Leigh Sindlinger

Leigh Sindlinger is part of CPA Canada’s financial literacy volunteer program, which targets many audiences including seniors, new Canadians, students, and indigenous populations, with curriculum geared specifically to each groups’ needs. (Courtesy of Leigh Sindlinger)

Canada | Financial Literacy

Volunteer with CPA Canada to help young people carve out their financial paths in the early years

Be part of financial literacy workshops that teach basic money management skills to set elementary and high school students up for a lifetime

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When Leigh Sindlinger was 12 years old she received a lesson in finance some of us still haven’t learned as adults. 

Her mother—a high school business teacher and her family’s main financial planner—asked her to write down what she thought was spent annually on clothes, shoes, entertainment, extracurriculars and school supplies. Mom reviewed them, made some adjustments and divided it by 52 (number of weeks per year). From that point forward, Sindlinger was given $50 every two weeks, and remained responsible for spending and saving for those items over the next eight years. (Learn how to handle your finances better with CPA Canada’s money management worksheets.)

“In hindsight, it definitely shaped the direction that I went in,” says the 45-year-old CPA and senior business analyst with Kal Tire. “Even if I was not into that field at the time, it followed me with all things to do with money into my 20s and 30s.”

Perhaps it’s also what inspired her to become a CPA Canada volunteer presenting financial literacy workshops in elementary and high schools in north Okanagan region of British Columbia. Over the past four years, she has led more than 120 workshops on topics including budgeting and expenses; savings and bank accounts; credit cards; earning income; and bartering for Grades 3 through 12. She plans to do another 30 to 40 workshops this school year. 

The greatest reward? Sindlinger points to the inquisitiveness of the students and seeing their faces light up when they understand a concept or can make a connection with their day-to-day lives. 

“I was surprised how keen they all are to tell you their stories. ‘This is what I do, this is what I’m saving for, this is what I just bought with my money,’” shares Sindlinger. 

Leigh teaching in her classroomLeigh Sindlinger conducting a bartering workshop for Grade 5 students at Cherryville Elementary in Cherryville, B.C. (Courtesy of Leigh Sindlinger)

The biggest challenge? Connecting with a large group of students—particularly the younger ones—at the same time, and making a topic perhaps perceived as dull look exciting and relevant to the audience before her. 

“Presenting to two classes at the same time is not a good idea. That many students altogether get pretty raucous, pretty quickly,” she says. “For older grades, it’s how quiet they are. It takes a few jokes, a few anecdotes and lots of questions to draw them out and encourage them to speak.” 

CPA Canada’s financial literacy volunteer program targets many audiences including seniors, new Canadians, students, and indigenous populations (See “Due North: Making financial literacy a priority for remote communities for more), with curriculum geared specifically to each groups’ needs. There are several roles to fill from session presenters and curriculum writers to area leaders and volunteer coordinators. 

For those considering volunteering, Sindlinger recommends reviewing CPA Canada’s financial literacy program to map out what role you would be best suited for and group you would most like to work with, determine how much time you can put in, and tap into your skillset and personality traits to figure out what you have to offer. 

“[It’s about] being self-aware…[ask yourself] what kind of instructor would you be?” she says. “Depending on what your style is, it will help determine what group to target, be it a school group, seniors or anybody in between.” 

Learn more about hosting a financial literacy session

Organizing a financial literacy session for your community with CPA Canada is easy. Just submit the online request form and you will be connected with a CPA volunteer who will lead the session, provide valuable financial insight and answer any questions.