relevant,” Quinton said. For example, younger kids can learn how to identify coins or how to comparison shop, while topics like investments and mortgages are more suitable for adults.
Quinton said that financial literacy is a learned behaviour, so if parents are modelling the behaviour, kids can pick it up. Statistics show, however, that many adults, including teachers, are not financially literate.
In the 2012 Youth Financial Literacy Study, the IEF found that senior high school students don’t save money for important expenses.
About 67 percent of kids have clothes as their first priority when saving money. Next on the list is entertainment, then technology, followed by gifts, and last on the list is post-secondary education.
While post-secondary education is the last on the list, Quinton said research shows that saving for post-secondary education is a top concern for high school students.
More than half of the students feel that they don’t know much about money management. While 33 percent admit that they never budget their savings, and 70 percent of students think it’s important to learn smart money practices.
“There seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm for this subject,” said Quinton. The IEF has developed a website of resources, called GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, for teens and adults alike who would like to improve their financial literacy.
This November is the second annual Financial Literacy Month, among a range of events that the IEF sponsors throughout the year for adults and teens alike.
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