enjamin Franklin once said,“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember.” These words seem particularly appropriate during financial literacy month.

Canada’s first Financial Literacy Leader

Canadians have been hearing about the importance of financial literacy for years, but Jane Rooney, who has served as Canada’s first Financial Literacy Leader since 2014, doesn’t just want to tell consumers how important it is to know about budgeting, saving, investing, and retirement planning. She wants to provide Canadians with the knowledge they need to be financially literate and secure.

“Making decisions about money shouldn’t be scary,” says Rooney. “There are a lot of great organizations out there that can help people with their financial literacy, including the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. We have a mandate to help Canadians and we have a number of tools available to consumers.”

Dedicated to helping Canadians achieve full financial literacy

As Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader, Jane Rooney has crossed the country to talk with Canadians about the importance of financial literacy and to seek their views on how to help people enhance their financial knowledge and skills, while also increasing confidence in dealing with money matters.

“Based on research conducted and what I learned during more than 500 consultations, we brought forward a financial literacy strategy last June called Count Me in, Canada. It was a call to action for Canadians that seeks to raise awareness of the value of financial literacy and the positive impact it can have on people’s lives,” says Rooney. “The strategy works toward helping consumers achieve three goals: managing money and debt wisely, saving for the future and planning for retirement, and preventing and protecting against fraud and financial abuse.”

Financial literacy lacking amongst all consumer demographics

One in three participating Canadians received below-average scores in the latest Statistics Canada Financial Knowledge Quiz (2011). The concerning numbers are consistent across all demographics, from millennials just entering the workforce to boomers facing their future on the verge of retirement.

The need for increased financial literacy is particularly acute amongst Canadians closer to retirement age. According to a recent Broadbent Institute Report (2016), one out of every two people aged 55 to 64 without access to a company pension haven’t saved enough to pay even half their bills in retirement, while one in three have less than $1,000 in retirement savings.

“Planning for the future and saving for retirement are critical, and the risk in not being financially literate is in not being prepared,” says Rooney. “Being financially literate means knowing there are things you can do to help yourself out in retirement, but having also gained the skills to put something away for unforeseen and unexpected expenses in the future.”

Financial education the key to increased financial literacy

Drilling down into the numbers provided by Statistics Canada, it’s apparent that education is one factor that plays a role in the differing levels of financial literacy amongst Canadians. But Rooney believes it is possible for all Canadians to achieve the necessary level of financial literacy, regardless of their level of formal education.

“Financial literacy is as important as numeracy and literacy. It means having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make responsible financial decisions and there are lots of professionals out there able to help consumers gain the relevant knowledge,” says Rooney. “Being financially literate is a life skill that affects every single Canadian every day of our lives.”

Canadians can access a variety of financial literacy resources

In Canada, consumers have access to a wide range of financial professionals and educational tools designed to increase financial literacy. The first stop on the road to being financially literate is the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

“We have a very comprehensive website providing preparation tips for life events and a financial literacy database with links to non-profits, private sector companies, and relevant government departments,” says Rooney. “There’s also a 15-question quiz Canadians can use to test their financial literacy. At the end of the quiz it will self-populate with tools that’ll help you increase your financial knowledge.”

Many other organizations are already committed to supporting the Financial Literacy Leader’s strategy, and a number have shared planned initiatives working toward teaching Canadians the basics of financial literacy: managing, saving, and protection.

“As we celebrate Financial Literacy Month, I welcome more collaborators and Canadians to join in,” says Rooney. “I continue to be inspired by the people in communities throughout the country who are working hard to improve their own financial literacy, and those who are helping and supporting others. In my role as Financial Literacy Leader, I encourage all Canadians to count themselves in and to contribute to the momentum that’s building to make financial literacy a life-long journey."