Success in implementing the proposed National Strategy on Financial Literacy will require a highly focused and coordinated approach involving many stakeholders. Canadians must make financial literacy a lifelong endeavour, and stakeholders need to create the conditions to support this.
The proposed mission of the National Strategy captures the overall objective of strengthening the knowledge, skills and confidence of Canadians to make responsible financial decisions. Five priorities – shared responsibility, leadership and collaboration, lifelong learning, delivery and promotion, and accountability – frame a plan of action composed of 30 concrete recommendations. In formulating these recommendations, the Task Force sought ways to leverage existing resources, while drawing on global best practices.
Strong leadership is needed to drive the successful implementation of the National Strategy. So is the inclusive collaboration of stakeholders who are well placed to contribute to financial literacy initiatives. Many participants in our public consultations emphasized the need for a financial literacy curriculum in the formal education system to build foundational knowledge. Others emphasized the opportunities for learning that exist beyond the classroom through the relationships that people have with employers or labour organizations, governments, financial services providers, professional advisors and voluntary organizations.
While access to lifelong learning activities can go a long way toward boosting financial literacy skills, it is equally important that Canadians know where to seek guidance in their financial decision making. We have therefore identified opportunities to enhance consumer access to information and advice. Sustained awareness-building efforts along with a trusted single source website will help to make financial literacy a topic of conversation in homes, schools and workplaces. As Canadians’ awareness of the importance of financial literacy grows, so too will their motivation to further their knowledge and seek out information on financial topics.
We acknowledge that, to be effective, a National Strategy must also take into account the key elements that, although beyond a strict definition of financial literacy, have strong implications for the ability of consumers to make sound financial decisions. Increasing financial literacy may indeed be only one part of the solution: some individuals may have the financial skills and knowledge, but fail to make or execute plans in their best interest because of psychological factors that affect decision making. In that regard, policy-makers should not underestimate the value of designing “nudging” strategies, such as default mechanisms for saving, to help empower individuals and households in their financial decision-making processes.
Tackling financial literacy is a complex endeavour that cannot be achieved in isolation. We are convinced that the National Strategy will also benefit from advances in behavioural economics research, from new regulatory initiatives aimed at better protecting financial consumers (especially in relation to how information should best be disclosed to them), and from progress in improving the general literacy and numeracy skills of Canadians. Success will not be achieved overnight, and will require all those with a role to play to work over the long term and in a cooperative fashion.
We thank everyone who participated in our consultations. Many contributions from across Canada and abroad have informed our recommendations, and we are confident that the resulting National Strategy for Financial Literacy can make a significant and positive impact on the financial security of Canadians and the economic prosperity of our country as a whole.