7 Ways to Improve Your Financial Literacy
While November can typically feel like a “blah” month nestled between Thanksgiving, Halloween and the holiday season, there is more to this month than meets the eye. November is Financial Literacy Month in Canada and this year, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is focusing on the importance of building financial resilience in challenging times and a digital economy―and we want to help! We’re celebrating this nationwide initiative by sharing seven ways you can improve your financial know-how.
There are lots of resources out there about money management, financial literacy, and the value of starting young. But what if you have only just started your financial journey as an adult? The lessons you would have learned as a child are still transferrable today, even more so. Luckily, there are simple steps you can start today to master your financial literacy, no matter what stage of life you’re at.
Step 1: Do your research to gain money smarts
Become money smart and develop your financial literacy knowledge by learning as much as you can about it. Go to your nearest library or bookstore and pick up some personal finance books that pique your interest. Start following personal finance blogs and social media accounts to receive regular information (or start following podcasts if that’s your thing). Subscribe to personal finance newsletters (like ours!) to get money tips and resources sent straight to your inbox.
Some of our favourite financial books, blogs and podcasts are:
- Financial Recovery by Karen McCall
- How To Make One Hell of a Profit and Still Get into Heaven by Dr. John F. Demartini
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsay
- Money Rules by Gail Vaz-Oxlade
- Mixed Up Money blog
- Money After Graduation blog
- Maple Money blog
- Planet Money podcast
- The Dave Ramsey Show
Step 2: Understand your banking options
Your money will go nowhere if you don’t know how to optimize your banking. Take the time to get a solid understanding of your current financial institution(s), monthly account fees, account options, investing options, etc. Learn the difference between a regular savings account and a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Find out if it’s best for you to contribute to an RRSP or TFSA at this stage of your life. Make a pros/cons list for everything your banking entails and shop around if you’re not happy with your current institution(s). If you have any questions about your banking, we encourage you to make an appointment with your financial advisor there.
Some of our favourite free FCAC resources are:
- Banking Services and Information
- Savings and Investments Services and Information
Step 3: Learn the basics of budgeting
Learn the basics of budgeting so you can build a solid financial future. A budget is a fundamental part of your finances, so if you don’t have one, now is the time. Get back to the basics by tracking your spending to understand your spending habits, defining your needs vs. wants, calculating your expenses, etc. By building a budget that works with you and your evolving needs, you’ll find it easier to continue on this new financial journey.
Some of our favourite free resources to learn about budgeting are:
- Stretch Your Dollars budgeting workbook
- Microsoft Excel spending plan
- Weekly money diary PDF
- Budget Boot Camp online course
- FCAC’s budget planner
Step 4: Check your credit
When was the last time you checked your credit score or read your credit report? If you can’t remember, take that as a sign to check it now. Your credit score plays a huge role in overall finances. It affects everything from loans and leases to credit cards and mortgages, plus so much more, so it’s important to know your credit health. You can easily get your credit score through the two Canadian credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion.
Some of our favourite free resources to learn about credit are:
- Credit Ratings and Credit Scores blog post
- How Do I Rebuild My Credit? blog post
- Credit Cross-Training online course
- Credit & Lending 101 online course
- Credit Comeback workbook
Step 5: Understand the true cost of debt
Managing and understanding the true cost of debt can often feel like an unreachable goal. With concerns around increasing prices on rent, mortgage rates, gas, groceries and more, it can be overwhelming to tackle an existing amount of debt that only seems to get bigger, not smaller. Create a hierarchy of debt categories with the ones with the highest interest rates at the top and then create an action plan to start paying them off. And don’t forget, we offer free credit counselling and debt help for Albertans if you’d like to talk to a professional about paying off your debts.
Some of our favourite free resources to learn about debt are:
- Cost-of-Debt calculator
- Accelerated Debt Payoff calculator
- Roll Down Your Credit Card Debt calculator
- Tackle Debt online course
- Managing Your Debt PDF
Step 6: Lifelong learning is key to financial literacy
You’ve already found new financial books, podcasts, blogs and social media accounts to follow and learn from thanks to step 1, but don’t stop there! The whole world is your oyster now. First order of business: Keep exploring our website to delve even deeper into money management, budgeting, debt, credit, retirement, and more.
Some pages you should check out are:
- Money tips
- Free online courses
- Financial calculators
- Personal finance tools
- K-12 student extension activities
Step 7: Talk to a money coach or debt counsellor
Like we say in many of our money tips―when in doubt, ask. Our accredited, unbiased debt counsellors are here to be your money coach and cheer you on. They help you understand your finances better so you can learn how to manage your money, pay off your debts and reach financial freedom. We’ve helped thousands of Albertans just like you get out of debt, so don’t be afraid to give us a call to book your free appointment!
Here’s how we can help you:
We’re excited for you in this next stage of your financial journey! While we cannot promise it’ll be easy, we can promise that the journey towards financial literacy will be enriching, rewarding, and oh so worth it. And as always, we’ll be here for you every step of the way. Now let’s get started!