Financial Literacy for Life

November 21, 2017

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Financial literacy isn’t always a part of our formal education but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some time to learn the basics. No matter if you have fat stacks or pocket change in your bank account, it’s important to understand how to manage what you have.

The Each One Teach One Program was created to help Canadians make better, more informed choices when it comes to their personal finances. Led by credit unions, the program was brought to Atlantic Canada in 2016 by a team that included Jeanette Wakelin, Director of Product Solutions for Atlantic Credit Unions. 

“The program is effective because it’s based on community need”, says Wakelin. “Individual community groups come to us for the topic they want help withwhether it’s seniors who want to understand how to avoid fraud, adults who want help with their taxes, or individuals that need to get back-on-track when it comes to budgeting, we tailor the training.”

Managing debt is a topic that Wakelin wishes more people would take the time to learn about. It turns out, many Atlantic Canadians could be making better decisions.

“The average credit card debt in Atlantic Canada is around $22,500”, she says.  “That means you’re maintaining 20 per cent interest on that balance. People don’t realize there are other, smarter options and that there are good loans, and bad loans. You need to look at your administration fees and interest rates.”

Wakelin points to the need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ as being a big part of the consumer debt problem. She explains that taking the time to discern the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’ can be a helpful question for many people to ask before every purchase—even if it’s as small as a coffee. 

“It’s about being aware of how you’re spending your money and knowing what options are out there. That applies to people of all ages and financial situations. We’ve done seminars for high school students preparing for post-secondary and have found parents have questions for us too.”

Wakelin says the interest in the program so far is encouraging, and in her opinion, the seminars have the potential to be life-changing. Over 5,000 seminars have been delivered across Canada and there are 50 certified Each One Teach One coaches in Atlantic Canada alone. Ultimately, the goal for the program is to create and empower financial literacy experts to educate people in their own communities.

“Building understanding around finances and supporting our communities fits with who we are as credit unions—the training isn’t about us, it’s about helping people and providing real solutions.”