Along with reading, writing, and arithmetic, you’d think personal financial literacy would be just as core to our kids’ education. Instead, the subject rarely makes its way into the standard curriculum of grade schools or high schools. I’ve even seen postsecondary business programs pass it by.

If our education system doesn’t prepare us, it’s no wonder so many Canadians have so many questions about managing their money. At some point, a good number of us will incur credit card debt, pay down a mortgage, pay rent, or contribute to a TFSA. To deal with these sorts of life-changing financial decisions, every Canadian deserves at least an introductory understanding of basic financial planning.

 

Slipping Through the Curriculum Cracks

Until educational institutions step up and improve their offerings, I’ll do what I can to assist. As essential as this stuff is to their future well-being, shouldn’t we be teaching our kids – and ourselves – a thing or two about money? As in: How to earn it. How to save it. And maybe most of all, how to spend it wisely, based on sensible, lifelong decision-making.

Unfortunately, the education needed for this is not routinely happening in Canadian schools. In 2018, a CNBC article featured a promising financial literacy pilot program developed by business students at the University of Regina. While the article reported that the Ministry of Education was “exploring the possibility,” it also said the ministry was not considering any immediate changes to current high school graduation requirements. So, in other words, we’re still waiting.

Until these essentials are integrated into our schools, most money lessons must come from other places, such as the family dinner table. So, for now, perhaps the best place for your kids to learn these skills is at home, through you. When your kids are young, give them a piggy bank, and show them how to use it. Provide them with an allowance. As they grow older, encourage them to get a part-time job. Help them set financial goals, consider trade-offs, make decisions, and solve fundamental financial exercises. Building these skills early and often will go a long way.

 

Avoiding the School of Hard Knocks

Think about your own path to financial literacy. Do any personal horror stories leap to mind? Has there been a time or two you’ve ended up having to learn a financial lesson the hard and expensive way?

Believe me, I’ve got my own fair share of those. If you ask me, teaching some basic financial literacy in our schools could go a long way toward helping all of us set out on safer financial footing. Everyone is better off if we’re all prepared to create a budget, pay taxes, open investment accounts, and so on.

Now, you don’t have to hire an expert to handle ordinary financial tasks. But you DON’T want to have to learn how to complete them on the spot, when you first walk into a bank. Remember, these bank advisors and salespeople aren’t malicious; they’re simply doing what they’ve learned in employee training. But as we’ve covered recently, what they’ve learned to offer is often focused far more on scoring a sale than securing your financial stability.

So, to recap, in my opinion, our country’s level of financial literacy needs work. Our education system needs to play a larger role. Until then, it’s up to YOU to fill in the gap – for yourself and your children.

Agree? Disagree? Could you use some more feedback from me? Leave your comments on the YouTube version of today’s topic, and we’ll keep the conversation going.