Feds look to school us in finances

Flaherty: We can build stuff, but we’re no good with cash


Feds look to school us in finances

It looks like Canada’s consumers are in for a little financial schoolin’. Hidden among the 360 pages of the federal government’s recent budget proposal is a plan to launch a new financial literacy task force this spring. The task force, which will include representatives from the business, education, academic and volunteer sectors, will report to Flaherty with recommendations on how best to equip Canadians to make more responsible financial decisions.

The new effort appears to be a tacit acknowledgement that part of the blame for today’s financial mess falls on regular Canadians who took on more debt than they should have. “We are graduating people who can design and build complex buildings and bridges, but cannot effectively manage their personal finances,” said Flaherty during a Washington speech last May. “A country’s financial success is ultimately the sum of the financial success of all its households.”

The U.S. is also trying to educate its consumers. The proposed National Financial Literacy Act, announced last week, aims to create financial education programs in communities across the country. The bill includes measures to motivate financial institutions and businesses to inform their customers of the benefits and repercussions of their financial decisions.

In Canada, educators say the initiative is long overdue. Our citizens are expected to graduate from high school knowing how to read and write, but most can’t balance a chequebook. “I think there’s a real need to deal with it at the public school and the high school levels,” says Lynn Biscott, financial educator and director of Fernwood Consulting. She adds that many of her clients are intelligent people who simply have never been taught the basics of finance.

Elena Jara, education coordinator for Credit Canada, agrees. She says that the days when you could count on the bank not to lend you too much are gone. “People need to take responsibility for themselves,” she says. “The financial institutions have left all the weight on the shoulders of the consumers.”

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Feds look to school us in finances

  1. Excellent idea and long overdue. When you get right fown to it the recent economic crisis is no single person, group or institutions fault but the result of all of our collective actions and the more responsibility that each person takes the more likely this can be dealt with now and in the future. We need to really take a look at past actions in history and learn from them as Mark Twain says history does not repeat itself but it rhymes so we need to learn the poem.

  2. So, all those glossy brochures at the banks explaining pay-yourself-first and the dangers of extended debt haven’t had as much take-up as “you’re pre-approved (at 28%)…”

    Well, OK. Canada’s Personal Finance Guide can join the Food Guide and Activity Guide. And we all know how well the Food and Activity guides are doing.

    Any review exercise that doesn’t start and end with “education is a provincial responsibility” is bound to become another ugly mess.

  3. Good luck getting teachers to teach anything useful to their students.

    And I remember something George Will said a few months ago about how 20/30 years ago people use to talk about how government had to be more like the average household when it came to finances. And then about 10/15 years ago, households got tired of balancing budgets and scrimping money to make it through the month. So they decided to act like governments do and take on huge amounts of debt and hope for the best.

    I am all for trying to teach people basic finance but I wish government would take some economic lessons as well, and not from drunk sailors.

    • ” Gd luck getting teachers to teach anyhting useful to their students.”
      Just what is that supposed to mean JWL? Are you slagging teachers, students or both? Or are you expressing a view that it’s all to late anyway so why bother? The consevative pov gets me up and at em every day i can tell you!

  4. I feel comfortable taking financial advice from the people who told me two months ago that Canada was going to to enjoy moderate growth in 2009 and run a surplus.

    • [Frank Kelly Freas was a genius.] Take any photograph – a headshot – and compare it to:


      . . . and you cannot help but notice an uncanny resemblance.

      In Flaherty’s case, however, the resemblance is bit more than simply appearance.

  5. Maybe the government should school themselves first on
    how now to waste money and then the people will follow suit.

  6. This coming from the neocons who didn’t even know there was a problem a week before the election. One week after they must have read somewhere that there seems to be a problem. Not in Canader, eh?
    75 billion in bailout money for our banks but its different here. And a tax free savings account for those few who still have a job and have some spare coin after paying for heat, groceries, taxes, mortgage, etc.
    Remember, inflation is only 2%. Sure can’t tell that in the grocery store.

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