Access free tools for Financial Literacy Month #FLM2017

Financial Literacy month--take charge of your financesLast week, I promised to share some of the best sites and tools I learned about at the National Financial Literacy Conference for Financial Literacy Month.

Here are six free sites and tools you can use yourself, or share with your kids or students to help you take care of your financial health.

1) FCAC is encouraging Canadians to take the MoneyFitChallenge at moneyfitchallenge.com. Test your financial knowledge to earn points towards Tim Hortons and Cineplex gift cards. You can register as an individual, as an organization or as an educator.

2) VISA Canada and Marvel have teamed up to produce comic books for kids on financial literacy. You can order Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Mad Money Skills at practicalmoneyskills.ca.

3) Score a hit with your teen by introducing them to Financialsoccer.ca to teach them basic money concepts.

4) myclassroomeconomy.org is a classroom economy that teachers can use to teach kids about money. Students earn school “dollars” for decisions like whether they will rent or buy their desks and more.

5) Newcomers to Canada can learn about how our banking system works with a free online course from abcmoneymatters.ca

6) My personal favourite: proliteracy.ca is a great site for planning for post-secondary education costs. You can enter the number of years your child will be in school, which university or college they plan to attend, which program and whether they will live at home or not. It will tell you what the total cost will be for tuition, rent, and expenses like food, books, etc. I ran the numbers and the total cost for Grace if she goes to four years of university was $86,000 or $61,000 if she lived at home. The site also has a great blog and information on what grants and scholarships are available. You can even share your profile with family members and ask them to make donations towards your child’s education!

This week’s #HappyAct is to take care of your financial wellbeing this month. Choose one tool or challenge yourself to take one action to take better care of your finances. Happy Financial Literacy Month!

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Live within your means

Financial literacy statistics slideNovember is Financial Literacy month. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the National Financial Literacy conference in Montreal. It was an inspiring two days of learning how we are doing as a country in helping Canadians have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.

Since I work for a company that helps people be financially secure, financial literacy has always been a passion of mine. One key theme from the conference was how being financially secure plays into our overall wellness and happiness.

Here were a few statistics shared at the conference:

  • 47% of Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque
  • 35% feel overwhelmed by debt
  • 74% have saved only one-quarter or less of what they feel they’ll need to retire
  • 1 in 4 could not come up with $2,000 within a month in an emergency
  • 46% say they will have to work longer than they planned five years ago
  • 50% believe financial stress is impacting their performance at work

And Canada is further ahead than most other countries in the world.

The key to financial wellbeing really comes down to one simple tenet: live within your means and don’t spend more than you earn.

Of course, this is much easier if you have a good job and good income. It’s not as easy if you are a single income family or living close to the poverty level.

We also live in a highly commercial society that is constantly enticing us to spend money.

I walked out of the conference last week and went for a walk on St. Catherine’s Street. Every store window had the word “Sale/Vente” blazoned on it promoting early Christmas offers. (And yes, I did spend money shopping). One person shared a story about a friend of hers who was visiting L.A. who saw a purse on sale from $5,000 to $1,200 and couldn’t pass it up because it was such a “steal”. We are programmed to spend.

So how do we do a better job of living within our means? It starts with lifestyle choices.

Look at how you spend your time and consider making shifts in your leisure activities. Choose activities that require no spend or very little spend: hiking, free community concerts and events, and hobbies at home or spending time with family and friends that cost little money. If you are struggling each month, make a budget and stick to it. Decide which expenses are necessary and which ones are discretionary. See if there are ways to reduce both.

This week’s #HappyAct is to live within your means and look after your financial wellbeing, especially this holiday season. Next week, I’ll share some of the best sites and tools shared at the conference to help you take control of your finances and be financially secure.

It can buy me a boat

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. November is Financial Literacy Month, and once again my company, Empire Life, is issuing a challenge: to take action this month on the one thing you need to do to feel better about your financial health. We call it the Financial Weight Loss Challenge—lose the weight of whatever financial worry is weighing you down.

Financial Literacy Month ad

For the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to decide what action I will take this month. Last year I said I was going to change to a cheaper cell phone plan, finish a spreadsheet I’d started with all our insurance and investment policies, and start saving more for the kids’ education. While I didn’t get it all done last November, I followed through on all three things.

My family’s favourite song right now is Chris Janson’s song, Buy Me a Boat. The lyrics are, “I know everybody says money can’t buy happiness…but it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it.”

When it comes to money, we’ve always taken a balanced approach between saving and living. Right now, living is winning out. So my actions this month will be modest: sign up for ebilling for those final bills that are still mailed to me (bonus points for going green, something I should have done a long time ago), put a few extra payments on our line of credit, and waste less food in the house, which for us mainly means cleaning out our fridge more often.

That will leave a little money in the bank to dream. And while the last thing we need is another boat, you never know what might show up in the driveway or where the wind will take us on our travels next year.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take the Financial Weight Loss Challenge and share what you’re going to do to lose the weight of financial worry. Post a comment here or on the Empire Life Facebook page. You can also help support Pathways to Education if you share one of our posts with the hashtag #EmpireFLM this month. Every time someone uses the hashtag in November, we’ll donate .25 cents to Pathways to Education. Take the challenge: how will you lose financial weight? Leave a comment.

 

Take the Financial Weight Loss Challenge

Piggy bank with workout headbandMost people spend more time planning their next vacation than planning their finances. I’m passionate about travel, but I’m equally as passionate about taking control of your finances.

This was instilled into me long before I started working in the financial services industry. I remember my Dad saving his quarters, dimes and nickels in piles of jars on his dresser to pay for our family vacation each year.

Since then, I’ve lived by a few simple money mantras: live within your means, pay yourself first, buy insurance to take care of your loved ones. But just like everybody else, I know there are other things I should be doing to improve my financial health.

That’s why I was so excited when we came up with the idea at work to promote the launch of our new social media channels and Financial Literacy Month with a Financial Weight Loss Challenge.

The idea is simple. Think about the one thing you know you should do about your finances that you’ve been putting off and take action in the month of November. We recently met with our financial advisor to increase our savings for the kids’ education and our retirement, but there’s two other things on my list: finishing a spreadsheet of all our policies and switching cell phone providers (anyone with any tips on this one, let me know!)

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you peace of mind.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take the #FinancialWeightLoss challenge. Take action this month to take control of your finances and lose the weight of whatever financial decision is weighing you down. Challenge your friends and family members by sharing the Financial Weight Loss challenge post on the Empire Life Facebook page (and like us while you’re there). We’re also running a contest where you can win either a $100 VISA gift card or iPad mini. Be sure to share what one action you are going to take.