Why we must talk to our kids about money

The Compass - - OPINION - BY JA­SON MA­HER

With the myr­iad of fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions af­fect­ing the lives of Cana­di­ans, en­sur­ing that we have the nec­es­sary level of fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy — the knowl­edge, skills and con­fi­dence to make re­spon­si­ble fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions — is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial.

The Cana­dian Task Force on Fi­nan­cial Lit­er­acy, co-chaired by BMO Fi­nan­cial Group’s Jac­ques Mé­nard, stated in its fi­nal re­port in 2011 that strength­en­ing the fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy of Cana­di­ans is a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity among many stake­hold­ers, and can­not be re­al­ized with­out the com­bined ef­forts of in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies, gov­ern­ments, ed­u­ca­tors, fi­nan­cial ser­vice providers, em­ploy­ers, labour or­ga­ni­za­tions, businesses and vol­un­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Those of us who work at BMO — in­deed all those in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices — strive to help Cana­di­ans gain the knowl­edge, skills and con­fi­dence to make re­spon­si­ble fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions at all stages of their lives. But it is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant that we reach out to our young people, who face fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties much ear­lier in their lives than those of past gen­er­a­tions. With a BMO sur­vey find­ing that more than a third of Cana­dian par­ents are not cer­tain whether their chil­dren have a firm grasp on the ba­sics of money man­age­ment, Cana­dian youth rep­re­sent an im­por­tant fo­cus for our fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy ef­forts.

As part of its na­tional strat­egy on fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy, the task force noted the im­por­tance of the for­mal school sys­tem in build­ing foun­da­tional knowl­edge about fi­nan­cial mat­ters.

Mean­while, par­ents con­tinue to have a crit­i­cal role to play in ed­u­cat­ing their chil­dren on money mat­ters. Yet data sug­gests that only 25 per cent of Cana­dian par­ents feel strongly that they are equipped to give their chil­dren a solid fi­nan­cial ed­u­ca­tion.

To that end, we can all look for­ward to the sec­ond an­nual Talk With Our Kids About Money Day, tak­ing place on April 16. On that day, the Talk With Our Kids About Money pro­gram will en­cour­age par­ents and teach­ers to have “the talk” with youth — a dis­cus­sion on un­der­stand­ing money mat­ters.

Talk with Our Kids About Money, of­fered by BMO and the Cana­dian Foun­da­tion for Eco­nomic Ed­u­ca­tion (CFEE), fos­ters on­go­ing year-round dis­cus­sions on fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy with its an­nual aware­ness day. It brings many key stake­hold­ers to­gether in our pub­lic schools and at home.

Us­ing a fun and in­ter­ac­tive on­line re­source, Talk with Our Kids About Money Day helps achieve the goal of en­sur­ing that young people can ben­e­fit from early dis­cus­sions about money. It’s all part of the wider ef­fort to help build knowl­edge and skills for the fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions our young people will face in their lives.

In its in­au­gu­ral year in 2013, par­ents and teach­ers in Toronto and Mon­treal par­tic­i­pated in Talk With Our Kids About Money Day, spark­ing con­ver­sa­tions with youth about money and per­sonal fi­nances.

Both par­ents and teach­ers are en­cour­aged to visit the on­line hub, www.talk­with­ourkidsabout­money.com, leading up to the day it­self on April 16. Par­ents are en­cour­aged to have “the talk” with their kids, while teach­ers are en­cour­aged to in­cor­po­rate money mat­ters into their les­son plans.

The on­line hub, free for any­one to ac­cess, is reg­u­larly up­dated with re­sources for par­ents, as well as cur­ricu­lum ideas for teach­ers.

High­lights of the school pro­gram in­clude: cur­ricu­lum sug­ges­tions for in­cor­po­rat­ing fi­nance into art, his­tory, math­e­mat­ics, sci­ence, ge­og­ra­phy, lan­guage and more; group dis­cus­sion and de­bate ideas; and re­sources and in­ter­ac­tive tools.

Mean­while, par­ents have the op­por­tu­nity to ac­cess: ac­tiv­i­ties to do at home and in the com­mu­nity; fam­ily dis­cus­sion starters and tasks that fos­ter fi­nan­cial learn­ing; and sug­gested movies, books and TV con­tent to spark con­ver­sa­tion.

Talk with Our Kids About Money Day sends a strong sig­nal to par­ents on the im­por­tance of hav­ing frank and open con­ver­sa­tions on the mat­ter of money with their chil­dren.

The sig­nal is re­in­forced in our pub­lic schools, where the school boards and teach­ers who shepherd our chil­dren can draw on the var­i­ous tai­lored com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­vel­oped for this spe­cial day.

All of us share the re­spon­si­bil­ity of bring­ing fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy to our young people.

Talk with Our Kids About Money Day rep­re­sents an im­por­tant part of that ef­fort, which will ben­e­fit Cana­dian youth for years to come.

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