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Hurray, financial literacy blossoms! Count Me In, Canada.

by:
Laurie Campbell

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Something wonderful has blossomed in Canada this spring. Last week my friend and colleague Jane Rooney – our country’s Financial Literacy Leader – announced a sweeping new plan called Count Me In, Canada. It highlights for a start more than 50 financial education initiatives that will be launching across the land. It’s splendid news for all Canadians and for all of us here at Credit Canada.

Together as Canadians, we’re taking decisive action on financial literacy, which has long needed special attention. After all, managing and saving money is getting harder by the day in our consumer-driven age of cheap credit. Many of us are charging ahead, borrowing hurriedly as debt problems loom on the horizon. In the process, we’re not applying smart money management skills that are apt to provide much more peace of mind for the security of our families and the strength of our economy. Jane’s announcement shows we’re finally starting to get our heads straight.

A strategic action plan that will help to empower people through smart personal money management and borrowing practices.

Count Me In, Canada is based on a strategic action plan encompassing three clear-cut goals. The first is to empower people through smart personal finance and borrowing practices. The second is to encourage people to plan and save for longer-term security. The third is to help Canadians deal with financial fraud and abuse.

The Globe and Mail nicely summarized Count Me In, Canada programs saying “each of the 52 new financial-literacy initiatives is meant to support at least one of the strategy’s three goals. The programs take the form of new websites and podcasts with educational resources for students, seminars and community workshops for seniors, plus quizzes and financial boot-camp programs targeted at those in debt. The programs are designed to be rolled out over a year or two.”

The strategy is “a call to action for every Canadian to make financial literacy a matter of lifelong learning.”

I should add that initiatives involving aboriginal peoples and low-income families – especially those facing debt problems – figure strongly in the picture. As Jane said, the strategy is “a call to action for every Canadian to make financial literacy a matter of lifelong learning.”

My agency Credit Canada has a special stake in the matter. Along with providing credit counselling and debt consolidation services to people facing problem debt, we have for decades devoted much of our time to financial education programs involving Canadians of all ages in all walks of life. We have played a direct role in helping to bring Count Me In, Canada into being through my participation as one of 15 members of Canada’s National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy, created last year under Jane’s wing to set a course for positive action.

Canada’s financial institutions have boldly stepped up to the plate. They have pledged $10 million spread evenly over five years.

It’s so gratifying to see programs take shape on the basis of the group’s consultative work, and it’s great to be part of a growing force that’s fighting the good fight. Steering committee members and Jane’s office are now set to promote new financial literacy programs while monitoring their progress and making adjustments as need be. This brain trust includes leaders with expertise in general commerce, financial services, regulation, advocacy, and other areas.

Meanwhile, in terms of moving financial literacy programs forward, Canada’s financial institutions have boldly stepped up to the plate. They have pledged $10 million spread evenly over five years through what is called the Financial Literacy Partnership Fund. Official launch of the fund will come through the Canadian Bankers Association later this year.

All this great news follows much hard work by many people over time. Count Me In, Canada “comes after years of research, reports and consultations with a variety of stakeholders on the topic of Canadians’ financial understanding, dating back to June, 2009, when then-minister of finance Jim Flaherty created the Task Force on Financial Literacy,” the Globe and Mail noted.

As Jane Rooney reminds us, though, it’s all just a beginning. “We know financial literacy is a long-term initiative. It will take a long time to make changes. So there will be more specific action plans coming.”

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