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(Sean Locke/copyright 2009Sean Lockewww.digitalplanetdesign.com)
(Sean Locke/copyright 2009Sean Lockewww.digitalplanetdesign.com)

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Ottawa to announce financial literacy leader Add to ...

There's no shortage of personal finance resources readily available to Canadians who know where to find them.

Government sites are full of information: Curious about your government benefits in retirement? The Service Canada website has everything you need to know. Not sure how much mortgage you can afford? Try using one of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's online calculators. Confused about insurance, banking or credit card statements? The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has your back.

The problem is, not all Canadians know where to find the answers they need.

Jacques Ménard, vice-chairman of Canada's Task Force on Financial Literacy and chairman of BMO Nesbitt Burns, made this point Thursday at the start of a two-day global conference on financial literacy in Toronto, co-hosted by the OECD and the FCAC. As part of its research, the task force identified more than 50 institutions providing some sort of financial literacy education to Canadians, but the services they provide are all over the map.

"There's certainly no lack of effort, but the task force believes that in order to move forward, we need leadership," Mr. Ménard told the audience, made up of nearly 400 government officials and financial literacy experts from 44 counties.

Effective delivery of trustworthy, relevant information to those who most need it is crucial, Mr. Ménard said. "As the task force noted, a lot of the information already exists, but people need to know where to go."

For this reason, one of the task force's recommendations was that Ottawa appoint someone to act as a financial literacy leader at the national level. Ottawa is expected to announce that leader in the June 6 budget, Mr. Ménard said.

The task force report outlined the role the new financial literacy leader should play: "This individual would be non-partisan and directly accountable to the Minister of Finance and would have a clear mandate to work collaboratively with various levels of government and other stakeholders to oversee the strategy, implement the recommendations and champion the message of financial literacy nationwide."

If there's one thing all the experts at the financial literacy conference agreed upon, it's the need for a national strategy. It was a theme repeated over and over by speakers from around the globe.

A national strategy in financial literacy won't be achieved "working in silos," said Ursula Menke, commissioner of the FCAC. "To create citizens who are money-savvy, we need to work together."

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