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Financial literacy is the key to daily purchases and long-term goals

Last Tuesday, I launched Canada's National Strategy for Financial Literacy, along with Minister of State (Finance) Kevin Sorenson. It will strengthen the financial well-being of Canadians and their families by helping them gain the skills to tackle their financial challenges.

The strategy rallies Canadians and organizations that support financial literacy around three common goals: Managing money and debt wisely; planning and saving for the future; and protecting themselves from, and helping to prevent, financial fraud and financial abuse.

Managing money is part of everyday life. We all need to know how to budget, track expenses, pay bills and make spending decisions based on our needs and priorities. These skills equip people to live within their means and remain in control of their financial lives.

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Planning and saving for the future allows people to achieve their goals. An essential element of this is knowing how to choose the right financial products and services to suit their needs. It could be a short-term goal, such as buying a new mobile device or a show ticket. Or a long-term goal, like retirement planning. And, because Canadians work hard for their money, we want to help them learn how to protect themselves from financial abuse and fraud.

In developing the strategy, we drew on the wise counsel provided by the National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy of 15 financial education experts from a wide variety of sectors. We relied on the results of the Canadian Financial Capability Survey to help us pinpoint needs and knowledge gaps. And we crossed the country to consult with private, public and non-profit organizations and Canadians of different backgrounds.

The ideas and concerns they expressed shaped the strategy's priorities: collaborating and sharing educational resources and best practices; tailoring programs to intended audiences; using plain language in communicating about products and services; and engaging Canadians to improve their financial literacy in innovative ways. I will continue to help organizations across sectors to forge partnerships. I will encourage everyone involved to tailor programs to their audiences, simplify documents, communicate clearly, and make financial literacy fun.

I have a strong network of collaborators to help me implement the strategy. National steering committee members will act as champions within the industries and organizations they represent. Educational institutions have set up workshops and courses to raise their students' financial literacy, and companies are taking similar steps for employees. Financial institutions and associations are working together to address challenges specific to certain groups of Canadians, such as seniors, while community-based organizations are leading many grassroots initiatives.

Financial literacy must be easily integrated into Canadians' daily lives. So we aim to reach people where they are – at home, at work, in community groups. People are also more receptive to financial literacy when they are making major financial decisions. So we must engage when they are setting up savings funds for children, buying homes, assessing retirement options, estate planning.

This requires long-term change, and the effort will be worth it. Success requires a concerted effort from all sectors, including governments, educators, financial-service providers, employers and non-profit organizations, plus individuals and families.

What will success look like? Canadians will be better equipped and more confident in making decisions in a rapidly changing and complex financial landscape. The financial well-being of Canadians will be more secure and our economy will be stronger.

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Want to join this national effort for financial literacy? Sign up to the supporters' page – more than 50 organizations have already done so. Take steps to improve your own financial literacy. And join the conversation on social media via #CountMeInCA. Join me as we implement the strategy.

Jane Rooney is Canada's Financial Literacy Leader.

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