Flipping through today’s edition of the paper, you’ll be certain to notice the spring Further Education guidebook tucked in there. It’s a wonderful catalogue of programs, workshops, and classes – everything from art to languages to computer skills and much more – that members of the community can sign up for. It has something for everybody.
One of its newest courses is actually for everybody and everybody can afford it. Money Matters is a free four-week program running in April. It’s designed to help increase the financial literacy skills of Canadian adult learners. Let’s face it ... We could all use more knowledge about how to manage our money.
Course leader Cheryl Dumont knows a thing or two about the importance of budgeting, smart banking and making sense of all of your cents. After all, she’s also the head of a lean but sturdy community organization (the St. Albert and District Further Education Association itself) and she was also a financial planning manager with the Co-Operators for many years.
She knows how many people are living paycheque to paycheque in these troubled economic times. She has the data from Statistics Canada to prove it, too.
“We do know that there's probably only one in four Canadians that are really financially ready to retire and have the kind of retirement that they think they should have,” she began, “and yet we have many investment opportunities that we could be making that would help many more people get there.”
Everywhere she turns, financial planning is one of the most-requested courses through Further Ed. Dumont, through her time as a trustee on the St. Albert Public School board, also hears the demand for more financial education from students.
Money does matter, and that’s why Money Matters is expected to fill up fast. Developed by ABC Life Literacy Canada, it will be an in-class, workbook-based program written in clear language and designed to help all of its students get increased confidence in managing their personal finances. It’s broken down into four main subject areas: spending plans, banking basics, credit and borrowing, and RESPs and other ways to save.
Despite having already been offered in the past year or two, Dumont said it has surprisingly seen poor attendance.
“This time, we want to really make a difference. We're offering it for free because we see a big need out there.”
‘Free’ is one way to help people overcome the fear of ‘Finances’, which is what one financial planner has recently been known to start calling “the most hated F word.”
Build your bank like you build your relationships
Shaun Maslyk says you are married to your money whether you know it or not. Sure, it’s important to realize that relationship, he says, but it’s crucial to work on it like any other relationship that you want to grow and be successful.
“The more and more I look into the psychology part of money and why we don't just do the basic things like pay off our credit cards, save whatever per cent you're supposed to save ... it's deeply rooted in our own psychology,” explained the financial planner with Co-Operators in Edmonton.
“I think when we look at the statistics year over year, Canadians are becoming more and more in debt, which places a huge stress load on people. That's why we don't want to talk about it and that's why we do the ostrich effect and stick our heads in the sand. My view is if we keep doing the same thing, we're going to get the same results. If we don't change our perspective on how we see money, I think we're just going to continue to get in debt.”
He said it’s integral to understand your ‘money story,’ which basically means how you grew up thinking about money based on how it was presented to you through listening to your parents talk about it or use it. Those experiences shape you subconsciously, which shapes your patterns of behaviour.
Maslyk wants to share six tips that people can start doing to improve their financial relationship.
The first is to recognize the source of your money stress. Most people have money stress but 50 per cent of Canadians report that money is the top stressor in their lives. The real question is this: is it money trouble (meaning a problem that would be solved with money like having a bill that needed to be paid) or money worry (meaning they mistakenly think that their problem would be solved with money).
“I think a lot of people have money worries and they don't realize them.”
That’s the easy step.
The next step is to be more active and involved in your relationship with money.
“It's just like any relationship because we're all in a money relationship. If I look at my spouse ... if I just avoid her, try not to look at her, and do everything possible to ignore what she's telling me, we're going to be in bad relationship. Our money relationship is no different,” he said.
“Be involved with your finances, just like any relationship that you want that's going to flourish. That's understanding where you are and having weekly or monthly check-ins.”
Number three is to offload stress and get help where you can by talking to an unbiased third party, whether that is a trusted friend or family member, or a financial planner. Emotional distance is often needed to help you avoid the same cycle of money troubles. It can also have therapeutic value to talk about your money with someone else as well.
Fourth on the list is to make a list.
“Make a list of what needs to be done and then prioritize it from what is going to make us feel the best. To me, money is not just meant to accumulate in a pile in the bank account. We want to feel good. If we make a list of everything that needs to be done, just like cleaning your house, you see it line by line, it's less stressful, it's less overwhelming. A lot of us have been neglecting our money for a long time, so we might have a long list. But if we make a list, prioritize it on things that are going to make us feel the best, then we get emotional wins that give us momentum to keep going through the list.”
Once you have your list, the next step is to make a plan while the last step is about making course corrections. Plans don’t always work out as you think they should so adjustments will often be needed to be made along the way.
“Having a plan is good but if we don't follow through with a plan, it's just like a fictional narrative of our future. Where if we follow that plan, and understand that life is life and things happen, and it won't 100 per cent go according to plan because we can't predict things in the future. If we follow the plan and review the plan just like an airplane pilot and make calculated course corrections, I feel we can get to our final destination just like planes because planes don't fly in a (straight) line.”
Interestingly, Maslyk is also currently studying for his postgraduate degree in financial psychology. He will be making a presentation on financial wellness during the Soulfront Mental Health & Wellness Renewal Retreat in Edmonton in May.
Both Maslyk and Dumont agree taking any step in the direction of being more active and smarter with your personal finances is better than nothing.
Money Matters is a four-week workshop running every Thursday in April at St. Albert Catholic High School. Registration is free but enrolment is limited so Dumont encourages people to sign up early and make sure to attend every session.
If you can’t make it to Money Matters this time around, Dumont did offer her one easy key to helping people manage their finances better: “you can't spend more than you make,” she said.
“We can't have it all. It's a hard lesson to learn.”