Oh, Financial Literacy Month, we love you: for a brief moment, caring about budgeting and saving money seeps into the mainstream.
In case you didn’t know, back in 2012, the Canadian federal government declared November to be Financial Literacy Month in Canada.
But as fast as it arrives, all the buzz is gone.
That’s because it’s hard to get Canadians to care about their money. Earlier this year, 57% of Canadians surveyed by LowestRates.ca failed our quiz of 15 questions meant to assess their financial literacy.
They failed even as 78% said they felt they were financially literate, with 64% rating their literacy as good and 14% as excellent.
Financial Literacy Month is definitely a well-intentioned project. After all, some of our favourite bloggers have used it to amplify their voices to get some great messages around the need to be financially aware.
But one month a year is not nearly enough time for such an important task.
Especially since Canadians in recent years have become one of the most indebted people on earth. The average Canadian now carries $1.67 in debt for every dollar in disposable income they make.
A study from PwC titled Millennials & Financial Literacy: The Struggle with Personal Finance, found that only 8% of millennials — classified in the report as those between the ages of 23-35 — have high financial literacy, while 24% have basic financial literacy.
Millennials are also struggling to save their money. Of those surveyed, 36% have a retirement account. But 17% with such accounts have been forced to take out a loan to cover their costs, while 14% made a hardship withdrawal — a last resort that means tapping into your retirement savings to make ends meet.
Now, it’d be irresponsible to blame all of that on lack of financial literacy. Some of it can be blamed on government, and even societal, failures — we exist at a time when wealth inequality is rising, when major cities around the world are dealing with acute housing crises and when wages in the Western world have stagnated.
Inequality needs to be tackled. But to help tackle it, young people need to be armed with financial knowledge. They need to understand how money works.
A survey we did in August revealed that Canadians aren’t taking advantage of emerging financial technology to help them with their money.
For us, promoting financial literacy isn’t restricted to just November. We’re going to go hard every day to make sure that Canadians are armed with the tools and financial knowledge they need to be empowered consumers.
Because, as the statistics above show, we need to talk about money now more than ever.