How financially literate are you?

By Jill McKenzie

August 23, 2017 2:39 PM

 

The accountants and financial advisors of the world must shake their heads, at times, to see how many of us go through life not fully understanding what we should do with our money to create more wealth, or how interest rates affect us, or how we could save on taxes.
In our defence, though, most of us Regular Joes are busy living life, working, and raising kids and haven’t found that 25th hour in the day to educate ourselves on money matters.
It’s understandable if many of us intend to start an RRSP but haven’t gotten around to it.
And if we could consolidate our debts and save on interest, but haven’t, it’s because we haven’t found the time.
And many of us feel that we don’t have the wiggle room in our budgets to commit to retirement savings, so we haven’t bothered to read up on RRSPs.
Our mortgage rate is something beyond our control so we don’t listen to news of interest rates going up.
The only things you can be sure of are death and taxes, so why bother learning about complex financial particulars?
The short answer is to give yourself and your loved ones a better life.
To enable yourself to slowly get ahead, have more stability, and be prepared for life’s ups and downs.
The good news is that you can start small and begin today.
Even if you don’t currently have the money or know-how to start investing, you can begin to read basic articles online or at the library to educate yourself.
If you have a smart phone, how much time do you spend playing games or scrolling through apps?
Use a portion of this time reading about how to write a budget, how to save on groceries, or how to get out of debt.
The more you immerse yourself in the subject of becoming financially stable, the more likely you are to succeed.
Where to start
Did you know that the Government of Canada has an area on its website devoted to educating citizens like us on how to handle our money?
At www.canada.ca under “more services” the link “money and finances” is a great place to begin learning.
The site covers subjects such as managing your money, including budgeting, banking, and planning for all of life’s stages.
Once you begin to understand your own financial situation, you can move on to the articles regarding savings and investments. And then there’s retirement and pensions.
They also want to teach you about debt and borrowing, and taxes. And there’s more.
You may not want to get too in depth on some of these topics.
Nailing down a budget and getting out of debt might be your end-game.
But you can’t get there until you begin, and reading some of this basic information might inspire you to start.
You are not alone
Almost everyone has, at one time or another, felt as though their financial situation can’t change.
Reading about basic money matters is the first step in a proactive approach to handling your money—whether you have a little or a lot.
Talking with knowledgeable friends or family members is also a great idea.
Reading about reducing spending and getting out of debt keeps the issues in the forefront of your mind.
You might find tips that help you get started, keep you motivated, and inspire others around you to do better. It’s worth a shot.

Everyone should know the basics
It’s so important that spouses get on the same page when it comes to financial goals and debt.
It’s not enough, these days, to allow your partner to do the worrying while you go about the business of overspending.
Sit down together and list some short-term and long-term goals. In the short-term you may want to pay off your credit card debt.
How will you come up with the extra money to do so?
If it means one of you taking on extra work, the other must support that and help make it happen.
Likewise, if a long-term goal is paying off a mortgage early, you must concentrate daily on putting the extra money towards your mortgage.
Leaving the hard decisions and sacrifices until tomorrow puts off your deadline indefinitely.
Remember that the interest you save on today is money you can live off in the future.
There’s plenty of informative, easy to read and free personal finance advice available online and at the library.
Besides the Government of Canada website, try the brief, free financial courses at moneymentors.skillbuilder.ca and use the games and calculators at practicalmoneyskills.ca to build your knowledge and confidence.
Not knowing is not the same as not caring.
Make personal finance a topic of focus in your daily routine, and reap the rewards.

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