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5 Helpful Resources for Building Your Financial Literacy

Helpful Resources for Building Financial Literacy, Grant Thornton Limited

For many Canadians the concept of financial literacy can be an intimidating one. When we say someone is financially literate, many of us visualize financial advisors, investors or accountants. The truth is, being financially literate is something everyone can aspire to become and can be as simple as building a household budget, opening a savings account or exploring ways to save money. You do not need to be a specialized professional to be financially literate and there are countless resources available to help you grow your knowledge and confidence when it comes to managing your finances. In honor of Financial Literacy Month, I have compiled a list of five types of accessible and free resources that you can use to help build your financial literacy.

Apps and Software

One of my favorite ways to build financial literacy has been the almost limitless apps that have been created to help with household finances. All you have to do is type in “free budgeting app” and a number of options will be at your fingertips. Exploring what these apps offer can be a great way to build a budget that works for your personality and your household. Having a budget you can carry around in your pocket, that’s often instantly available, can make a big difference when you’re trying to stay on track with your spending.

While these apps are great for their convenience and simplicity, it’s important to always be cautious when using technology regarding your finances. Read the reviews and privacy policy before trusting third party apps or websites with your personal information. Many budgeting apps, both free and paid, also have options to connect your bank account to the app in order to monitor your spending habits. While this provides convenience and transparency, please be cautious before sharing your bank or personal information with a third party. Read the privacy policy of the app or company and check with your bank to see if they agree that the app is safe or which apps they recommend.

There is also a variety of money-saving apps that offer coupons, tell you when sales are available at local stores and help you keep track of many major retailers’ points systems (For example; Checkout 51, Flipp, Flash Food and Airmiles). There are even apps like Splitwise which help you and your partner or roommate equally split household expenses. While we all have varying comfort levels when it comes to using technology phone apps can be a creative and effective way to build financial literacy.

Your Bank’s Website

This one seems obvious, but your bank’s website can offer a wide range of financial resources and education materials that can be a great learning tool for your household. Have you ever wondered what a TFSA is? Or maybe an RRSP? Type questions into your bank’s search engine bar and see what resources they have available. Not only do they normally provide a description, they often offer Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ documents that you can download at no cost.

You also don’t have to use the resources of the institution that you bank with; you can search any bank’s website for similar information and see how they explain concepts. With complex topics, it can be difficult to understand materials so the more ways something is explained the better.

YouTube, Podcasts and Blogs

Like a budget, financial literacy is not a one-size-fits-all formula. It’s important to find financial resources that work for your personality and learning style. Some great options for visual or auditory learners are YouTube videos, podcasts and blogs. There is an incredible volume of resources available in these platforms ranging from “tips on how to save money” to “what to expect when buying your first home”. The sky is essentially the limit.

It’s important to mention, however, that these forms of financial literacy come with a “beware and be critical” tag as someone does not have to a licensed finance professional to make a YouTube video, podcast or write a blog. When choosing this option, do yourself a favour and view various content from multiple creators because even though certain financial tips worked for them, it doesn’t mean that they will work for your specific situation as well.

The Government of Canada’s Financial Tools and Calculators

While government websites may not be the most trendy or exciting way to build your financial literacy, the Government of Canada has done a great job at providing an abundance of resources for Canadians looking for financial information and education. There are online tools and calculators which can help you plan anything from a vehicle purchase to retirement, free budget builders, and even free available tax software to prepare your own income tax. In fact, they have an entire website dedicated to building financial literacy and helping Canadians with financial education that can be found here.

Finance Professionals

If after all your research you are still feeling lost when it comes to financially literacy, there are professionals that can help. While the world of “finance” is big it doesn’t have to be scary. Start with the financial resources that you are familiar with. Banks often offer free financial advisors who can help to explain the differences between different types of accounts and investments. Accountants can be a huge help if you’re finding your finances overwhelming or need help with taxes. Licensed Insolvency Trustees offer free consultations if you’re feeling overwhelmed by debt, and certain professionals even offer services to help you build a budget based on your financial goals and lifestyle.

If after all your research you are still feeling lost when it comes to financially literacy, there are professionals that can help. While the world of “finance” is big it doesn’t have to be scary. Start with the financial resources that you are familiar with. Banks often offer free financial advisors who can help to explain the differences between different types of accounts and investments. Accountants can be a huge help if you’re finding your finances overwhelming or need help with taxes. Licensed Insolvency Trustees offer free consultations if you’re feeling overwhelmed by debt, and certain professionals even offer services to help you build a budget based on your financial goals and lifestyle.

Having professionals that can confidently answer your questions can be a huge asset for your long-term financial health. As cliché as it sounds, “there are no stupid questions” and finance professionals are truly there to help. Even if they can’t provide specific information on a certain topic, many professionals are members of organizations or have large networks and can often point you in the direction of someone who can.

To learn more about financial literacy and Financial Literacy Month, make sure check out the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) for a list of the many government and community resources available. If you are struggling with overwhelming debt are looking for a friendly and non-judgmental professional to answer your questions, feel free to reach out to the Grant Thornton office nearest you or book a free, no obligation personalized debt consultation.

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