November 2, 2013


door screen: what gets through?Before gobbling the bounty from your trick-or-treating, don't you first check the loot and throw out questionable items like apples?

Financial information is even scarier than Halloween. You might get the wrong information and be worse off. Your sources could be in costume, hiding their true identities.

Screening For You

November is Financial Literacy Month and anyone can create an event. That doesn’t make them worth your time.

Journalists and credible bloggers pre-screen events which are worth your attention. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) lists events across the country. The calendar is worth a peek because of their screening process.
The Requirements
The FCAC requirements for event organizers include
  • the information is:
    • Accurate and up to date
    • Not tied to the advertising or sale of any product or service
    • Accessible to the general public
    • Free or on a cost-recovery basis (e.g., room rental, facilitator fee)
  • FCAC deems the activity or event contributes to financial literacy:
    • acceptable
      • Budgeting tool launch
      • Workshop on how to get debt-free, budget or protect yourself against fraud
      • Activity to create awareness on the importance of Financial Literacy/Financial Education.
    • unacceptable (rejected)
      • Any quiz or tool that point to branded financial products and/or services
      • Any seminar that favours certain financial products and/or services over others
These criteria are sound and well-considered. The events listed generally look safe.
Worth Your Time
In Toronto, check out these FCAC-listed events
  • Financial Basics: a workshop for young adults featuring Ellen Roseman
  • Money 50/50 Toronto 1: insights from carefully-selected writers like bloggers (think TEDx with Q&A) [disclaimer: I’m the organizer]

Screening By You

You can also screen events on your own. Here are three warning signs:

Avoid events with commercial sponsorship. What are they expecting in return? The money might influence the content delivered or the speakers selected. You’re less likely to hear independent voices.

Be wary of free events. Space and refreshments cost money. What’s the catch? You’re safest when the sponsorship comes from noncommercial sources (though they have less money available). For instance, you needn’t worry about Ellen’s workshop, which is supported by the FCAC, the Investor Education Fund and Ryerson University.

Avoid celebrities who don't blog or publish content regularly. They might keep reusing content which is becoming increasingly stale. I saw one author six times. The world changed over the years but the presentation didn’t --- not even the jokes. Yet there was no time for a blog. Content creators often have fresh things to say (and rarely mind getting recorded).

Silence Speaks

To which groups and associations do you belong? Which financial institutions have your money? Which advisors do you heed? They already have relationships with you. Where are their financial literacy events? How good are they?

The general lack of financial literacy is scary. So too is skewed or incomplete information. If you're not getting solid, objective advice in a form you understand, find other sources. After careful screening.


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PS Choose multiple sources for different perspectives.

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