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From Pivot Magazine

Financial Literacy Month: a time for CPAs to make a difference

Improving financial literacy can help equip Canadians with the tools to better navigate through uncertain economic times, says FCPA Pamela Steer, CPA Canada’s president and CEO

A business woman presents to colleaguesAs part of CPA Canada’s financial literacy program, volunteer members deliver free education sessions in their communities (Getty Images/piranka)

November is Financial Literacy Month, the perfect time to reinforce our commitment to this societal issue. Through our financial literacy program, we reach Canadians in all corners of the country. We also help build financial confidence in our Indigenous communities, with new Canadians and young and old alike. Now, with issues surrounding climate, inflation and geo-political instability having a direct impact on the lives and finances of Canadians, our financial literacy efforts have never been more important or more needed.

“Financial literacy is a powerful tool to level the playing field across Canada,” says Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada’s financial literacy leader. “The better we equip Canadians from all walks of life, the more Canada stands to benefit from everyone’s financial potential and contribution.”

Fostering that potential positively affects the economy and markets at large. Raising our collective financial understanding leads to a healthier economy—one that is more resilient to factors such as high housing costs and inflation.

The harsh reality is that many young people are on track to be less well-off than their parents’ generation. Rising costs, stagnating incomes and industry disruption are altering the nature of work. As a result, many younger people are not striking out on their own at the same pace as previous generations. CPA Canada’s own Housing Headache study found that half of Canadians who do not currently own a home believe it is unlikely that they will ever be able to purchase one. While the other half are optimistic about home ownership, only one in five think it is very likely they’ll enter the housing market. In this environment, smart money decisions are crucial and those decisions come from higher levels of financial literacy.

We can all see the increasing levels of financial pressure facing Canadians—we see it every time we fill up with gas or go to the grocery store. We know businesses are struggling to find staff and with many Canadians on the verge of retirement, it is likely that these pressures are set to continue. The weight of financial and economic burden feels heavy right now, but financial literacy can help Canadians navigate a path through these difficult times. And as CPAs, we have a responsibility to help; to share our knowledge and skills to the betterment of society and the economy.

Pamela Steer at CPA Canada’s office in Toronto FCPA Pamela Steer, president and CEO of CPA Canada

“We often view financial literacy as being very beneficial to the financial well-being of an individual or their family,” CPA Canada chief economist David-Alexandre Brassard points out. “However, the societal spillovers are significant and often overlooked. Not only are financially literate individuals generally larger contributors on the fiscal side, but they are also part of businesses and organizations that influence positive financial decision-making on a larger scale.”

Helping Canadians better manage debt is one area requiring attention, according to research conducted for CPA Canada. Almost half (49 per cent) of Canadians have debt, and roughly two thirds (68 per cent) of those with debt are “concerned” about it. In addition, 61 per cent of Canadians who have borrowed money to cover day-to-day expenses over the last two years have yet to pay it back.

“Being in debt is frightening and can make you feel like there’s no way out—but there is,” explains Thompson. “If you are struggling financially, there’s no shame in asking for help.”

So, I want to use this opportunity to issue a challenge to Canadian CPAs. I want us all, through our interactions with clients and communities, to build on the successes of our financial literacy program to continue to grow financial understanding for all Canadians. It’s just one of many ways we can help people and positively impact our economy.

I also want to thank the many volunteers who already contribute to and participate in CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy program. This initiative involves great partnerships with the provincial, territorial and Bermudian bodies, community partners and sponsors in the delivery of unbiased, functional and clear information to Canadians. As part of this award-winning program, CPA member volunteers are provided with financial literacy content developed by our organization to deliver free education sessions in their communities.

Getting involved in our financial literacy program gives us the opportunity make a difference beyond our profession. It allows us to reach people in a meaningful and lasting way—and that is something that we can all be proud of.


Register to become a financial literacy volunteer with CPA Canada and start sharing your knowledge and expertise.