The workplace offers so much potential when it comes to helping Canadians become better money managers.
In fact, establishing a workplace financial education program is an ideal way to meet one of the priorities identified in the National Strategy for Financial Literacy - Count me in, Canada - reaching more people by building financial learning into activities that are already part of people's lives.
Tapping into workplaces across the country would allow a vast and varied audience to be reached. That audience would include people of different ages, education and culture. Workplace programs also would allow individuals to receive valuable information in a convenient manner. Since the employees are already at work -- they don't have to go elsewhere for help.
Employees and employers - both benefit
Our research along with the success of CPA Canada's extensive outreach program clearly demonstrates that Canadians want to improve their financial literacy skills. A national survey conducted for our organization in 2014 found that 84 per cent of the respondents strongly agreed that responsible money management is an important life skill.
Meanwhile, another survey conducted last year, this time for the Financial Planning Standards Council, found that money is the leading source of stress among Canadians. It also discovered that significant numbers of men and women are losing sleep over financial worries (51 per cent of women; 40 per cent of men).
All these stats and facts point to why a financial education program in the workplace is a good idea. It becomes a win-win situation for both the employees and the employer.
For the employees, a program:
• helps them feel more in control of their finances and their lives
• reduces anxiety and lowers stress
• leads to better performance on the job
For employers, offering financial education helps to:
• save money in reduced absenteeism and health benefits
• increase productivity -- have more engaged workers
• retain staff -- be seen as an employer of choice
The national strategy encourages organizations "to create new and inspired ways to deliver financial literacy resources to Canadians at crucial points throughout their lives." This is a great time for employers to be counted in and play an active role in helping their employees gain valuable financial knowledge.
The strategy raises an important point in that efforts must be made to assist Canadians as they move through the different stages of life. The financial literacy needs of individuals change over time with major life events, such as getting married, buying a home, having children and, ultimately, retiring.
Take advantage of existing expertise
Help is available for employers if they want to take action. They don't have to do this alone.
For example, CPA Canada has developed a financial education program specifically for the workplace. It is one component of our 11,000 member-driven financial literacy outreach initiative. One of our volunteers can be recruited to come into the workplace and conduct special learning sessions. Each is free and runs about an hour. Six separate workplace sessions have been developed focusing on topics such as saving strategies, retirement planning and how to teach your kids about money.
We are working with Jane Rooney, Canada's financial literacy leader, and her staff to launch our workplace program in federal government departments and organizations. This will help move the national strategy forward in a tangible way and provide a model for other organizations.
However, there is plenty of assistance available for employers to draw from. Many other organizations with valuable expertise are ready and willing to lend a helping hand.
This was evident at a recent panel session I participated in at the Toronto Global Forum. Not only did the session reinforce the importance of bringing financial literacy to the workplace but it also highlighted ways other organizations are delivering helpful information.
Canada's national strategy aims to help Canadians effectively confront their financial challenges or take advantage of opportunities. To achieve that goal, relevant information will have to be delivered in a timely fashion.
The country's workplaces are well positioned to serve as vital conduits of information. Employers offering workplace programs will strengthen the collective effort to improve the financial literacy of Canadians.
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