Financial Literacy Falling Far Behind the Need

November 16, 2023 by David Christianson

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As you have probably heard, November is Financial Literacy Month.

Everyone agrees that financial literacy – the ability of people to understand financial issues and make better decisions for themselves – is a great idea. But how are we doing in achieving the laudable goals of improving financial knowledge for Canadians? 

This column will look at that question, but first review and recommend some sources of information, knowledge and wisdom that will hep you improve yours.

My quick message is, “Get started.” The whole topic, including the list below, may seem overwhelming. If it feels that way, start with bite-size pieces. Fifteen minutes a day is all it takes. put together by FPCanada, the national group that licenses Certified Financial PlannersR (CFPRs).

This website provides articles on a wide range of topics. This gives you a good way to judge what you know and what you didn’t know you didn’t know. While all these articles will recommend engaging a qualified financial planner (which is a good idea based on research), they also give you a good initial track to run on by yourself.

CPA Canada, the national group of Chartered Professional Accountants, also offers a great online library of resources, with your choice of webinars, podcasts and written articles, so you can choose your method of delivery.

Go to and click the “Public Interest” button on the top banner.  Pick one resource and dive in.

There is a long list of great books available, some focusing on general financial knowledge and others focusing on critical topics like budgeting and money-saving. Get yourself to your local bookstore and you will find one that fits your particular needs and interests.

Or search online for “financial literacy resources” and you will find a great list of ranging from Personal Finance for Dummies, through my book Managing the Bull to books that focus on debt reduction, like Gale Vaz-Oxlades’ excellent series, and lots on books on investing. (Avoid the ones that promise to make you rich overnight.)

There are also many organizations, including non-profits like the Credit Counselling Society, that offer a wealth of knowledge. While I prefer to recommend non-profits, investment companies and banks have also realized they need to educate their clientele and have provided a great range of practical, actionable tips for consumers, that are not self-serving.

On that note, and to answer the question “How are we doing”, kudos to our sometimes competitor Edward Jones, who recently conducted a comprehensive survey into the state of financial literacy in Canada.

They found that 80% of Canadians believe that the school classroom is the best place and the best time to teach financial literacy, but only 40% of young Canadians between 18 and 34 say they had acquired the knowledge they need upon graduation. We need to do better.

Like the results of the FP Canada Financial Stress Index conducted each year, this survey found that 63% of people believe a financial advisor can help them understand their finances, but only 33% of Canadians currently work with an advisor.

What’s wrong with that picture?

If money worries are causing you significant stress, take some steps to improve your knowledge in the areas that are your biggest worries, and seriously consider consulting a financial professional. Even having an initial conversation is certain to help you feel better.

Taking action, no matter how small, always helps.

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Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.

Please consult legal, tax, insurance and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.


David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is recipient of the FP Canada™ Fellow (FCFP) Distinction, and repeatedly named a Top 50 Financial Advisor in Canada.  He is a Senior Wealth Advisor and Portfolio Manager with Christianson Wealth Advisors at National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance

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