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The Power of Education

“What is something small you buy multiple times a week?”, I was once asked in career education.

“I always buy a donut after work”, I responded.

“How many times a week do you work? And how much does that donut cost?”

“Three times a week, and the donut is about $3”, I answered tentatively.

“So, if you add that up, you spend around $500 every year just on donuts”, the speaker declared to my whole class.

The message this woman was trying to get across was about the power of budgeting. How if only I bought one less donut a month, I would have saved $330 every year, and that $330 could buy me a new bike, a gym membership, or anything else that I desperately lack. She isn’t wrong – learning to budget is integral to financial stability, but it isn’t everything. It isn’t even the most important thing! Yet my impressionable 15-year-old self came home from school that day convinced that I needed to start denying myself in order to ever lead a successful life. I soon learned what I was being taught wasn't only irrelevant, but it wasn’t enough. Giving up donuts was not going to make me rich; I soon learned that it would only give me an unhealthy mindset about the relationship between denying yourself and success. Tracking daily expenses and following a plan helps to create self-discipline, and it is one way to manage your finances, but not the only way. Success does require sacrifice, but it is about so much more than giving up trivial things. If the ends justifying the means make you miserable, it is unlikely to benefit you in the long run. Psychology states that you are likely to deny yourself until you reach a breaking point and splurge. Financial success is about so much more than saving your money, it is about learning how to leverage it. This comes from education.

The financial education that I received as a young woman fell short of my expectations, and this needs to change. I graduated high school in 2019, three years ago, and not once did I take a financial literacy course. A working understanding of concepts like savings, credit, interest rates, loans, investing, business management, and taxes are all encompassed in a good financial literacy education. The only exposure I had to information like this (besides what was self-taught and taught by family) was the career education class on the power of sacrificing donuts.

On April 17th, 2019, the Provincial Government declared that this day would become known as Financial Literacy Day. Despite graduating from high school, the very year this proclamation was made, I had never heard of it until yesterday. When I questioned my two high-school aged sisters, they had never heard of the day either. In Canada, our provincial government is tasked with organizing the education system. The job consists of setting expenditures on a per-student basis, overseeing school boards, and helping to create student curriculums. Improvements have been made, such as the implementation of Financial Literacy Day, but there is much more to be done. Recently, the Ministry of Education has announced one exciting new curriculum change. Beginning in the 2022/23 school year there will be a new graduation requirement that mandates all high school student's complete coursework on Indigenous perspectives, histories, and cultures before graduation. This is such an amazing step towards a more understanding, aware, and empowered future generation. Oftentimes critics have argued that it is too difficult to impose curriculum changes, but this new endeavor proves that change is possible, and it is vital.

Financial concerns increased over the pandemic. With rising inflation, a changing job market, and burgeoning student debt levels, it is integral that our youth understand the economy and personal finances. However, statistics show that the general knowledge of adults on topics such as these is actually more worrying than of our youth. The American Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association of America Institute found that 2/3 of Generation Z adults (those born between 1997 and 2012), could not correctly answer half of the financial questions offered in their survey. Their survey was simply comprised of questions they believed should be included in a high school personal finance curriculum. There is no time more important than the present to begin our work combatting this disparity in our system.

The BC Ministry of Education is renowned as one of the best in the world, but we believe in order to deserve that title students must be better equipped with a level of financial literacy. This starts with implementing a new curriculum; but in the meantime, we wanted to provide some resources you can pass along to your children, nieces, nephews, family friends, or anyone you believe could benefit from financial literacy education. Our role as your financial planner is not only to ensure your finances in order, but we hope to empower you with the education yourselves.

The provincial government offers free financial literacy advice for youth and adults at: https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/financial-literacy-programs.html

The non-profit group Canadian Foundation for Economic Education also provides free lesson plans, ideas, and resources for classroom curriculums and parents: http://www.cfee.org/resources/

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