Teaching Financial Skills Makes Good Business SenseNovember 19, 2018
November is Financial Literacy month. It is time to have some real talk and real action about giving youth the right skills to be set up for success and to contribute to the economic growth of our province.
I was that kid who struggled with math throughout elementary and high school. Like many of my peers, I was never taught its relevancy and how to use the math I was learning in school towards everyday practical skills.
By the time I graduated university, although I had nurtured my academic love of politics and languages, I still lacked many of the practical financial skills I needed for everyday adult life. How do I invest my money to make more money? How do I pay my taxes? And, where do I even start with retirement planning?
I am not alone in my struggle. More and more students are graduating post-secondary institutions without knowledge of basic financial literacy. Talking to my friends with children in school, I cannot believe we still do not have a comprehensive financial literacy curriculum in Ontario. Why wouldn’t we ensure that all Ontarians have the basic knowledge and skills needed to understand the financial structures that create economic growth and personal wealth?
The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) is an independent agency that creates and administers large-scale assessments which measure the achievements of Ontario students in reading, writing and math. The latest (EQAO) test scores revealed half of Ontario’s grade six students failed to meet provincial standards in math.
According to a PWC study, only 24 percent of Millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy and only 8 percent show a high level of understanding. Coupled with the fact that household and consumer debt has reached unprecedented levels according to the latest numbers from Stats Canada, we cannot afford to wait any longer.
Equipping Ontario’s youth with the necessary knowledge to navigate the complexities of present-day personal finance is sound policy and goes hand in hand with fostering an innovative and entrepreneurial economy. We are pleased to see the Government of Ontario engaging in a province-wide public consultation on ways to improve our education system, including how financial literacy is taught.
Now is the time to create mandatory elementary and secondary-level courses addressing our banking system, how to calculate and understand debt, retirement planning, and the basics of business financing and entrepreneurship.
And we all have a serious part to play in this – business, non-for-profits, academic institutions, and the government. We need to work together to close the gap on financial literacy for Ontario’s youth.
Organizations such as Junior Achievement have successfully delivered financial literacy programs for decades. By providing youth with the skills necessary to become innovative, productive, and contributing citizens, Junior Achievers ensures the competitive well-being of Canada’s economy. Each year, $425 million can be directly attributed to the entrepreneurial activity of Achievers. This is one example of an excellent partner organization who could greatly to contribute to a province-wide financial literacy curriculum.
Making up 98 percent of Ontario’s business community, small businesses are the backbone of our communities in all corners of the province. To this day, while I would love to run my own business, the idea of being an entrepreneur simply terrifies me. Why? Because nothing throughout my formative education prepared me for it. We can and must do better.
But this story is greater than me. It’s greater than you. It’s about building a stronger Ontario for years to come – and that’s on the shoulders of today’s youth.
Ontario’s financial literacy deficit represents a significant vulnerability in our economy, taking action now to address it will help prevent a lot of the problems that government, private sector and, ultimately the taxpayer, end up dealing with: underemployment, evictions, homelessness, and bankruptcy, to name a few.
And, alas, yet another day in my adult life has passed and I still haven’t used Pythagorean’s theorem. We need to take action now on financial literacy programming for our province’s youth.