Understanding the financial basics is important but boring. There’s also the risk of getting biased advice.
As a result, we may not know our 1-2-3s as well as our A-B-Cs (see the key to numeracy). Even if you think you do, a refresher can't hurt.
Where can we go for information we can trust? Bloggers and journalists are excellent sources. Reading isn’t always enough. There’s room for live events too.
Have you heard of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC)? This independent agency of the federal government was established in 2001 to educate and protect us. The FCAC developed the Financial Basics Workshop with the nonprofit Investor Education Fund. Ryerson University hosted a session this week. We got refreshments and a helpful 50-page workbook with the unfriendly title "Participants' Handbook" (online version).
A boring topic requires an excellent speaker. We were lucky. We got Ellen Roseman.
Ellen RosemanEllen is an ideal choice. She's a consumer advocate backed by the clout of The Toronto Star. I've read her articles and blog posts for years. This was the first time we met in person.
I was surprised that Ellen had so much energy. We needed that. The four hour seminar started at 5:30 PM --- my fourth and final event of a long day. Ellen had plenty of real world examples to supplement the workbook. She also encouraged and got lots of audience participation. We needed that too.
HighlightsLots of content got covered. Here are three highlights.
Barriers To Financial GoalsLongevity is an easy-to-overlook hurdle on the path to our financial goals: There are challenges with
- not starting to save early enough
- not saving enough (are you saving too much for retirement?)
- retiring earlier (say age 62 instead of 65)
- living longer (see longevity of the last 100,000 years)
- volatile investment returns
- low interest rates
Be ProactiveCompanies make mistakes but the onus is on us to get corrections made. For example, you might get billed for an extra service you didn't want or thought you'd cancelled. If months or years pass, the vendor is less likely to correct their mistake.
Companies may introduce better deals but don’t wait for them to tell you how to save. The onus is on us to ask.
Loyalty/Retention IncentivesYou may have supported some brands for years. You're making them profitable and they want to keep you. Yet special offers tend to target new customers. How do you monetize your loyalty? By negotiating a better deal. When calling, be firm, be polite and have copies of competitors’ offers. Ask for compensation for your time on hold (e.g., for the horror of Rogers “Ultimate” Internet).
Ellen noted that bankers are now like used car dealers: willing to negotiate.
Who Attended?The room was full. There seemed to be 100-150 attendees. That's excellent, especially on a hot, humid evening. Hooray for air conditioning.
The audience was diverse, ranging from university students and older. Knowledge levels would have varied. They seemed to know of Ellen primarily from her Toronto Star column.
Measures Of SuccessDoes the workshop make a difference in the lives of attendees? I asked an FCAC representative. There isn't a good way of telling. There's a plan to ask attendees in the future.
Good intentions are easy to forget. Ongoing motivation takes effort. Perhaps attendees can get a newsletter with ongoing tips and reminders. There may be apps that help too. Peer support is probably the best. A 12-week program like Pick Four may be ideal if you have weekly check-ins.
Ultimately, what you get depends on your commitment and discipline.
SUMMER SCHOOLThe summer is a great time to build good habits. You can save money and improve your life by
- walking or biking more
- eating healthy, locally-grown fresh food (perhaps from your own garden)
- finding ways to reduce or larger expenditures
- Ellen Roseman: blog, Twitter, Moneyville, Toronto Star
- Fight back against corporate trickery with Ellen Roseman's insider tips (new)
- There’s no such thing as a free lunch (Ellen Roseman, Jun 15, 2012)
- Financial Consumer Agency of Canada: website, @FCACan, YouTube, Wikipedia
- The ABCs of 1-2-3: The key to financial literacy/numeracy
- Host your own Financial Basics Workshop
- image courtesy of Mitarart
direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes
PS Here’s a surprise: the FCAC YouTube channel has 3,116 views while mine has 3,790 views.