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Canadians among the world’s most financially literate

But, as it gets more complex, who’s teaching the next generation?

November isn’t just the time of year when men grow embarrassingly bad moustaches in the name of cancer research and people start wracking up Christmas debt, it’s also financial literacy month.
We, Canadians, are among the world leaders in financial literacy – the knowledge, skills and confidence required to make responsible financial decisions. In an international survey of financial literacy competencies among adults completed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation Developed (OECD) and the International Network on Financial Education (INFE), Canada ranked third among 30 countries.
There’s also hope for future generations, as Canadian youth who were polled finished tied for second with Belgium.
And, as it turns out, they’re keen to learn more.
The Canadian Foundation for Economic Education surveyed more than 6,000 youth aged 12 to 17 to gauge, among other things, what they wanted to learn about and how they wanted to learn it.
Earning, managing, monitoring, saving, and investing money topped the list. And, overwhelmingly, they want to learn all that at home and at school.
Learning at home, whether it’s from a parent or guardian, may be the best option, but it assumes those individuals have a firm grasp that they can pass on to impressionable youth.
And those without are likely too embarrassed to show their child how little they know about a crucial life skill.
“We can say to the parents, ‘teach your kids,’ but the problem is some parents don't know themselves. So how do we gain access to the parents and teach them to teach their kids?’” asks Grant Maddigan, a financial advisor with Assante Wealth Management.
As for acquiring knowledge in the classroom, it’s starting to happen in some jurisdictions around Canada.
Ontario started a pilot program in 28 schools last year. In Manitoba, it’s covered in courses from Grades 4 to 12, but the provincial government is intent on integrating financial themes into other curricula areas. In British Columbia, financial literacy is taught in every grade within a recently revised math curriculum.
In Nova Scotia, where students are at the Canadian average in financial literacy, it’s taught through elementary and junior high and expanded upon in high school when students are required to take financial mathematics. Prince Edward Island starts kids on the path in Grade 1 and, once in high school, they must complete a course called career development, 25 per cent of which is devoted to financial education.
As is the case for so many things in Newfoundland and Labrador, the province is in the red and it seems as though that financial literacy isn’t even on the provincial government’s radar.
Premier Dwight Ball’s task force on improving educational outcomes, released this past July, doesn’t even use the words.
“They do a little bit of the education, but it's not as structured as it needs to be,” says Maddigan, who, along with MUN classmate Jorden DeLouche, co-founded Financial Literacy for Youth (FLY), a non-profit organization that introduces teens to the subject in an attempt to better prepare them for a stable financial footing.
The pair have lobbied government for change in the education curriculum, specifically by including it in the mandatory career development course.
“Teachers I've talked to are saying the course doesn't have enough content to give it for a full year. They're calling us and trying to find guest speakers to come in and talk to their classes because they have nothing else to teach,” says Maddigan.
“As an education curriculum in Newfoundland, we need to start preparing people for the real world. I can tell you on one hand how many times I've used Shakespeare since I learned about it. I don't even need a finger.”
kenn.oliver@thetelegram.com
Twitter: kennoliver79

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