By: Leo Almazora, November 11, 2019
Whether it’s debt management, saving for retirement, or wealth planning, Canadians face financial challenges. But for the entire month of November, they’re invited to take on a challenge of an entirely different sort.
As part of its activities for this year’s Financial Literacy Month, Advocis, The Financial Advisors Association of Canada, has introduced a 30-day challenge for the public to take concrete steps toward transforming their finances. Those who choose to participate are asked to complete seven simple tasks, and are invited to post their results online.
“Personal finances are a bit like laundry: we all have it, we all have to get it done, but we sometimes put it off for longer than we should,” jokes Julie Martini, vice president for Public Affairs and Marketing, Advocis. “I think that many of us are a little intimidated when it comes to our finances.”
For many, part of that intimidation comes from information overload. The layperson can be understandably overwhelmed when they encounter a barrage of facts, jargon, and advice. That means instead of inspiring action, well-meant efforts at education and raising awareness can have a paralyzing effect.
“We wanted to do something that would be easy to understand, and something that was fun and engaging and interactive at the same time,” Martini said. “So rather than telling people what they’re not doing and what they should be doing, we decided to turn it on its head and issue a challenge to try these different things.”
Breaking the challenge up into bite-sized pieces, Advocis expects, would help encourage more participation. Encouraging people to share their results could provide an additional motivating force, particularly as organic conversations have the potential to create more engagement than typical lectures and mass-blasted campaigns.
Participating in the challenge for 30 days could also help cultivate a more disciplined mindset, which Martini noted is among the most significant hurdles that keep people from reaching their goals.
“Right now we’re in a world that’s very much about the instants: if you want something, it’s right there a lot of the time,” she said. “When people have to save for something big, having to do it over a long period of time can be challenging. So what we’d like to do is help them develop a long-term view, as well as stay engaged and stay motivated to keep moving toward their goals.”
Maintaining that level of psychological fortitude can be difficult. A young person with an average income who wants to save for a house in Toronto, for example, will be doing it for a long time; along the way, it can be hard to fend off negative thoughts or doubts, as well as the temptation to lower the bar or settle for less lofty financial goals. When that type of thinking sets in, it eats away at people’s mental stamina and makes them less likely to stay on track.
“That’s the benefit of working with financial advisors,” Martini stressed. “They can coach their clients through that kind of discouragement. And when people need to adapt or change to circumstances, advisors can also help them navigate through those transitions.”
And whether they work with an advisor or not, she emphasized, there’s one lesson that the average Canadian needs to remember: financial literacy isn’t just a one-month thing. While Advocis makes it a point to participate in Financial Literacy Month every year, their aim is to encourage a habit that lasts throughout the year.
“It’s not just our industry. Everyone has to come together to do a better job of putting an emphasis on financial literacy,” Martini said. “Whether at home, in our schools, or in our workplaces, a collaborative approach helps everyone in the end.”