Mediaplanet What wisdom can you share with to Canadians about your experiences so far in the financial world?

Michael Wekerle One thing I often tell people is that it took me a long time to learn the things I know today. Take your time to make money because it isn’t a race. It’s important to be prudent and careful with your financial decisions.

I also tell people to work hard. Get to work five minutes early and stay five minutes late. That’s a key piece of advice I always give.

MP  What are your views on financial literacy?

MW Financial literacy is extremely important, and not just for Canadians, but for Canada. In my opinion, Toronto is the next best thing to New York City. Despite our much smaller demographic, we’ve carved out an identity as a technology beachhead. It’s really amazing.

What sets us apart is our financial acumen. We tend to follow the United States a lot, in every which way. But in financial acumen, we have our own thing going on. Part of that is our strong banking system.

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When Canadians are more financially literate, not only are they more successful in their own right, but they’re also able to contribute to a stronger Canada from a financial point of view.

MP How informed are people today with regards to financial matters?

MW I don’t think people are as informed about financial matters as they could be. There’s definitely a gap in knowledge. Part of that has to do with the curriculum in Canadian schools. We have great education, but there isn’t enough practical stuff being taught, such as how to deal with finances on a short-term and long-term basis.  

"When Canadians are more financially literate, not only are they more successful in their own right, but they’re also able to contribute to a stronger Canada from a financial point of view."

What we need to do is develop programs that are widely accessible to Canadians, and act as road maps of how to become an entrepreneur or how to be successful in business.

Some places are already starting to do this, which is great. The Waterloo Innovation Network, for example, was set up to encourage the growth of start-up tech companies in the region.

We need to supplement what youth are already learning in school with practical education that teaches them how to manage their finances.

MP How can Canadians improve their financial literacy?

MW My dad had a big influence on me growing up. He bought and sold confectionery, syrups, and other foodstuffs. It was a small operation, just family, but he was the first person who taught me how commodity markets worked.

As a young kid, I learned how to buy and sell, and how to chart the points-of-purchase on commodities.

When I stepped into the financial world and started working with Alec Miller from First Marathon, I learned how to trade. I learned more technical versions of what my dad taught me.

My point is, learn from the people who surround you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’d be surprised how much you can learn just by asking others for help.

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MP  What key piece of financial advice would you impart to Canadians?

MW My advice would be to never fail. Because you only fail when you stop trying.

It’s really important to have integrity and to enjoy what you do. Keep improving, keep working, keep evolving. Sweat the small stuff and be accountable.

MP  What advice would you give someone who is just getting financially on track and finally has some money to invest?

MW It’s really important to take your time. When you want to invest, make sure you know the downside to your investment before you know the upside. You have to be informed.

I would also say that it’s important to diversify. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, because you’re already setting yourself up for failure.