Rashmi Baliwal's first six months in Canada have been tough, financially.
Coming from Dubai to Mississauga, Ont., one of her greatest difficulties has been gaining access to credit so she can buy a car and a home for her two daughters. The problem, she says, is that she has no Canadian credit history. She has not yet found a teaching position here, and although her husband has a steady job as a finance manager, he is still working in Dubai.
"We are renting a house now and I'm really keen to buy," Ms. Baliwal says. "Credit history - no one explained it - we did not know how important it is."
According to a recent Environics poll for RBC, 40 per cent of newcomers to Canada say that managing finances is more difficult than they expected, and close to half are worried that they will not have enough money to live comfortably.
"We could be doing a better job of reaching out to help people understand the basics of Canadian banking and finance so that they can access the information and financial tools they need to succeed," says Laurie Campbell, executive director of Credit Canada. A survey released this week by Credit Canada suggests a specific subset of new Canadians - the majority of whom are low- to moderate-income women - report their financial situation is "poor" and they have difficulty accessing credit.
Camon Mak, director of multicultural markets at RBC, says part of the problem is sticker shock: "The expectation of what things cost back home vary greatly, depending on where you come from, to what life is like in Canada."
New Canadians don't always find a job right away, he adds, so they have to budget accordingly. He offers the following advice to help newcomers make a successful transition to Canada:
1) Be prepared. Before you move to Canada, look for workshops in your home country run by the Canadian consulate or organizations like the Canadian Immigration Integration Project. These workshops offer customized advice and resources and help new immigrants integrate into the Canadian labour market while still in their home country.
2) Ask for help getting settled. Before you arrive in Canada, check out the free government services offered in the area where you will be staying, and find out if you qualify for government benefits. You may also wish to consider booking an appointment with a service agency before you leave so that you can meet with someone soon after you arrive in Canada. Visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada for a complete list of community and government services.
3) Choose the right bank account. Speak with your financial institution about choosing the right account based on your anticipated transaction pattern and potential average monthly balance to help save money on service fees.
4) Build your credit history. Your credit history from another country is not readily accessible to Canadian financial institutions when applying for credit in Canada. Many large banks now offer credit solutions to help skilled workers new to Canada get started without prior credit history.
5) Track your spending and follow a budget. Take advantage of online banking tools to help manage your monthly spending so you know exactly where your money is going.