November is financial literacy month in Canada – a great initiative by a group of non-profit organizations that raises awareness of the need for financial literacy, or as I like to call it, financial wellbeing.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” said Nelson Mandela. So how about changing our individual worlds? You know, our health, careers, relationships and our financial future.
Why is it that very few of us take the initiative to help ourselves? Sure, government, schools, banks, parents can all contribute to our knowledge, but unless we independently take the first step toward bettering our future, I’m afraid we won’t make a dent in improving our worlds.
It all starts with education. The basic understanding of how something works so we can be equipped to decide for or against something. Like Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA).
There are not many financial goals in life more important than saving for our retirement. Yet, four years since they first became available, we find 52% of Canadians still have not opened a TFSA. Which I find quite perplexing.
TFSAs have significant benefits versus other registered products. They provide tremendous flexibility to work toward short or long-term goals, provide easier access to funds without penalty and allow us to put as little or as much as we can into our future. It is one of the easiest financial products Canadians can invest in! So why aren’t we taking advantage of it?
There is some good news here. 63% of those surveyed who do have a TFSA have not made any withdrawals from the account. All it takes is the first simple step to take control of our saving behaviours. Like many other goals, each step after the first gets easier.
If you’re one of the 53% who don’t fully understand how the TFSA works there are options for you. You can check the Government of Canada Information Page, or take a look at ING DIRECT’s top 10 things to know about the Tax-Free Savings Account. You can also learn about the activities taking place around Financial Literacy Month and participate!
I have no doubt that we all find it difficult at times to set aside savings when we have numerous bills and obligations to take care of, vacations to plan, the latest TV to buy… Especially as we are ramping up to the onslaught of ‘best deals’ for Holiday shopping.
Research tells us that 53% of Canadians have said that “not having the money to contribute” is the main reason why we haven’t yet opened a TFSA. But any amount, be it large or small, does make a difference. It’s easy to set up automatic savings plans, anywhere you bank! Set it and forget it. It’s that simple.
My advice is not radical. There’s really no secret to saving. It’s the same as saving for any other goal, financial or otherwise. Getting started is the beginning and doing it routinely and automatically is the recipe for success. Making small dents over a long time is the best we can do to create a better world for each of us, our families and our Country.
I will leave you with this thought by Jim Rohn: “If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.” There’s only so much hand holding that governments or businesses can do to set us up for success. It’s time to get ourselves on the right road!