Financial literacy is a life skill often overlooked in traditional Canadian education systems. It involves understanding how money works, managing it, and investing to generate wealth. Unfortunately, many young people lack these skills, leading to poor financial decisions and uncertainty in adulthood. Knowing how to handle money in your early adult years is crucial, even if you are skilled in algebra and calculus.
What is financial literacy and why is it so important?
Money management is a learned skill. Like any skill, it takes expert instruction, lots of practice, and real-world use to master. At a minimum, a financial literacy curriculum should consider the following:
- Budgeting: Understanding how to create and manage a budget is a foundational financial literacy skill. It helps young people track this income, subtract their expenses, and save and invest for the future.
- Understanding credit: Teenagers should have a firm idea of how their credit and credit score work. Calculating interest rates, paying bills on time, and the potential dangers of credit card debt are essential skills.
- Saving, investing, and taxes: Students learn about saving money, investing, taxes, different bank accounts, and compound interest.
As a new generation of Canadian consumers emerges, we can redefine personal financial management (or lack thereof).
The role of financial literacy programs
Redefining successful personal financial management starts in Canadian schools. We need a standard basic personal financial literacy curriculum for students. The curriculum should include basic financial concepts, such as budgeting for teens, saving and investing, and managing credit and debt. Such a curriculum would give Canadian youth the knowledge they need to make informed financial decisions.
Teaching these topics from an early age causes a trickle-down effect. Young adults join the economy in a more favourable financial position. Better personal financial outcomes mean a confident new Canadian consumer with responsible economic habits. This confidence and responsibility lead to predictable, sustainable consumer behaviours, positively impacting the Canadian economy.
People have always seen money as a stressor. Money stresses were and are very common in Canadian households. Encouraging financial responsibility leads to less debt, larger savings and investments, and expendable cash.
Confident Canadian consumers redefine how we interact with money. And having more money to lead a less stressful life can increase happiness and reduce depression. These effects are a step toward a healthier and more content Canadian population.
What is the financial literacy issue in Canada?
Most Canadian youth are not thinking about how to save for retirement. But the sooner they start planning, the better retirement they will have.
Less than 15% of Canadians have advanced financial management skills. And while the Government of Canada has exceptional financial literacy resources, very few people access or implement the available information. With federal and provincial government assistance, Canadian schools must take the lead in teaching personal finances as a core curriculum.
Canada's young must understand the financial implications of higher education, home buying, and retirement planning.
Post-secondary education is a considerable expense. Students must understand ways to lessen the financial burden by getting scholarships, having a roommate, or working part-time jobs.
Buying a home in Canada can be a complicated process. An appreciation of the long-term commitment to home ownership, mortgage types, and interest rates are critical aspects of financial literacy.
Most Canadian youth are not thinking about how to save for retirement. But the sooner they start planning, the better retirement they will have. Even the most basic investing strategies can set up young people for future success.
Canada must implement a longer-term youth financial literacy program that teaches and reinforces basic responsible financial habits. These base skills are important for understanding complex financial topics like today's economy and financial markets. We have an opportunity to shape future Canadian consumers and our economy. And it starts in Canadian schools with basic money management skills.