Sex and hockey to the rescue.
There's endless talk these days about the need to promote financial literacy, but there haven't been any bright ideas until now about how to get people - especially young people - to dig into a topic that confuses, bores or scares them.
The Investor Education Fund's new GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca website, introduced yesterday, is topical, smart and just the slightest bit risqué. Check it out and see if you agree with me that it's a good start in helping to make people, well, smarter about money.
Sex and hockey get some of the credit for the new site's success. As teasers to draw visitors into its educational material, the Investor Education Fund has produced four short, humorous videos. In one, a father walks into his teenage son's room (perfect detail: the son closes his laptop as the father walks in) to talk about whether the lad has started investing. You can just guess what the son thinks they're talking about.
In another video, a hockey-crazed dad rattles on about the elaborate training he's providing for his son, who turns out to be still a baby. The point: plan for your child's long-term financial needs as well as his or her sports careers.
Tom Hamza, president of the Investor Education Fund, said the videos are all about reaching young adults, a prime audience for financial literacy initiatives. People in their 20s and early 30s are just coming into their years as big consumers of financial products, which means there's a big opportunity to help them avoid costly mistakes.
If young people don't catch the videos on GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, they might on the education fund's YouTube channel or, starting in January, a Facebook page. Mr. Hamza hopes that once they see the video, they'll burrow into the new website to learn more.
The old Investor Education Fund website worked fine, but it never really answered the question facing everyone who wants to promote financial literacy: How do you get good information on personal finance and investing into the hands of people who need it?
"The content is out there in a hundred different places," Mr. Hamza said. "Hopefully with the new website, we've managed to make it more interesting and present it better."
I should mention here that The Globe and Mail and the Investor Education Fund, a non-profit offshoot of the Ontario Securities Commission, are partners in the Let's Talk Investing video series seen on Globeinvestor.com as well as GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca.
In the Let's Talk Investing videos, which you can view at http://tgam.ca/letstalkinvesting, I chat with financial and investing types about topics ranging from the housing market to pensions, the dollar, car insurance and dividends. We've had a good response from Globe readers, so there's clearly some potential in using video to help people engage with financial topics.
GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca's video arsenal also includes an animated series called Funny Money that teaches basic lessons like how credit cards work. Beyond videos, there's a huge library of financial content written by experts who don't work for financial companies and thus can offer independent, unbiased views.
Curious about whether mutual funds or exchange-traded funds are best for your portfolio? Read the rundown on this topic on GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca before you immerse yourself in fund and ETF industry sales pitches.
The new website also offers a collection of state-of-the-art financial calculators that help answer questions like how long it will take for your investments to recover from their bear market losses, whether you should pay off debt or invest, how long it will take for you to pay off your credit cards and how long it will take to pay off your student debts.
The site also benefits from a smart layout that should appeal to both savvy financial types and novices. The novices - people who don't know what they don't know - can click on the Life Events tab and find a list of topics that includes getting a new job, losing a job, having a baby, retirement and death and dying. More experienced users can click on the Managing Your Money tab and find specific topics like stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs.
Ontario schools will start teaching personal finance and investing to kids in Grades 4 through 12 staring in 2011, and a federal task force is working on a broader strategy. For now, though, GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca is one of the best tools around for promoting financial literacy.
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Getting smarter about money
Here's a look at a new website introduced yesterday by the Investor Education Fund, called GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca:
Anyone with a question, basic or advanced, about money and investing.
Videos and online calculators augment the written material.
The Ontario Securities Commission financed the new website using money taken in through settlements and penalties paid by rule-breaking firms and individuals.
Conflicts of interest
None, because the people behind this site aren't selling financial products.
The old Investor Education Fund website at investored.ca.