Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay financial adviser says money management should be part of school curriculum

Hydro bills, car insurance, income tax, retirement savings plans, mutual funds — when are you suppose to be learning about these things and who should be teaching you?

Taxes, bills, insurance — when are we suppose to learn about these things? And who should be teaching us?

We expect parents to be teaching their kids about personal finances but financial advisor Nicole Slongo says many parents don't understand it themselves.

Hydro bills, car insurance, income tax, retirement savings plans, mutual funds — when are kids and young adults supposed to be learning about these things and who should be teaching them?

"We assume parents are going to take on this role but what I find in practice is that most Canadians don't really know a whole lot about their financial situation," said Nicole Slongo, financial adviser with Investors Group in Thunder Bay, Ont.

"They're not taking the time to sit down and teach their children about budget and finance because they know so little about it themselves."

Slongo believes that schools should be teaching students how to handle their personal finances. She has spoken to classes at St. Patrick High School and St. Ignatius High School in Thunder Bay about things like income tax, budgeting and how to avoid credit card debt. Practical realities students will need to deal with coming out of high school.

Curriculum changes coming

On Nov. 3 Ontario's education minister Mitzie Hunter announced changes to the Grade 10 career studies course to include financial literacy. The course will now include things like budgeting, how to use a credit card and planning for post-secondary education. It will be implemented into the curriculum in September 2018.

Slongo thinks parents should start speaking to their kids about finances as soon as they get an allowance in order to teach them about saving and budgeting.

A publication called Money and Youth is what Slongo suggests to help teach youth about practical financial certainties. The book covers topics like what to look for when you move out of your parents house, tips on buying a car and when you need to buy insurance — things many young people figure out as they go. 

"We are trying to foster the idea that they are starting to be adults and are making their own decisions and that's great news but we've kind of done a bad job at giving them the tools," said Slongo.

Avoiding credit card debt

Credit card debt is one of the major problems facing young people, according to Slongo. Some young adults accrue $3,000 worth of credit card debt, then find that that debt follows them for 10 years and ends up costing them $12,000 to pay off with built interest, she said. 

Slongo believes that it's important to start building credit history from a young age so it's easier when it comes to buying a home or getting a loan. In order to keep a good history she suggests youth keep their credit card limit capped at $500, in order to avoid large amounts of debt they can't pay off. 

"Canadians are spending more money than they make," said Slongo. "That's a personal decision but the long term implications of that is we are going to have a less financially capable society."