By Kelley Keehn, Consumer Advocate, Financial Planning Standards Council
Do you remember ParticipACTION? Sure you do. Hal and Joanne from Body Break? They were a 1970s and ‘80s staple in Canadian schools and public service announcements on TV and radio. I bet your mom even has some of the crests you earned in junior high. And do you recall the government shaming the country in TV ads that depicted an in-shape, grey-haired, 60-year-old Swede gliding on an afternoon jog while the 30-year-old Canadian puffed away, barely able to keep up? It’s worth a Google search if you’re feeling nostalgic.
It illustrates the point that there was a time when we didn’t even know that exercise was essential to our well-being. In the gluten-free, vegan, lactose-intolerant, yoga-twice-daily-while-training-for-a-marathon world that we live in today, can we even imagine that such a time existed – the Dark Ages of ill health – in the not-so-distant past?
We used to whisper the word ‘cancer,’ and today we run for the cure. We involve our friends and post on social media when battling addictions, mental illness and more. We research our ails before we visit our doctor, and bookend the appointment with more analysis while then questioning the prescription he or she gave us. It seems there’s nothing left that remains taboo or for which we won’t rally our friends, family and the Internet to share in our journey.
Alas. There is one pesky issue left. One that is just as essential to our well-being and long-term vitality, and can even affect our health positively or adversely. And that’s money. Our finances. Our debt and savings. Our credit, our spending and budgets (or lack thereof) and so much more.
In my opinion – after thousands of interviews over the past 11 years on a plethora of personal finance topics – there are three reasons why financial literacy is still an issue today:
- It’s the last taboo. Especially if you need help or are in trouble or have been scammed – there is often shame and embarrassment associated with such a situation.
- We don’t know whom to trust. And thus, we often don’t act.
As we approach Financial Planning Week – which I believe is the most important week of Financial Literacy Month – you have a chance to pause and change your financial state and future. Not just for yourself, but for your family too. The Financial Planning Standards Council published an extensive study of 15,000 Canadians across the country over three years. And – no surprise – those who had a comprehensive financial plan reported a greater sense of well-being and the confidence to deal with bumps in life.
So often, people will confide in me that they should know this or that financially, or really should be doing more with their finances. They often say it as if they’re guilty of some wrong. But you wouldn’t self-diagnose or feel embarrassed or ashamed if you faced a critical health issue, or think you need to be an expert on the subject. I urge you to consider the same with your finances.
You’ve likely already taken a number of positive steps towards a brighter financial future – like enrolling in your employer’s savings program, starting an RESP for your child or taking out life insurance. But now what?
Take the next step and find a qualified financial professional to help you navigate that path. The number one question I get from readers is “whom can I trust?” What I tell them is that when you see the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® designation, you know they’re held to the highest level of education, experience, examination and code of ethics in the industry. Be sure to interview a number of planners to find the right one for you so that you feel confident on that journey. A good place to get started is at FindYourPlanner.ca.
Watch this video to learn more from FPSC’s Consumer Advocate.