Financial Literacy Month (FLM) is over but the real challenge is just beginning – getting Canadians to move from learning about smart money management to actually taking action. It isn’t always easy, so the federal government along with the private sector – including banks – and many community organizations across the country are collaborating on a national approach to strengthening financial literacy by empowering Canadians with the tools to take control of their financial situation.
For their part, banks in Canada provide their customers with face-to-face financial advice and information and tools online to help them make the best financial choices. Getting that personal advice and guidance gives them the opportunity to ask questions, get answers and make decisions. A financially literate customer is a good customer and Canadians who make healthy, long-term decisions around money not only help to build their own financial security, they are also good for the strength of the financial system and the economy as a whole.
But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so banks have made long-term commitments to support a variety of programs in communities aimed at different audiences, including low-income and new Canadians, seniors and youth. (e.g., TD support for Prosper Canada, BMO and Scotiabank support for the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, RBC support for Free the Children)
Bankers are also active as volunteers providing their time and expertise in financial literacy initiatives across the country. CIBC and HSBC bankers volunteer with Junior Achievement and many bankers participate in the Canadian Bankers Association’s high school seminar program, Your Money Students. Over the years, this non-commercial program has reached over 225,000 students giving them the ability to prepare a budget, spend wisely and invest for the future. The CBA has also just launched Your Money Seniors, a program that gives seniors the tools to manage their money in retirement and to avoid financial abuse and fraud.
We know that these kinds of programs can have a positive impact but more needs to be done. That’s why we are working with the federal government and its newly appointed Financial Literacy Leader, Jane Rooney, to develop a national strategy on financial literacy with input from many groups and businesses. And we need to ensure that provincial and territorial governments provide financial education in schools that give young Canadians the tools they need to make the right financial choices for today and for the rest of their lives.
Financial literacy isn’t going to give Canadians all the answers they need, but it will give them the confidence and ability to know what questions to ask. Financial Literacy Month was a chance to promote the tools – the goal is now for Canadians to pick up those tools to strengthen their financial future.
Terry Campbell is President of the Canadian Bankers Association