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Canadians lack confidence with math, money management

Genetics appears to have a stronger influence on reading skills than math ability.

Dmitriy Shironosov/iStockphoto

Most Canadians lack confidence and skills when it comes to math and money matters, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

The online poll, conducted on behalf of ABC Life Literacy Canada, found 79 per cent of Canadians aren't fully confident in their ability to teach another person about money, saving and budgeting.

The Ipsos Reid survey found six in 10 Canadians say they can use help with their financial management skills, including 73 per cent of those aged 18 to 34.

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Some Canadians are also experiencing challenges in socking away funds for a rainy day.

The survey found 38 per cent aren't putting any money into long-term savings on a monthly basis, while 36 per cent are putting away $200 or less a month.

Those with less education are much less likely to be comfortable that they have the skills needed to secure a financial future, said Sean Simpson, associate vice-president with Ipsos Reid. But even among Canadians with a university degree, there are many who still aren't confident that they have the skills needed, he added.

"Overall, what we're finding is there is in general a lack of understanding, of familiarity, among many Canadians when it comes to some key financial terms and when it comes down to it in their own beliefs and capabilities to plan for a secure future," he said during a webcast news conference Tuesday.

One finding Mr. Simpson cited as "fairly surprising" was in reference to the Registered Education Savings Plan.

While roughly half of Canadians surveyed were familiar with it, Mr. Simpson said those with children in their households were no more likely to understand the term - even though they'd be the ones using an RESP to save for their children's education.

The release of the findings coincided with the announced launch of Financial Literacy Week taking place from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5.

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The initiative is a national awareness and engagement campaign aimed at increasing the financial literacy and math skills of Canadians. It will include coast-to-coast community events and provide financial literacy tools and resources, said Margaret Eaton, president of ABC Life Literacy Canada.

Ms. Eaton said adults are the first teachers for their children and it's crucial they're comfortable passing along their knowledge on money matters.

"It is really important that parents have these skills and it is a great way to begin with your children to start them off by having an allowance, start talking about budgeting, start talking about making charitable donations," she said. "This is the time to start to pass on those skills, but we want to make sure the adults have those skills."

Mr. Simpson said there may be a number of factors as to why there appears to be a financial knowledge gap, notably among those under 35. It could simply be they don't have money, or are uncertain of how much or how to save, he said.

Ms. Eaton said among the interesting findings from Canada's Task Force on Financial Literacy was the idea that financial information needed for different life events was what prompted the desire for greater knowledge.

"When you get into university or post-secondary and suddenly you need a student loan, you need to set up a different kind of account, you have to think more about savings or paying a debt back. ... Then the next level is maybe you want to buy a house or buy a car," she said.

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"At each of these stages you need different kinds of information and you sort of acquire that financial literacy information on a 'just in time' basis."

Amy Hanen, senior manager, community relations with TD Bank Group, said it's also important to note young people today have to deal with much more complexity in their financial lives than previous generations.

"There was a time where as a university student nobody would have given you a credit card - now you have several," she said.

"It may not be that the knowledge level is that much lower, but the needs are so much greater than they have ever been in the past."

The online survey of 1,022 adults was conducted between March 28 and March 31, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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