Teach financial literacy in schools: report

A federal task force is calling for financial literacy to be taught as part of the regular school curriculum throughout Canada.

A federal task force is calling for financial literacy to be taught as part of the regular school curriculum throughout Canada.

The task force said Wednesday having such an important subject ignored in many schools is no longer acceptable.

Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty takes part in a news conference to release the final report of the Task Force on Financial Literacy in Ottawa on Wednesday. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

Some provinces, such as British Columbia, already offer courses.

The introduction of financial literacy courses in schools at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels was one of 30 recommendations made by the task force.

Others included the establishment of dedicated national leader on literacy and having the federal government create a website where Canadians can obtain information on everything from mortgages to retirement planning.

The head of the task force, Sun Life Financial CEO Donald Stewart, said financial literacy is not only important for individuals, but also for economies.

Social and Enterprise Development Innovations, an organization set up 24 years ago to help low-income earners increase their financial knowledge, defines financial literacy as the knowledge, skills and confidence required to make responsible financial decisions.

It endorsed the task force's conclusions, saying they are especially important given that Canadians average household debt is at a record high of $1.48 for every $1 of disposable income, surpassing that of Americans for the first time in 12 years.

"There is no better time for government to take the lead in helping Canadians increase their knowledge and skills to manage everyday finances," SEDI said in a release.

"This includes saving for a rainy day, post-secondary education, retirement or other life events. Given that six in 10 Canadians would be at risk if their paycheques were delayed by even a week, many households are not far from financial crisis."

The Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition, which advocates increased public accountability by the country's banks, applauded the recommendations, but said that it should also have called for the federal government to require banks and other financial institutions to facilitate the creation of a national financial consumer education and advocacy group.

With files from The Canadian Press