Back on that Day. The Financial Literacy Event.

Pat Forn6His deep, booming voice is the first thing you notice. And even though it is coming from a larger (and somewhat paler) than life image, transported by the Internet from Toronto to Burnaby and recreated on a large overhead screen, the voice compels you to listen intently to its message.

It’s the voice of Patrick Foran, the host of CTV’s Consumer Alert, an award-winning journalist, and the author of numerous books. His work as a leading consumer advocate earned him a position on the groundbreaking federal Financial Literacy Task Force that laid out a course of action to improve the financial awareness and abilities of Canadians.

On this day, he is addressing 150 students from the eight secondary schools in Burnaby, along with parents and a cohort of speakers and presenters from the Financial Literacy Counsel, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the financial education of Canadians.

His message is straightforward and fascinating, with colourful examples and evidence of the points he is making.

Mr. Foran wants young people to become good savers and spenders, so a financial crisis does not arise in their lives. How to do this? Learn as soon as possible the value of money – how far it goes and how to earn it. The sooner young people learn how difficult it is to earn money, the better at managing money they will be. Don’t dine out all of the time; don’t spend everything on clothing. $100 per week on restaurants adds up to over $5000 per year. Some careers, like becoming a medical specialist or a business owner, take years to achieve, and this amount of money will go far to cover educational costs. So, no matter how much you earn, he says, always be sure to save some of it.

Surprisingly, a recent survey shows that only 18% of Canadian parents talk to their kids about money. But conversations about topics like home ownership and the requirements of home ownership can make a difference. One woman that Mr. Foran speaks of inherited a house from her father. Though she had always expected to, she realized that once she took the house over she had not taken into account all of the associated costs, from the hydro bills, to the maintenance costs and to the annual tax bills. She was not prepared and wish she had been.

There is a huge need across Canada for financial advice and assistance. Mr. Foran receives hundreds of emails from people at many stages of financial difficulty and in a range of occupations. For example, a woman who owed $2000 in road tolls found that almost 15 years later, the toll that she had ignored had expanded to $24,000, and she was still on the hook to pay. A young person got her first credit card and to celebrate, put a photo of it on Twitter. The consequences of doing this were financially horrendous, and though she learned a lesson, the credit card company would not cover her losses for obvious reasons! A doctor who earned $300,000 a year, had a massive debt because he could not control his spending.

An overarching point of Mr. Foran was that a lot of people are simply bad financial managers or they have entered into bad contracts or signed a deal before totally understanding the terms and conditions. His belief is that people should simply ignore most of these deals, or be very, very cautious. And more people should become more financially literate.

Pat Foran3Mr. Foran left the audience wiser with regard to their future finances. The time he took out of his very busy schedule was both anticipated and appreciated, and it is clear that he took part in the Burnaby event because he truly believes in the importance of building awareness about finances. It is reassuring to note, in some of his last emailed words to event organizers, in which he states, “I often meet young people years later who have bought homes, cars or started savings accounts because of being part of events like this – so we are making a difference.” This is clear encouragement for educators to keep providing, and for parents and for students to keep participating in, all opportunities to learn, much like the recent Student Financial Literacy Pro-D Day held on April 27th, 2015 at Burnaby Central.