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Less than two-thirds of Canadians are confident about their financial knowledge, according to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Financial Capability Survey.

And that figure hasn’t changed since 2009, when it was about 60%, said Financial Literacy Leader Jane Rooney at an Economic Club event on December 10. She added the preliminary results of this year’s survey show savings rates are low in Canada.

Read: Canadians give themselves poor grades on saving

And, many Canadians don’t understand the term “financial literacy,” which she defines as having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make financial decisions.

On the upside, the recent Statistics Canada survey shows more new Canadians are aware of, and are using, vehicles such as TFSAs, and more parents across all income brackets are saving for their kids’ educations.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done, says Rooney, since we still don’t fully understand people’s attitudes toward money and, specifically, across different priority groups. This includes seniors, low-income Canadians, new Canadians and youth.

Read: Different fears for different generations

To help, she and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada have set up the Canadian Financial Literacy Database. Through this hub, professionals and investors can access more than 800 resources, and take a quiz to assess their money management skills.

Looking at how these resources are used and at the quiz results is one way Rooney and her committee plan to identify knowledge gaps and needs. She’ll also continue to meet with industry groups and communities across the country—recently, she connected with low-income, and Aboriginal Canadians.

Read: Help Aboriginal communities manage wealth

Check out live tweets from Rooney’s speech below*. Also, assistant editor Katie Keir had a one-on-one chat with Rooney. Here’s the Q&A.

Insights from Jane Rooney

Q: The four priority groups you’ve identified are seniors (and near-seniors), low-income Canadians, new Canadians and youth. Why have seniors been the primary focus so far?

A: Helping seniors was identified as a federal priority in budget 2013, so when I was first named Financial Literacy Leader, I went through consultations with industry groups that work with seniors. I found:

  • demographics are shifting in Canada and across the globe;
  • there have been changes to government benefits (CPP, OAS), so people will have more complex decisions to make; and
  • seniors have a growing level of debt, and higher bankruptcy levels, as identified through the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada.

Read: 5 credit myths and realities

When we mention near-seniors, we’re referencing those who are aged 55 and above. But it’s important that people start planning even earlier than that, and they understand savings vehicles.

Q: Youth education will be more of a focus in 2015, so what initiatives might we see at that point, and what’s being done currently?

A: Our consultation paper on youth education is live now, and we’re meeting with industry groups. Currently, we’re looking for comment on how to best connect with young Canadians, both young adults and youth. Comment letters are due by December 31, 2014.

Read: Email your clients: Give children a solid financial start

Education and school curriculums are in the jurisdictions of the provinces and territories, but we’ve been working to raise awareness of why financial literacy matters.

Further, FCAC already developed a financial education program intended for schools in 2004. We partnered with the BCSC, which developed the financial literacy component of a required high school course called Planning 10 for B.C. We took that program and developed a resource called The City, and it’s marketed to teachers.

Read: Make financial literacy lessons fun

Also, financial literacy is part of the national curriculum: starting in 2012, there were requirements in Ontario for literacy to be part of the curriculum from grades four to 12. A cross-curricular approach has been adopted, however, so there isn’t a specific financial planning course as is seen in B.C. In Alberta, there are career and life management courses, and financially literacy is embedded in the New Brunswick and Quebec curriculums, with Quebec on the verge of launching a new curriculum.

Q: What can advisors do to help educate Canadians?

A: Advisors have a critical role in boosting financial literacy because they’re working with individuals, and can provide life-long learning. They go through someone’s plan over several decades and, as life events occur, can educate clients.

Read: Why to educate clients about markets

Advisors are a critical part of my audience, and I get access to them through both FPSC and Advocis, both of which I work with closely. The investment community has been very engaged, especially due to new rules coming down through CRM. If clients are worried or upset, it offers a great opportunity to explain their value and find out about people’s knowledge gaps. Right now, advisors should be sharing best practices of how they’re meeting communication requirements.

For more tips, view the live tweets below. And read more from Katie Keir and Follow @katiekeir.

Live tweets from Economic Club event (* Return to rest of article)

Many people complain about the lack of financial literacy in Canada, and now we have someone who will do something about that, says @ECofCanada

Financial literacy has an impact on the strength of the overall economy, says Rooney @ECofCanada

Rooney and FCAC have 2 mandates: investor protection and improving financial literacy @ECofCanada

@StatsCanada StatsCan financial knowledge survey finds 6/10 Canadians still aren’t confident about wealth management, same as in 2009 @ECofCanada

On top of saving and investing trends, we need to figure out people’s attitudes toward money, says Rooney @ECofCanada

@StatsCanada also found in its recent study that more immigrants have TFSAs now, which suggests they have higher financial knowledge than in 2009 @ECofCanada

Based on Rooney’s work, the Canadian Bankers Association is training front-line staff on how to warn people about fraud @ECofCanada

If we teach kids about finances, their parents will also learn as they help with homework, adds Rooney @ECofCanada

Throughout Financial Literacy Month, there were more than 1,200 events, and more involvement from the financial industry @ECofCanada

My biggest challenge is completing initiatives quickly, says Rooney. She tells her kids, “I try to help ppl learn to manage money” @ECofCanada

In OECD group, 107 countries are represented, says Rooney. And Canada, the U.K., Australia are among the top leaders with regards to financial literacy @ECofCanada

Not much work is yet being done for small businesses, but one national group has a literacy task force addressing that need, says Rooney @ECofCanada

You especially need to help low-income and new Canadians understand what “financial literacy” means, she adds @ECofCanada

Originally published on Advisor.ca

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