Summative Evaluation of the Financial Literacy Program: Final Evaluation Report

Prepared for: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Prepared by:

Goss Gilroy Inc.
Management Consultants

Suite 900, 150 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 1P1
Tel: (613) 230-5577
Fax: (613) 235-9592
E-mail: ggi@ggi.ca

Date: March 20, 2020

Acronyms

CBA: Canadian Bankers Association

CFCS: Canadian Financial Capability Survey

CRA: Canada Revenue Agency

FCAC: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

FLM: Financial Literacy Month

FPT: Federal/Provincial/Territorial

INFE: International Network on Financial Education

NGO: Non-Governmental Organization

OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment

PT: Provincial/Territorial

Executive Summary

Objectives, scope and methodology

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is a federal government agency established in 2001 to protect consumers by supervising federally regulated financial entities, ensuring compliance with consumer protection measures, and strengthening the financial literacy of Canadians through education and outreach. FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program was mandated in the 2007 federal budget and is funded primarily through an annual statutory allocation of $5M, as well as a portion of assessed contributions from regulated entities, to support, collaborate and coordinate its activities and efforts with stakeholders to improve and strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians. The program encompasses financial literacy programs, partnership and stakeholder engagement, research, policy development and consumer education. 

This evaluation of the Financial Literacy Program is summative in nature and covers the period from April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2019. The evaluation was undertaken to assess the results and achievements of the program, and to develop conclusions and recommendations to inform a review of the program and future improvements to the program. The scope of the evaluation includes the full range of financial literacy activities funded by FCAC. Consistent with the federal Treasury Board Secretariat’s Policy on Results (2016), the evaluation addresses issues of relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency. There were 14 evaluation questions that guided the study (see Annex B).

Multiple lines of evidence, including both qualitative and quantitative methods, were employed for this evaluation, which gathered data from various perspectives (e.g. program management and staff, partners/stakeholders and experts in the field). The lines of evidence for the evaluation included a document review and data review, a literature review, interviews with key informants, an online survey of educational program teachers and facilitators, and three case studies. 

Summary of findings

Relevance

Key indicators point to a strongly demonstrated need for FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program. Canadians have historically high debt levels, while employment is increasingly precarious and the availability of supports, such as pension plans, is declining.  At the same time, the market for financial services and products is becoming more complex and increasingly online, requiring greater independent consumer knowledge and confidence. 

The Financial Literacy Program objectives align with FCAC’s mandate and strategic objectives, and also with the federal role and Government of Canada priorities as outlined in recent legislation and federal budget commitments. There is limited overlap and duplication between the Financial Literacy Program and other programs at the provincial/territorial (PT) level, although financial literacy and regulation is a shared federal/provincial/territorial (FPT) responsibility. 

There is consensus that there is a need for the federal government to play a role in improving the financial literacy of Canadians. The Financial Literacy Program objectives and activities are seen to represent areas where other entities lack the mandate or resources/capacity to contribute. 

Effectiveness

Financial literacy educational programs & resources

There is evidence that Canadians’ awareness and usage of FCAC’s Financial Literacy educational programs, and informational tools and calculators is significant and increasing. Through its development of new, targeted educational programs and resources, the Financial Literacy Program is reaching new audiences (e.g. Indigenous learners, participants in workplace settings, mobile app users). Satisfaction levels among facilitators and participants in FCAC educational programs are uniformly high. Most users indicate that FCAC’s online content is unbiased, valuable and easy to understand. 

With the increased visibility of financial literacy, however, there has been growth in educational content related to financial literacy. While stakeholders appreciated FCAC’s role in providing neutral information and interactive tools for consumers, FCAC was encouraged to continue to ensure that development of educational content does not duplicate other offerings and to consider which organization(s) is best placed to address gaps. Where these other organizations (e.g. other jurisdictions, non-governmental or professional organizations) struggle, is in securing funding to deliver or scale financial literacy programming. 

FCAC has invested in monitoring and measuring the overall impact of the National Strategy, and also in identifying ways to improve the impact of its educational programs. It has collected pilot testing and monitoring data to determine outcomes, test new initiatives and determine usability. There have been some positive impacts on the knowledge, skills and confidence of participants in Financial Literacy Program educational programs. While FCAC has been evolving its metrics to better assess behavioural change, these impacts are more difficult to achieve and measure. The results indicated that long-term behavioural change was achieved through innovative programming that rewards behavioural change. 

National Research Plan

The National Research Plan has increased the financial literacy evidence base in Canada, contributing to an understanding of the effectiveness of interventions and national data on trends in financial literacy. The plan has been well executed with the support of a sub-committee of recognized experts in the field, linked to supporting the objectives of the National Strategy and including international contributions. The research has assessed innovative interventions and connected well with behavioural science experts to gather and use relevant insights. There is a desire for a reinforced connection between research and practice. The third iteration of the Canadian Financial Capability Survey (CFCS), fielded in 2019, has been an important effort where the federal level has the capacity and resources to obtain population level measures on financial literacy and financial well-being of financial consumers.

Stakeholder engagement

FCAC oversees numerous initiatives and supports many committees and working groups in order to engage stakeholders and maximize their impact, including 18 Regional Financial Literacy Networks, the National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy, the Interdepartmental Committee on Financial Literacy and many more. All initiatives of the program—development of programs and resources, research, promotion and awareness—are driven by this engagement. FCAC stakeholders represent a wide variety of sectors, and efforts have been made to ensure stakeholders are engaged across the country. This broad network of stakeholders connects numerous organizations, significantly extending the reach of the program. Overall, stakeholders are satisfied with their engagement, and are committed and active supporters of the National Strategy. Stakeholders are also strong supporters of the Canadian Financial Literacy Database, an online repository of available financial literacy resources and events populated by stakeholders, but believe improvements are needed. 

Promotion and outreach

There is consensus that FCAC has done an effective job of increasing the visibility and profile of financial literacy in Canada through promotion and outreach. Documentary evidence confirms FCAC’s increasing engagement with Canadians and stakeholders through both traditional means and social media channels. Financial Literacy Month is viewed as a key driver of success, and FCAC’s efforts to implement improvements to this initiative based on stakeholder feedback has supported continued relevance and growth. Although FCAC’s promotion and outreach is seen to be successful, there is agreement that more needs to be done to raise awareness about financial concepts and products among Canadians.  

Strengthened Canadian financial literacy

Canada compares well with other developed countries on measures of financial literacy, consistently ranking near the top in various international studies. Results from the CFCS in 2009 and 2014 showed little progress in financial literacy among Canadians. However, the 2019 CFCS results indicated that Canadians’ financial literacy is improving modestly in some areas (e.g. having a budget, preparing for retirement), and that almost half of Canadians sought advice or engaged in some type of financial education over the past five years. That said, Canadians reported higher levels of debt and an increasing proportion are facing financial pressures. 

Efficiency

Benefits of a National Strategy

The evaluation confirms that there has been value in having a National Strategy for Financial Literacy and that it is considered a best practice internationally. Stakeholders support the National Strategy and are broadly satisfied with the priorities and activities that have been undertaken since its implementation. The National Strategy played a critical role in fostering collaboration and cooperation among formerly unconnected players, resulting in a strengthened focus on financial literacy and an increased activity in supporting key goals. The National Strategy also effectively focused attention on gaps and unmet needs, including audiences that warrant targeted outreach. There is an appetite for continuing efforts with a renewed strategy with refreshed, evidence-based priorities. 

Program governance and advisory structure

The governance and advisory structure of FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program is appropriate and effective. Terms of Reference clearly set out the objectives and expectations of each committee and working group as well as the roles, responsibilities and expected deliverables of members. All committees and working groups are chaired or co-chaired by FCAC, ensuring unified direction and oversight. Stakeholders indicated positive views about their participation and the National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy members would welcome strategic engagement in future endeavours.

Program efficiency

Financial Literacy Program direct expenditures during the study period ranged between $8M-9M. There is strong qualitative evidence that the program is delivered efficiently. FCAC’s approach to leveraging the efforts of partnerships and collaborations is seen to contribute to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of efforts. Other factors that contribute to efficiency include a purposeful approach to evaluation and collecting empirical evidence of lessons learned to improve efforts, and choosing priorities and initiatives using a consultative and evidence-based approach. 

Recommendations

Renew the National Strategy on Financial Literacy in Canada focusing on evidence-based gaps, priorities and interventions. There is consensus that the National Strategy had an important benefit in spurring and coordinating efforts to improve financial literacy in Canada and is an international best practice. Stakeholders identified a number of gaps and priorities for a future strategy. 

Continue engagement with national and regional stakeholders and other government departments to sustain momentum, multi-sectoral participation and synergies. The evaluation evidence confirms that FCAC’s stakeholder engagement efforts have been very successful and contributed to the Financial Literacy Program’s many achievements. The Financial Literacy Program should increase engagement with other federal departments to improve financial literacy, including harnessing or pooling efforts with departments concerned with vulnerable groups. 

Explore opportunities based on the experience of other small or administrative agencies to develop a grants and contributions fund to support development, piloting and scaling of successful financial literacy interventions with an equity lens. Some stakeholders favour FCAC supporting non-governmental organizations to create materials with a view to piloting and scaling those that show promise. FCAC should investigate the practices of other small departments and agencies to determine the feasibility of this course of action.  

Revisit the business case to improve the Canadian Financial Literacy Database to support a user-friendly interface, more engaging features and a greater visibility among the community of financial literacy providers and educators. The web-based resources and tools available on FCAC’s Canadian Financial Literacy Database is an important contribution to reducing duplication. However, users observe that the repository is not well-known and difficult to navigate. FCAC should revisit the business case to create a more user-friendly interface and leverage best practices from other federal knowledge hubs or repositories. 

Reinforce links between insights generated by academic and FCAC research, and the needs of financial literacy practitioners. The National Research Plan has been very successful in generating a wide array of research and insights into the effectiveness of financial literacy educational programs and supports and has also successfully disseminated this knowledge. The link between research questions and findings, and practitioner needs could be further reinforced. This would include, for example, participation of practitioners in formulating the research questions and grounding the development of interventions in research. 

Continue to invest in awareness and promotion of financial literacy, particularly in regions where interest and take-up has been weaker. Stakeholders believe that the Financial Literacy Program’s promotion and outreach has invigorated national conversation about financial literacy. There is an opportunity to expand efforts into areas where the Financial Literacy Program has had a smaller footprint to date. 

1. Introduction

The purpose of this report is to present the findings from the Summative Evaluation of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s (FCAC) Financial Literacy Program. The evaluation was designed to provide comprehensive and reliable evidence to support decisions regarding continued delivery of the program. 

1.1 Program description

FCAC is a federal government agency established in 2001 to protect consumers by supervising federally regulated financial entities, ensuring compliance with consumer protection measures, and strengthening the financial literacy of Canadians through education and outreach. FCAC is primarily funded by assessments of the financial institutions, the payment card network operators and the external complaint bodies it regulates. In addition to revenues from assessments, FCAC receives an annual statutory expenditure from the federal government of a maximum of $5M for the Financial Literacy Program (actual spending on the program may vary and is supplemented by assessments revenue).

The Financial Literacy Program was funded in the 2007 federal budget and created that year. The program aims to strengthen Canadians' financial decision-making and consumer behaviours and improve Canadians' financial well-being (see logic model in Annex C). The Financial Literacy Program encompasses financial literacy programs, partnership and stakeholder engagement, research and policy, and promotion and consumer education. Since 2014, the Financial Literacy Program has included the appointment of a Financial Literacy LeaderFootnote 1  and since 2015, the program has been guided by the National Strategy for Financial Literacy—Count Me In, Canada (‘National Strategy’). The National Strategy’s priorities include helping Canadians to manage money and debt wisely, plan and save for the future, and protect themselves against fraud and financial abuse. 

To address these priorities, the Financial Literacy Program comprises activities and initiatives in the following areas: 

The National Strategy and the Financial Literacy Program work to achieve objectives to increase the financial well-being of Canadians through the engagement of stakeholders, including financial literacy networks, experts and organizations drawn from across Canada and across sectors. To implement the National Strategy, FCAC works with the following committees, networks and working groups:

1.2 Objectives and scope

The objectives of the evaluation of FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program are to assess the results and achievements of the program from 2014 to 2019 and develop conclusions and recommendations to inform a review of the program and future program improvements.

The scope of the evaluation includes the full range of financial literacy activities funded by FCAC:

The evaluation builds on the formative evaluation conducted in 2013, however, the evaluation is summative in nature (primary focus on the Program’s effectiveness) and covers the period since the last evaluation (April 1, 2014) to March 31, 2019. Note that activities under FCAC’s mandate related to the supervision of financial institutions are excluded from the evaluation.

Consistent with the federal Treasury Board Secretariat Policy on Results (2016), the evaluation addresses issues of relevance, effectiveness and efficiency. There were 14 evaluation questions that guided the study (see Annex B). 

1.3 Methodology

To ensure a valid assessment of the Financial Literacy Program, the evaluation uses multiple lines of evidence, including both qualitative and quantitative methods, and gathered data from various perspectives (e.g. program management and staff, partners/stakeholders and experts in the field). The evaluation was guided by an Evaluation Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from the Financial Literacy Program. The lines of evidence for the evaluation included:

1.4 Limitations

The evaluation is based on a strong evidence base drawing on multiple lines of qualitative and quantitative evidence. Limitations and mitigation strategies included:

2. Findings

The following sections provide findings for each of the evaluation questions identified for the study. 

2.1 Relevance

2.1.1 Continued need for financial literacy programming

Key finding:

Troubling indicators of Canadians’ financial well-being support the need for continued action to improve financial literacy in Canada. Future priorities include addressing the specific needs of vulnerable populations to improve financial well-being, and ensuring interventions consider increased use of digital financial tools and leverage best practices to create behavioural change.

An increasingly complex market for financial products and services, and some worrying indicators of financial well-being suggest a continuing need to improve financial literacy.

Recent research and statistics point to worrying trends in Canadians’ financial well-being. The Canadian household debt-to-disposable income ratio is one of the highest in the world and, until recently, has continued to climb.Footnote 2  Statistics Canada indicates average household debt represented 177% of Canadians’ disposable income in 2019, up from 168% in 2018.Footnote 3  With respect to savings, the 2019 CFCS found that about one-third of non-retired Canadians do not have a plan to save for retirement and more Canadians are feeling financial pressures.Footnote 4  Many millennials, who are currently the most important consumer segment in Canada, have no retirement savings at all.Footnote 5  The Canadian Payroll Association found that, among those surveyed, nearly half of working Canadians (43%) reportedly live paycheque to paycheque, about a third (32%) reported having increasing debt, and four in ten (40%) felt overwhelmed by their debt.Footnote 6   

At the same time, it is widely recognized that the market for financial products and services is becoming highly complex, including an expansion in digital financial services. A 2018 G20/OECD International Network on Financial Education (INFE) report highlighted that only limited efforts thus far have been put into adapting consumer protection and financial education frameworks to digital financial services to help warn consumers of risks and help them make the best use of digital financial services.Footnote 7   

While efforts to improve financial literacy have expanded, there remain a number of unmet needs or gaps.

While there has been a maturing of the efforts to strengthen financial literacy in Canada and internationally (for instance, the widespread adoption of national financial literacy strategies), there is limited evidence data to suggest that there has been a positive or significant evolution in Canadians’ financial literacy levels and too few Canadians are saving or using credit prudently (see Section 2.2.5). Research, including studies conducted under the Financial Literacy National Research Plan, has shown a link between saving and financial literacy.Footnote 8  Furthermore, studies are generating insights around the key elements that drive financial literacy (financial confidence and the skill of making use of advice on financial products) and what works for who. Literature and the views of key informants suggested a number of unmet needs/gaps or priorities that should be the focus of future efforts, including: 

2.1.2 Alignment with federal/FCAC roles and priorities

Key Finding:

Documentary sources indicate that the objectives of the Financial Literacy Program align with the federal role and Government of Canada priorities, and with FCAC’s mandate. 

The federal Financial Literacy Program is consistent with federal priorities.

The Government of Canada has expressly supported financial literacy since 2007, when it mandated and provided funding for FCAC to strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians. The City was developed and launched in 2008 to address this mandate, and in 2009 the Task Force on Financial Literacy was established. The recommendations of the Task ForceFootnote 9  eventually became the basis of Canada’s National Strategy for Financial Literacy. The Task Force also proposed that Government of Canada should continue to take a lead role in promoting financial literacy, while recognizing the need for collaboration due to the shared FPT jurisdiction over financial services regulation and the PT responsibility for education. 

Budget 2009 allocated continued and additional funding to FCAC for financial literacy with a priority on fostering collaboration and a commitment to the development of a National Strategy for Financial Literacy in response to the Task Force recommendations. The development of the National Strategy was led by FCAC in collaboration with stakeholders and was approved in 2015. Additional funding to FCAC was allocated in Budget 2013 for the expansion of FCAC’s mandate to include a Financial Literacy Leader to collaborate and coordinate with stakeholders to strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians. 

The Financial Literacy Program is consistent with the mandate and objectives of FCAC, which has been strengthened in 2018 with new legislative changes.

FCAC was created by the Government of Canada in 2001 in response to an emerging international recognition for the need for governments to play a stronger role in financial sector regulation and consumer protection. In 2007, the Canadian government expanded FCAC’s mandate to officially include financial literacy. Since then, the Government of Canada has been providing FCAC with annual dedicated funding to support their national Financial Literacy programs, and financial literacy has been embedded in the objectives and strategic outcomes of the organization.  

FCAC’s mandate stems from the Financial Consumer Agency Act of Canada. During the period under evaluation (the Act was amended in 2018), the Act identified two core responsibilities and 11 objectives of the Agency. FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program contributes to addressing the second of the two core responsibilities assigned to the Agency, which is to “provide leadership in areas related to financial education and financial literacy.” FCAC’s mandate has evolved through various amendments to the Act, which have served to further strengthen its mandate in relation to financial literacy. 

The Financial Literacy Program was aligned with the following four Agency objectives: 

During the period under evaluation, the Financial Literacy Program also supported two of FCAC’s strategic outcomes: 1) ensuring that the rights and interests of financial consumers are respected, and 2) ensuring financial consumers understand their rights and responsibilities and make informed financial decisions.

As noted, FCAC’s mandate with respect to financial literacy has evolved and been strengthened through amendments to the FCAC Act. While FCAC’s mandate vis-à-vis financial literacy has been in place since 2007, an amendment in 2013 created the position of Financial Literacy Leader with additional funding. In 2018, another amendment to the Act further strengthened the Agency’s mandate and objectives with respect to financial literacy. While the Financial Literacy Leader provisions were removed from the Act, in 2019, it was communicated to stakeholders that a senior FCAC executive would be appointed to lead this area.

2.1.3 Role of FCAC in financial literacy

Key finding:

There is consensus that the federal level has an important role to play to improve the financial literacy of Canadians. Views on where the federal level is well-positioned to play a role in financial literacy align well with the current objectives and activities of the Financial Literacy Program, and represent areas where other entities lack the mandate or resources/capacity to contribute. In terms of financial literacy educational programs and resources, there is a perceived role for the federal level to develop tailored educational content (e.g. for Indigenous peoples, for workplace settings) and unbiased information for consumers about financial products and decision-making. However, there has also been a proliferation of financial literacy educational programs, with a perceived role for FCAC in helping to minimize potential duplication. While financial literacy content is increasingly available, organizations, especially non-governmental and professional associations, often lack funding for delivery. 

Stakeholders agree that there is a role for the federal level in improving Canadians’ financial literacy. The preferred role for FCAC closely aligns with current priorities and initiatives.

Interviewees, including both internal staff and external stakeholders, agreed that the federal level has a role to play in improving the financial literacy of Canadians. The type of role that the federal level should play is consistent with the areas where FCAC is currently active. According to interviewees, these are areas where the federal level is uniquely positioned because other organizations do not have the mandate (e.g. are provincially regulated / local mandate) or lack the resources/capacity (e.g. to sponsor a national survey or media campaign). FCAC was also noted to have a role to play in overcoming the heterogeneity/fragmentation of financial products/jurisdiction. 

The most frequently mentioned roles that FCAC was believed to be well-positioned to play included: 

FCAC should re-examine its role in relation to the development of financial literacy educational programs.

Where there were mixed views about the federal role, this was in relation to the development of educational programs. External interviewees felt that FCAC has an important role to play in addressing the specific needs of some populations (i.e. stakeholder views support the current focus on content development for Indigenous audiences and in the workplace), facilitating access to education programs and resources, and minimizing duplication in their development. For some interviewees, however, FCAC has a more appropriate role to play as funder of other (non-governmental) organizations who may be in a better position to develop educational programs.

Some perceived that there has been a proliferation of educational programs and resources related to financial literacy; however, it is unclear the extent of awareness of this content. For instance, in the survey of The City teachers and Financial Basics facilitators, most were not aware of additional financial education resources that are similar to the ones that they were currently teaching (63% for The City and 56% for Financial Basics).

Some stakeholders identified that there is a delivery or implementation challenge (i.e. insufficient funding to deliver content). Interest was expressed in a dedicated funding program to support delivery beyond web-posted materials. There were a small number of examples internationally of countries that had funding programs to support delivery, innovation and partnerships. 

2.2 Effectiveness

2.2.1 Financial literacy educational programs & resources

Key finding:

FCAC has developed and shared diverse types of educational programs and financial literacy resources, with take-up increasing each year. Programming is seen as valuable and clearly presented. Promotion has been sustained, and collaboration with partners and complementary campaigns such as Financial Literary Month are seen as key drivers of reach. The focus on online access and the Canadian Financial Literary Database is discerned to have some limitations in generating awareness and access.

Evidence indicates FCAC resources and tools are successfully impacting participants’ knowledge, skills and financial literacy. Although behaviour change is more challenging to influence and to measure, innovative programming that rewards behavioural change and uses mobile technology has resulted in success that can be quantified. 

Awareness and access

There is increasing awareness of and access to the financial literacy educational programs and resources.

There are many examples of new/updated financial literacy educational programs, including curriculum for school-age (The City) and other audiences (Financial Basics and Your Financial Toolkit). While The City is no longer available online, during recent years, over 10,000 new students were registered to participate each year. Your Financial Toolkit attracted 325,000 web visits in 2016-17, 425,000 in 2017-18 and 680,000 in 2018-19.

The FCAC website also includes a variety of self-assessment and planning tools and calculators, as well as information on financial products and e-learning videos. There is evidence that Canadians’ awareness of FCAC’s financial literacy educational programs and resources is increasing. According to FCAC’s 2018-19 Annual Report, 5.7 million Canadians have been reached by the Financial Literacy Program’s financial educational programs and resources, supporting the National Strategy. Where tracking data are available, evidence shows that the number of people accessing the online tools is increasing. For instance, visits to FCAC’s e-learning videos posted on YouTube have increased over the last three years from about 24,500 in 2016-17 to 35,000 in 2017-18 to 39,000 in 2018-19. According to FCAC’s annual reports, individual uses of FCAC’s online tools and calculators increased from just over 276,000 in 2015-16 to about 615,000 uses in 2017-18, an increase of 123% over the two-year period. 

FCAC’s online educational programs and resources are available to anyone with access to the Internet and are available in French and English. The overall use of FCAC’s online resources are highest among Ontarians (representing approximately 42% of all visits in both 2017-18 and 2018-19), followed by residents of Quebec (22%), British Columbians (14%), Albertans (11%), and residents of other provinces and territories (12%).

Through its development and piloting of new, targeted educational resources, the Financial Literacy Program is reaching new audiences, including employees in their workplaces and Indigenous learners. In 2017-18, a workplace-based financial literacy workshop was piloted with 290 employees at 15 workshops hosted by a variety of organizations representing the public sector, not-for-profits and the private sectors. As well, the Money Fit Challenge, an FCAC collaborative project with BestLifeRewarded Innovations and the Economic Club of Canada, reached nearly 700 employees in over 34 organizations.

Significant awareness and utilization have also been realized through FCAC’s collaboration with other organizations on pilot projects using interactive mobile technologies. For example, collaboration with United Way Ottawa and Shared Services Canada on the Small Change app (regionally-focused) pilot program, which ran from November 2015 to March 2016, had almost 1,100 registered users and encouraged them to make small changes to daily spending to demonstrate how quickly their savings could grow. FCAC also piloted the use of the Carrot Rewards app, an innovative private sector initiative funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, to increase financial literacy. The mobile app offered rewards in the form of loyalty points to users for participating in financial education. The app was launched in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and briefly in Ontario, and reached over 150,000 Canadians. The results of the pilot were very positive in terms of increasing user confidence and behaviour change (see discussion below for more detail on these research results). Relatedly, FCAC collaborator, the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), also used the app for their program “Your Money,” offering rewards to consumers for participation in various financial literacy quizzes and programs. 

Key informants agree that the access to and utilization of key resources is increasing annually, noting that working with partners and launching complementary campaigns such as FLM are key drivers for the program’s extended reach. The case study of the Canadian Financial Literacy Database also revealed that stakeholders and partners are helping build the database by adding and using materials, and that visits and sharing contributions to the database have increased since its inception in 2014. 

Some key informants did note that there were some limitations to Canadians’ ability to access FCAC’s educational programs and resources. Most access is generated through online engagement, which does not reach potential consumers who do not have access or are not computer literate. 

Key informant suggestions for increasing access to financial literacy programming included: 

Some also note it is important to tailor information to targeted groups through translation in more languages and through outreach that is understandable for those with differing literacy levels. Case study evidence also indicates that the availability of tailored resources for certain target groups could be increased. Also, there is an opportunity to improve broader awareness and user-friendliness of the Canadian Financial Literacy Database (discussed in more detail below). 

Financial Literacy educational programs and resources are seen as valuable. 

Satisfaction levels among facilitators and participants in FCAC educational programs are uniformly high. Based on the survey of The City teachers and Financial Basics facilitators:

In 2017-18, FCAC piloted the educational program Your Financial Toolkit, targeted to post-secondary students. Again, 82% of participants said they would recommend the workshop, 95% of participants agreed or somewhat agreed they understood the content, and 88% of participants agreed or somewhat agreed that the content was relevant to them. 

In terms of web-based content, in its 2017-18 Annual Report, FCAC reported that 77% of website visitors indicated they find the “FCAC’s content on Canada.ca” to be “valuable” and “easy to understand” and in the 2018-19 Annual Report, it was reported that 80% of users said they were very likely or likely to return to FCAC’s web pages in the future. Interviewees also noted the valuable role played by FCAC in providing neutral information to consumers.

Impact

It is difficult to translate increased knowledge, skills and confidence into sustained behaviour change and to detect these changes. However, some educational programs are having a positive impact on behaviour, particularly those that include digital technologies and are grounded in behavioural science. 

Beyond use and satisfaction, there is ongoing interest within the Financial Literacy Program in determining the impact of educational programs and resources on the knowledge, skills and confidence of participants. Evidence gathered from instructors of two flagship educational programs suggest that The City teachers and Financial Basics facilitators both observed positive impacts among learners in terms of knowledge, skills and confidence but were unable to confirm impacts on behaviour as the programs were not longitudinal in nature. 

Impact of the City and Financial Basics: Perceptions of Instructors

Bar chart - Figure 1: Impact of the City and Financial Basics: Perceptions of Instructors
Text version of Impact of the City and Financial Basics: Perceptions of Instructors
Impact of the City and Financial Basics: Perceptions of Instructors
Instructors’ perceptions of the impact of the programs on the students Percentage of respondents: The City Percentage of respondents: Financial Basics
Increasing basic knowledge of financial products & services 75 72
Improving skills to deal with financial matters 73 67
Increasing confidence in understanding financial matters 66 66
Helping to understand financial behaviour 63 69
Helping to make better financial decisions 58 63
Helping to modify behaviour 45 69

Source: Survey of The City teachers (n=67) and Financial Basics facilitators (n=131), 2019

From the perspective of participants themselves:

There are promising results in terms of impacts on behaviour from pilot testing of the Small Change app and the Carrot Rewards app, which leveraged behavioural insights and digital technology to stimulate sustained behaviour change around saving and budgeting.

Supporting financial literacy training in innovative ways

Through their positive financial behaviours, users of the Small Change app also become the vectors for donations to financial education programs delivered by not-for-profit organizations in the community. Sponsor funding helped almost 1,100 Ottawa residents receive income tax filing and financial literacy training and support, resulting in close to $4 million in tax benefits. 

Stakeholders and partners agreed with the value of using mobile apps in strengthening financial literacy, particularly in effectively reaching younger generations (e.g. millennials). A few respondents noted the importance of FCAC in piloting innovative approaches to financial education, stating in particular the Carrot Rewards app as an example of a successful intervention, that is accessible, available in plain language, and delivered in real time to support every-day decision making. Unfortunately, while the Carrot Rewards and the Small Change apps were considered successful and had measurable positive outcomes, it was challenging to sustain these interventions as the viability of the mobile apps was dependent on external funding. 

2.2.2 National Research Plan

Key finding:

The National Research Plan has increased the financial literacy evidence base in Canada, contributing to an understanding of effectiveness of interventions and national data on trends in financial literacy. While there has been support for knowledge sharing, some would like to see a reinforced connection between research and practice.

There have been diverse research projects conducted under the auspice of the National Research Plan, linked to supporting the objectives of the National Strategy and including international contributions to the field. 

The National Research Plan for Financial Literacy was launched in November 2016 at the National Research Symposium on Financial Literacy that brought together 79 academics to share research findings, discuss trends and provide evidence of new knowledge creation related to financial literacy occurring nationally and internationally. The National Research Plan was conceived as an evergreen document, developed to act as a guide for financial literacy researchers by describing key research opportunities and identifying important areas of research focus. The plan was explicitly linked to and intended to support the National Strategy for Financial Literacy, with an intention to revisit activities periodically to ensure alignment with the National Strategy and to respond to identified research gaps and opportunities. The National Research Plan focuses on four key areas: budgeting, paying down household debt, building savings and the complexity of the financial services industry (helping consumers be more knowledgeable, confident and skillful in choosing financial products). The development and implementation of the Plan is guided by a National Research Committee.Footnote 11  In line with the review of the Financial Literacy Program, FCAC and Research Committee members are considering options for updating the Plan. 

The documentary and interview data point to an increased financial literacy evidence base in Canada through the efforts under the National Research Plan, and that ongoing research efforts are perceived to have brought greater cohesion to a fragmented and multi-disciplinary area. 

A number of research studies have been conducted under the auspice of the National Research Plan with various sponsors. Among the achievements of this work are: 

Internationally, the Financial Literacy Program and participating researchers are contributing on numerous fronts. FCAC represented Canada on the INFE advisory board and technical committee, co-chairing the working group that developed the Core Competencies for Youth, Adults and Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Frameworks. As well, FCAC has supported two major global surveys of financial literacy (the OECD/INFE Survey on Measuring Financial Literacy and Financial Inclusion and PISA Financial Literacy Assessment), contributing to the global knowledge base of financial literacy. FCAC researchers have presented findings at international conferences (for instance, workplace-based materials and activities were presented at the OECD 2019 International Conference on Financial Education in South Africa) which reportedly garnered great interest from other countries. 

Knowledge mobilization of financial literacy research is occurring through various channels. 

In addition to developing a coordinated research agenda for financial literacy and undertaking research, the National Research Plan also described the role of FCAC as a central hub for sharing research, enhancing knowledge transfer and disseminating research findings. A variety of channels and strategies were identified such as contributions to the Canadian Financial Literacy Database, and publications by researchers in grey literature or peer-reviewed publications and conferences. With respect to knowledge sharing, in addition to publications (80 entries on the database), two research symposia were hosted in 2016 and 2018. The most recent event attracted more than 260 participants, including researchers and practitioners from within Canada and internationally. FCAC’s evaluation of the symposium found that 90% rated the event as excellent or very good, 89% found the knowledge and information gained from the symposium useful and applicable to their work and almost all attendees—95%—agreed progress is being made to advance financial literacy research. 

According to key informants who provided feedback on the research symposium, the event is broadly perceived to be valuable in sharing diverse research findings, as well as in providing an opportunity for networking and establishing partnerships. A number of key informants described the impacts of the evidence shared through FCAC on their own work in shaping financial literacy strategy within their jurisdiction, making programming adjustments, building the evidence base for funding requests and contributing to the professionalization of the financial literacy education field. Key informants noted key insights from the research on the links between financial well-being and health, the psychological and social factors in financial decision-making and the role of confidence. Several stakeholders praised FCAC for its focus on behavioural economics as a promising area of inquiry and on the usefulness of national benchmarking surveys, including international comparators. A few stakeholders perceived that FCAC’s research investments and coordination have increased academic interest and activity in the field. 

Evidence from both the interviews and the case study indicated that stakeholders’ recommendations on FCAC’s research efforts often supported reinforcing the connection between research and practice, enabling action-oriented research that identifies tangible solutions and mechanisms to transfer that knowledge to appropriate audiences. A few key informants further encouraged FCAC to support further research on priority issues such as key drivers of household debt levels and effective budgeting. 

2.2.3 Stakeholder engagement

Key finding:

FCAC stakeholders represent a wide variety of sectors and are located across the country. Overall, stakeholders are satisfied with their engagement, and are committed and active supporters of the National Strategy. Stakeholders are strong supporters of the Canadian Financial Literary Database but believe improvements are needed.

Sector engagement has been extensive across all components of the Financial Literacy Program and involves multiple sectors and regions, with a focus on Ontario. 

Stakeholders are engaged by all components of the Financial Literacy Program in different capacities. Stakeholders include members of the Financial Literacy Program committees and working groups, and members of the broader financial literacy community such as Regional Financial Literacy Network members, policy makers, program delivery, researchers and advocates. A wide variety of sectors are represented including professional associations, government, the private sector, community groups, financial institutions, educational institutions, and public/private/non-profit collaborations. This broad constituency ensures that FCAC considers myriad viewpoints, sectoral and geographic challenges when designing its tools and programming, and significantly extends the reach of financial literacy programming. 

FCAC oversees numerous initiatives and supports many committees and working groups in order to engage stakeholders and maximize their impact, including: 

  • Regional Financial Literacy Networks
  • National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy
  • Interdepartmental Committee on Financial Literacy
  • Financial Literacy Working Group for the Workplace 
  • Financial Literacy Working Group for Indigenous Peoples 
  • National Conferences on Financial Literacy
  • National Research Symposium on Financial Literacy
  • Financial Literacy Month
  • Canadian Financial Literacy Database
  • Financial Literacy Newsletter

The 2017 Stakeholder Collaboration Research survey found that three in ten stakeholders were drawn from the community/NGO sector (28%), about half of surveyed stakeholders (53%) represented organizations with a national scope and a large share of the stakeholders surveyed were based in Ontario (53%). The overrepresentation of Ontario is due, in part, to partnerships with federal government representatives located in Ottawa and with financial institutions and professional associations which are often located in Toronto. Across the country, FCAC liaises with 18 Regional Financial Literacy Networks with locations in British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Stakeholders are satisfied with FCAC’s engagement.

Overall, stakeholders are satisfied with their engagement with FCAC and with the Financial Literacy Program. The 2017 Stakeholder Collaboration Research report noted that almost 70% of stakeholders rated FCAC’s performance in terms of its overall collaboration and coordination efforts as either excellent (29%) or good (40%). Less than one in ten stakeholders (9%) rated FCAC’s performance in this area as poor. Stakeholders also reported that FCAC was effective in bringing stakeholders together through its financial literacy activities and committees. Almost all (87%) stakeholders agreed that FCAC was a trusted collaborator and 70% considered FCAC to be a stakeholder-focused organization. 

FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program stakeholders are committed and engaged.

Evidence from the document review indicated that stakeholders are strongly committed to doing their part to implement the National Strategy. This is demonstrated in the volume of initiatives supported and the wide audience base targeted. For example, according the National Progress Report (2015-19), the inaugural and second National Steering committees undertook a total of 239 initiatives involving 23 organizations which represented people with disabilities, women, newcomers, entrepreneurs, low-income earners, seniors, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and the general public. These initiatives resulted in approximately 621,000 website visits, approximately 261,000 publications being distributed, and approximately 269,000 traditional and social media impressions. In total, more than 1.5 million Canadians have been reached through stakeholder-supported financial literacy activities. 

The Interdepartmental Committee on Financial Literacy helped implement the National Strategy through activities such as distributing content on money management and hosting events for Canadians. For example, FCAC collaborated with Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA’s) community volunteer income tax program to develop a brochure providing consumers who attend tax clinics with money management information. Since January 2018, over 15,000 brochures have been distributed by CRA. In all, since 2015, 27 federal departments have collaborated to advance financial literacy and 52 separate initiatives have been undertaken by federal government organizations. 

Stakeholders are strong supporters of the Canadian Financial Literacy Database but suggest improvements are needed.

The Canadian Financial Literacy Database is intended as a one-stop source for Canadians to find financial literacy resources and events in an easy and timely manner. Stakeholder engagement is clearly demonstrated through its ongoing development. Since its inception, the database has published over 1,700 resources contributed by over 250 organizations and has published several hundred events and activities annually for each of the last three fiscal years. Evidence from the case study observed that the number of tools and resources aimed at some vulnerable populations was low and should be considered when planning for new resource development.

Only half (52%) of the stakeholders surveyed in the 2017 Stakeholder Collaboration Report agreed or strongly agreed that the database achieved the goal of extending the reach of stakeholders’ resources to new potential users. As well, only half (52%) of the stakeholders agreed or strongly agreed that the Canadian Financial Literary Database achieved its key coordination goals related to eliminating duplication, helping to remain up-to-date, and identifying potential collaborators. Furthermore, qualitative interviews conducted as part of the 2017 Stakeholder Collaboration Research indicated that stakeholders felt that even though user-friendliness had improved over the years, the database could still be difficult to navigate because of the amount of information presented. These views were echoed by interviewees who noted that the database is a trustworthy and unbiased source of materials, but it lacks profile and functionality. Stakeholders and interviewees suggested enhancements to improve readability and navigation—curating contributions, adding new tools and webinars, leveraging technology to increase accessibility, and increasing and improving promotion—which could increase audience and usage. In 2016, FCAC engaged a firm to conduct research to identify usability issues and to develop action plans for several of their tools, including the Canadian Financial Literary Database. A number of short-term recommendations were assessed and implemented, and a business case started to redesign the database to address medium- and long-term recommendations.  

2.2.4 Promotion and outreach

Key finding:

Overall, external stakeholders/partners perceive that FCAC has done a good job of increasing the visibility and profile of financial literacy through promotion and outreach. FLM is viewed as a success. There are some stakeholders who would advocate for greater attention to social marketing to improve the profile of financial literacy among Canadians.  

Financial Literacy Program efforts are contributing to successfully raising the profile of financial literacy.

Overall, key informants indicated that FCAC has done a good job of increasing the visibility and profile of financial literacy in Canada; in particular, they point to the organization’s work with stakeholders and partners as the key driver for increased visibility. Stakeholders and partners also had positive views of various strategies employed to raise the profile of financial literacy in the country and pointed to FLM as a successful example of a campaign that continues to expand its reach. Other activities of note include national conferences, traditional and (increasingly) social media, and the activities and outreach undertaken by the Financial Literacy Leader, including speeches, participating in and hosting events and media outreach.   

Documentary evidence points to FCAC’s increasing engagement with Canadians and stakeholders through both traditional and social media channels. Between April 2014 and 2018, the National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy reported collectively reaching approximately 25,011,000 Canadians. For example, in 2018, FLM had 337 media mentions which resulted in 55 million overall media impressions. Many Facebook users were reached by FCAC’s FLM posts in 2018, resulting in over 726,000 impressions on FCAC’s Facebook page – an approximate 125% increase over 2017. Also, in 2018, over 414,000 impressions were recorded on FCAC’s Twitter account, a decrease from 2017. 

Financial Literacy Month is a key driver of success

Documentary evidence also pointed to FLM as being a very effective medium for engaging stakeholders and raising awareness among Canadians about the benefits of improving their financial literacy. The 2017 Stakeholder Collaboration study reported that more than 70% of stakeholders who participated in FLM agreed that it helped facilitate the sharing of information and helped build awareness of financial literacy. 

In 2018, FLM resulted in the following activities:

Although the numbers of participating organizations and events hosted during FLM fluctuate every year, the overarching trend has been one of growth. Of note, FCAC has implemented many improvements within their FLM strategy in response to post-event stakeholder surveys in order to facilitate continued relevance and improvement. These adjustments have included providing stakeholders with earlier communications and reminders, creating targeted resource materials such as social media guides, and regularly updating promotional materials including posters, banners, infographics, YouTube videos, and digital images. FCAC’s use of social media platforms as primary vehicles for promoting FLM has also increased in recent years. In 2017 and 2018, FLM was heavily promoted through FCAC’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and in 2018, an Instagram account was created and leveraged during FLM to better engage with youth.  

Case study evidence indicated FLM is seen to be a hybrid of an awareness-raising campaign for financial literacy and a social marketing campaign aimed at influencing Canadians’ financial behaviour. Some interviewees noted that FLM is an important catalyst for behavioural change: Canadians taking part in FLM events may increase their knowledge, confidence and/or financial literacy skills which may then lead them to establish better financial behaviours. 

It should be noted that a more quantifiable and actionable analysis of the performance, achievements and outcomes of FLM through the years would be possible if data had been collected and recorded more systemically. 

Key informants did note that much more needs to be done to raise awareness among Canadians, who are perceived to have limited awareness of financial concepts and products. There is some support for a large scale, national media campaign to increase the profile of financial literacy. Media other than the Internet, including radio and television, were suggested to broaden the potential audience, although these tactics are very costly. 

2.2.5 Strengthened Canadian financial literacy

Key finding:

Population measures suggest that Canada compares well internationally on measures of financial literacy. Results from the 2019 CFCS, when compared to 2009 and 2014 survey results, indicated that Canadians’ financial literacy is improving in some areas.  

Canada compares well with other developed countries in terms of key measures of financial capability. For example, Canada tied for second in the Report on Adult Financial Literacy in G20 Countries in July 2017. Canada’s youth (15-year-olds) also tied for second with Belgium, behind (four provinces in) China, out of 15 OECD countries and economies, in the financial literacy component of the OECD’s PISA.

In order to examine Canadians’ financial literacy at the population level and trends over time, in 2009, in 2014 and again in 2019, FCAC commissioned the CFCS. The survey collects information about the knowledge, abilities and behaviour of adult Canadians regarding financial decision making. 

Although survey results in 2009 and 2014 did not reflect much progress in financial literacy among Canadians, the 2019 survey results indicated there is some positive change. Only 37% of Canadians knew how much money they needed to maintain their desired standard of living in retirement in 2014, but in 2019 almost half (47%) indicated they understood what resources they would need to maintain their standard of living. Almost 7 in 10 Canadians who are not yet retired (69%) are preparing financially for retirement, up slightly from 66% in 2014. While the number of Canadians who had budgets had decreased from 51% in 2009 to 46% in 2014, it rebounded slightly to 49% in 2019. 

While overall, CFCS findings show that many Canadians are acting to improve their financial literacy and financial well-being, there are also emerging signs of financial stress for some Canadians. For example, almost one-third of Canadians (31%) feel they have too much debt, and a growing number (8% in 2019 versus 2% in 2014) are having trouble making bill, rent/mortgage and other payments on time. Significantly, CFCS results indicate that almost half of Canadians (44%) engaged in some type of financial education to strengthen their financial knowledge over the past five years, most commonly by reading a book or other printed material (22%), consulting online resources (16%), taking financial courses at work (9%), taking other in-person courses at a school (7%) or through a not-for-profit or community organization (5%).

2.3 Efficiency

2.3.1 Benefits of a National Strategy

Key finding:

A best practice internationally, the evaluation confirms that there has been value in having a National Strategy on Financial Literacy and that stakeholder support for the National Strategy remains strong. Benefits include a strengthened focus on financial literacy, increased activity supporting key goals and significant gains derived from coordination and partnerships. There is interest in continuing efforts with a renewed strategy.

Canada is aligned with international best practice in developing a national financial literacy strategy. 

National financial literacy strategies have been recognized by international bodies as a driver for a country’s financial health. In 2002, OECD governments officially recognized the importance of financial literacy, crystallizing an international financial literacy movement. In 2012, along with other G20 countries, Canada endorsed the High-level Principles on National Strategies for Financial Education developed by the OECD/INFE. In 2008, Canada became part of the OECD International Network on Financial Education (OECD/INFE), whose members meet twice a year to share country and member experiences, discuss strategic priorities and develop policy responses. Recognized as a global best practice, more than 50 countries have implemented national financial literacy strategies, including Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States. Canada is considered a global leader in this forum.

Stakeholders agree that there have been benefits of having a National Strategy for Financial Literacy in Canada. 

A key benefit of the National Strategy has been bringing together disparate players under a common unifying banner working to improve financial literacy in Canada. Internal staff and external stakeholders agree there was value in having a National Strategy for Financial Literacy (the document, as well as the associated committees, events, etc.). Most commonly mentioned benefits included: 

The National Strategy has been important in bringing attention to gaps and unmet needs. 

The National Strategy has also supported the identification of specific audiences that warrant targeted outreach. For example, in January 2018, a roundtable was held with Indigenous financial literacy experts to help FCAC and Committee members gain a better understanding of the financial literacy needs of Indigenous Peoples. The roundtable resulted in agreement that a new Financial Literacy Working Group for Indigenous Peoples would be created to help FCAC and the National Steering Committee identify approaches for delivering financial literacy programs to Indigenous Peoples. Prosper Canada and AFOA Canada worked together in 2018 to develop an evidence-based Indigenous financial wellness framework and to support research on promising practices for improving the financial well-being of Indigenous communities. FCAC, the Martin Family Initiative and Seven Generations Education Institution collaborated to develop a new in-class educational program for Indigenous adults, after the roundtable identified that a gap existed for this audience. 

There is a common perception among stakeholders that there is much work left to be done, and there is an appetite for a renewed strategy for financial literacy. A few note that the National Strategy has limited visibility among Canadians, and that the Strategy has been hampered by a lack of resources. In Canada and elsewhere, some in the financial literacy community have been questioning the use of the term “financial literacy”, preferring other conventions such as financial capability or financial well-being (also used in other national strategies).  

2.3.2 Areas of focus and interventions

Key finding:

There is agreement that the areas of focus and types of interventions that comprised the National Strategy and the Financial Literacy Program were appropriate and directly linked to desired outcomes. A number of potential new priorities were identified, along with a need for FCAC to maximize its impact by ensuring its educational programs and resources do not duplicate other organizations’ efforts and offerings. 

The National Strategy’s areas of focus receive broad approval. 

The National Strategy areas of focus that framed the Financial Literacy Program were determined through extensive national consultation efforts combined with international best practices research conducted by the Task Force on Financial Literacy in 2009.  

Stakeholders and partners overwhelmingly agreed that the areas of focus are appropriate, which were acknowledged as highlighting fundamental needs determined though comprehensive research. Some also note that the selection of future areas of focus should also be evidence-based and grounded in the reality of Canadian’s financial literacy needs. Key informants pointed to several areas to be considered, including: 

Some key informants indicated target audiences, including seniors, students and vulnerable populations, should be considered as future area of focus. Of note, these target groups are also often featured in other countries’ financial literacy strategies. 

There is also general approval of the areas of intervention that have been the focus for the Financial Literacy Program; these were similarly determined through a comparative analysis to be similar to interventions undertaken by other countries in the content of their financial literacy strategy. Other key informant suggestions for interventions where the Financial Literacy Program might focus in the future include: 

Documentary evidence indicated that many stakeholders believe further efforts and resources could be utilized to better leverage today’s technology to engage with Canadians. For example, stakeholders participating in the 2017 Stakeholder Collaboration study indicated that additional new tools, such as webinars and online portals/communities, would help strengthen and enhance collaboration and coordination of FCAC’s work on financial literacy. 

2.3.3 Measuring performance and impact

Key finding:

There is strong evidence of commitment to both monitoring and measuring the National Strategy’s overall impact, as well as the outcomes of specific educational programs and resources. An outcome evaluation tool was developed for broader use by community partners, although there has not been sustained promotion or take-up of the tool due to issues related to capacity and the tool’s complexity. 

FCAC has invested in measuring the impact of its activities and contributing to the broader efforts to improve the impact of financial literacy programming.

Documentary evidence indicated that, similar to other jurisdictions internationally, FCAC is committed to both monitoring activities connected to the National Strategy and to identifying ways to measure the National Strategy’s overall impact. FCAC has collected monitoring data on: 

FCAC has been diligent in regularly surveying their stakeholders regarding their satisfaction with resources, events and engagement. In addition, FCAC has been active in commissioning pilot studies to test their financial materials and evolving their evaluation methodologies to assess impacts, as well as put new initiatives to the test, such as financial literacy mobile apps. The organization has also commissioned studies assessing the performance and/or impact of other pieces of their strategy including their marketing approach, the usability of the Canadian Financial Literacy Database and the impact of their financial education programs. FCAC has been using a pre-/post-outcome-based approach to measuring the impact of certain financial literacy resources, educational content and piloted initiatives. Through this evidence-based approach, FCAC is endeavouring to measure impact by capturing quantifiable evidence of changes in knowledge, attitudes, confidence and, where possible, the financial behaviour of participants.   

Efforts to support evaluation of financial literacy program by community-based organizations, while useful, were hindered by complexity of the tool.  

The CBA, FCAC and Prosper Canada collaborated to develop a free Financial Literacy Outcome Evaluation Tool to be used by organizations working on financial literacy initiatives.Footnote 12  Case study evidence indicated the tool has not achieved as much traction as had been hoped. According to stakeholders and staff, while the development of the tool had value, there have been challenges in its widespread use. First, the tool is generally viewed as being too complex for use by the majority of the community sector. Service providers often lack capacity and the professional support to undertake rigorous evaluations of programming. Second, the tool did not receive continued attention following its launch – for example, through active promotion to financial literacy service providers or updating of the content.

2.3.4 Program governance and advisory structure

Key finding:

Overall, the governance and advisory structure of FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program is appropriate and effective. Stakeholders indicate positive views about their participation in National Strategy committees and working groups, and would welcome strategic engagement in future endeavours. 

The governance and advisory structure for the Financial Literacy Program was seen to be sound, with many benefits for members and for implementing the National Strategy. 

Documentary evidence indicated the governance structure of FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program is appropriate and effective. Key indicators include the following: 

Almost all stakeholders from all committees and working groups agreed that the committee structures were managed well: expectations are clear, materials are shared in advance, agendas are appropriate, and meetings are well facilitated. Interviewees noted meetings are well-attended and afford opportunities for them to participate and share their views. Stakeholders also noted committees include appropriate and diverse (multi-sectoral) membership. The Financial Literacy Program governance bodies and committees are seen to benefit the National Strategy by: 

These sentiments were echoed in the 2017 Stakeholder Collaboration Survey which found that two-thirds (66%) of Interdepartmental Committee members reported that FCAC helped coordinate activities at the federal government level. More than three-quarters (76%) of National Steering Committee member responders reported that membership provided them with an opportunity to work with others, while only half (50%) indicated that membership assisted them in coordinating initiatives that would support the achievement of the National Strategy goals. All (100%) of the surveyed National Research Committee members reported that the group helped better coordinate activities and reduce duplication, and two-thirds (67%) of the Financial Literacy Working Group for the Workplace members reported that their membership offered them an opportunity to work with others.

There were some suggestions to better leverage the strategic value of the National Steering Committee. 

The two-year term of the National Steering Committee was not extended at the end of 2018. Disbanding the committee and the legislative changes and repeal of the Financial Literacy Leader provisions in 2018 were unexpected by many members at the time. 

A minority of key informants noted that the National Steering Committee, especially in the second term, could have been engaged more strategically, and the committee could have better focused on deliverables, and less on information sharing. There is a recognition of the need for evolution in the Financial Literacy Program committees as efforts continue to evolve. A few also noted the National Steering Committee’s membership appeared to have an over-representation from financial industry, too few grassroots or advocacy organizations, and some geographical imbalance. As well, a few stakeholders noted that navigating the tension between FCAC’s role as financial literacy champion and regulator of the financial services industry can be challenging in the committee context. 

2.3.5 Program efficiency

Key finding:

While the efficiency of the Financial Literacy Program is difficult to assess quantitatively, qualitative evidence suggests efficient delivery of the Financial Literacy Program, primarily through leveraging resources from partners. The program’s stakeholders noted that the program’s small budget minimizes national impact to some degree. Cost-effectiveness could be enhanced with even greater leveraging of partner resources. 

The Financial Literacy Program is being delivered efficiently.

The current allocation for FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program is $5M from annual statutory expenditure, plus assessments against regulated financial institutions. The program also draws on corporate resources such as marketing and communications for assistance. During the period under study, the program has not consistently expended all funds allocated. According to FCAC’s financial reporting, expenditures on financial literacy ranged from about $8M-$9M annually (comparable figures for 2018-19 are not available). 

Observations from key informants pointed to several factors that have contributed to the efficiency of the program, including:  

Financial Literacy Program Expenditures
Year Planned Actual
2014-2015 $9.22M $9.12M
2015-2016 $9.05M $8.19M
2016-2017 $9.2M $8.23M
2017-2018 $9.63M $9.62M

Source: FCAC Annual Reports

Internal and external interviewees identify a need for the continued FCAC effort—together with partners—to raise awareness of and increase access to FCAC and other educational programs and resources, support avenues to effectively deliver financial literacy interventions and better leverage technology (e.g. online communities of practice) to increase connections among stakeholders, and focus on enhancing the impact of interventions on behavioural change. 

Efficiency challenges.

Some key informants noted that the Financial Literacy Program’s small budget and small agency status negatively impacts its potential outreach: a national marketing strategy would be beyond the financial resources of the program, for instance. A few mentioned that the committees would benefit from updated technology that could positively impact meeting effectiveness (video conferencing replacing conference calls). Internal interviewees identify federal requirements (e.g. Canada.ca) as a hindrance to efficiency. Following its migration, FCAC’s web pages on Canada.ca were acknowledged to be challenging to navigate; for example, accessing the content directly from a search engine was a better way for some users to find relevant information. Internal data does suggest that Canada.ca drives considerable traffic to FCAC educational tools and resources. 

3. Conclusions and recommendations

Following are the conclusions and recommendations from the evaluation of FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program. 

Relevance

The evaluation found that there continues to be a strong demonstrated need for FCAC’s Financial Literacy Program. Economic trends indicate that Canadians have historically high debt levels, while employment is more precarious, and availability of supports such as pension plans is declining. At the same time, the market for financial services and products is becoming more complex and increasingly online, requiring greater independent consumer knowledge and confidence.

The Financial Literacy Program objectives align with FCAC’s mandate and strategic objectives, and with federal government priorities as outlined in recent legislation and federal budget commitments. There is limited overlap and duplication between the Financial Literacy Program and other programs at the PT level, although financial literacy and regulation is a shared FPT responsibility. 

The program’s focus on stakeholder engagement, research and promotion of financial literacy reflect areas where stakeholders feel there is a need and an appropriate federal role. While developing unbiased resources on financial products and the interactive tools and calculators were well-regarded, there was less consensus around FCAC’s role in developing educational program content (the exception being efforts to develop tailored content for certain audiences such as Indigenous populations or piloting materials for different settings such as workplaces). Some stakeholders view other organizations with expertise in the area as being better-positioned to develop educational programs and a few would like to see FCAC support delivery of interventions (the costs of which are often overlooked) and/or focus efforts on coordination to minimize duplication in the creation of new tools and resources. 

Effectiveness

The Financial Literacy Program has largely achieved its objectives in the four key areas of focus. During the implementation of the National Strategy, a diverse array of financial educational programs, resources and tools have been developed by FCAC and stakeholders, and FCAC has played a role in gathering and disseminating these resources through its marketing, communications and outreach efforts and Canadian Financial Literacy Database. The database has catalogued over 1,700 resources, although awareness of the database and navigation could be improved. 

While testing and assessments of educational programs and resources have taken place and shown promise in increasing knowledge, skills and confidence, the Financial Literacy Program is just beginning to make more challenging and important determinations of the impacts of these interventions on behaviour. 

The National Research Plan has been well-executed with the support of a committee of recognized experts in the field. While some research and resources have not fully met the needs of financial literacy practitioners (e.g. the Outcome Evaluation Tool), there is a recognition that the research has assessed innovative interventions and connected well with behavioural science experts to gather and use insights from this field. The 2019 launch of the third iteration of the CFCS has been an important effort where the federal level has the capacity and resources to contribute. 

The initiatives of the Financial Literacy Program to increase visibility of financial literacy are well regarded. FLM is widely viewed as successful. While some stakeholders feel the Financial Literacy Program could do more to increase the profile and importance of financial literacy through a more sustained and broad-based social marketing campaign, the expense of such a campaign would likely be prohibitive with the current resources available. 

Finally, the Financial Literacy Program has been founded on broad-based stakeholder engagement. All initiatives of the program—development of programs and resources, research, promotion and awareness—are driven by this engagement. The National Steering Committee and National Research Committee provide direction to activities in their respective realms, and promotion and awareness initiatives such as FLM rely on the contributions of national stakeholders, as well as regional financial literacy networks. Having a National Strategy and the position of Financial Literacy Leader contributed capacity and supports for this engagement. 

In terms of addressing the program’s longer-term outcome—strengthening the financial literacy and well-being of Canadians—population measures suggest that Canada compares well internationally on measures of financial literacy. Results from the 2019 CFCS, when compared to survey results in 2009 and 2014, indicated that Canadians’ financial literacy is improving in a number of areas. 

Efficiency

Stakeholders have been broadly satisfied with their engagement by FCAC and the priorities and activities that have been undertaken during the implementation of the National Strategy. The National Strategy itself is viewed as valuable and has shown to have had benefits in terms of providing an organizing platform to engage stakeholders around common themes and objectives. Given the current high levels of household debt in Canada, there are some stakeholders who would like to see a future priority directly addressing this issue. 

The Financial Literacy Program has expended between $8M-9M annually from statutory funding, assessments from financial institutions and FCAC internal corporate resources, such as marketing and communications, for specific tasks. The recent change to FCAC’s mandate which removed the Financial Literacy Leader provisions has not reduced any funding to the program.

It was difficult to quantitatively assess the efficiency of the program, although staff and external stakeholders generally noted that the program’s approach to leveraging the efforts of partnerships and collaborations (e.g. through the National Steering Committee and National Research Committee) contributed to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of efforts. Other factors that contributed to efficiency included a purposeful approach to evaluation and collecting empirical evidence of lessons learned to improve efforts, and choosing priorities and initiatives using a consultative and evidence-based approach. 

Recommendations

The evaluation conclusions point to the following recommendations to improve the Financial Literacy Program going forward: 

Renew the National Strategy on Financial Literacy in Canada focusing on evidence-based gaps, priorities and interventions. 

There is consensus that the National Strategy had an important benefit in spurring and coordinating efforts to improve financial literacy in Canada. The National Strategy has many of the features identified by the OECD as key principles for national strategies on financial literacy and establishing a national strategy is itself a best practice according to the OECD. 

If the National Strategy is renewed, attention should be paid to the branding of the strategy as there is some movement in Canada and internationally away from the term financial literacy. Stakeholders identified a number of gaps and priorities for a future strategy, commonly related to Canadians’ high level of household debt, as well as other areas of focus such as tailoring interventions for vulnerable populations. 

Continue engagement with national and regional stakeholders and other government departments to sustain momentum, multi-sectoral participation and synergies. 

The evaluation evidence confirms that FCAC’s stakeholder engagement efforts have been very successful and contributed to the Financial Literacy Program’s many achievements. However, the shift in mandate of FCAC in late 2018  and the decision not to extend or refresh the National Steering Committee led to a feeling of uncertainty about next steps and FCAC’s commitment to improving financial literacy (at least during the data collection period in mid-2019). A priority identified by some members of the previous National Steering Committee was that any future engagement should also ensure broad sectoral and regional representation, as well as framing objectives of this body that would capitalize on the strengths and capacities at this table. 

The Financial Literacy Program has been diligent in looking for opportunities to engage other federal departments to improve financial literacy. This is an avenue where more energy could be placed, in particular in ensuring financial literacy can be embedded in the work of departments and agencies within the federal government financial portfolio, as well as harnessing or pooling efforts with departments concerned with vulnerable groups. 

Explore opportunities based on the experience of other small or administrative agencies to develop a grants and contributions fund to support development, piloting and scaling of successful financial literacy interventions with an equity lens. 

FCAC has an important and continuing role to play in providing unbiased information, tools and calculators to educate consumers about financial products. With respect to the development of financial literacy education programs and resources, however, this is a domain that has many players, including FCAC. While stakeholders agree that the current focus of the organization on educational programs with an Indigenous focus or for the workplace is worthwhile, FCAC could also be in a position to support NGOs to create materials, with a view to piloting and scaling those that show promise. FCAC should investigate the practices of other small departments and agencies that have experience with transfer payments to determine the feasibility of this course of action for the Agency. 

Revisit the business case to improve the Canadian Financial Literacy Database to support a user-friendly interface, more engaging features and greater visibility among the community of financial literacy providers and educators. 

Over the last several years, there has been a proliferation of diverse financial literacy information, tools and resources and contributions to the Canadian Financial Literacy Database. Having educational programs and resources available on FCAC’s Canadian Financial Literacy Database is an important contribution to reducing duplication. However, users observe that the repository is not well-known, difficult to navigate and not well curated. FCAC should revisit the business case to create a more user-friendly interface and leverage best practices from other federal knowledge hubs or repositories. 

Reinforce links between insights generated by academic and FCAC’s research and the needs of financial literacy practitioners. 

The National Research Plan has been very successful in generating a wide array of research and insights into the effectiveness of financial literacy educational programs and supports and has also successfully disseminated this knowledge. The link between research questions and findings, and practitioner needs could be further reinforced. This would include, for example, participation of practitioners in formulating the research questions and grounding the development of interventions in research. 

Continue to invest in awareness and promotion of financial literacy, particularly in regions where interest and take-up has been weaker. 

Stakeholders believe that the Financial Literacy Program’s promotion and outreach has invigorated national conversation about financial literacy. To date, use of resources, engagement and financial literacy networks has been centralized in some regions. There is an opportunity to expand efforts into areas where the Financial Literacy Program has had a smaller footprint to date. 

Annex A: Management response and action plan

Recommendation 1

Renew Canada’s National Strategy for Financial Literacy.

Management response: Agree

The Agency is committed to renewing Canada’s National Strategy for Financial Literacy so that it remains relevant to Canadians. The Agency will accomplish this by mobilizing and engaging the public, private and non-profit sectors to strengthen financial literacy nationwide. 

Planned action(s): Renew the National Strategy for Financial Literacy.

Key milestone(s) and target dates:

  1. Identify strategic key considerations (May 2020)
  2. Proceed with public consultations (Aug 2020)
  3. Launch the new strategy (Nov 2020)
  4. Leverage the Agency’s global communications strategy (Mar 2022)

Recommendation 2

Continue engagement with national and regional stakeholders and other government departments.

Management response: Agree

The Agency is committed to maintaining effective partnerships with stakeholders by developing a stakeholder engagement strategy to ensure collaboration and coordination of activities.

Planned action(s):

Key milestone(s) and target dates:

  1. Planned action for recommendation 1: Renew the National Strategy for Financial Literacy
  2. Establish, renew and chair cross-sector committees and working groups (Mar 2021 and ongoing)
  3. Research and identify ways to leverage government and other service delivery channels in the integration and promotion of financial education (Mar 2021)

Recommendation 3

Explore opportunities to develop a grants and contributions fund to support development, piloting and scaling of interventions.

Management response: Partially agree

The Agency is committed to supporting the development, piloting and scaling of interventions. The Agency will explore and assess funding mechanisms in support of this commitment.

Planned action(s): Investigate funding options not limited to grants and contributions to ensure the development, piloting and scaling of financial literacy resources.

Key milestone(s) and target dates:

  1. Identify options (Sep 2020)
  2. Assess applicability (Mar 2021)

Recommendation 4

Improve the Canadian Financial Literacy Database.

Management response: Agree

The Agency is committed to exploring options for improving the Canadian Financial Literacy Database to make it more intuitive and user-friendly.

Planned action(s): Examine how to improve the Canadian Financial Literacy Database by leveraging best practices and lessons learned.

Key milestone(s) and target dates:

  1. Create a user-friendly landing page to navigate and search for information (Nov 2020)
  2. Explore options to improve the Canadian Financial Literacy Database, such as leveraging the Agency’s new Case Management System (Dec 2022)

Recommendation 5

Reinforce links between insights generated by academic and FCAC research, and the needs of financial literacy practitioners.

Management response: Agree

The Agency is committed to establishing a comprehensive and integrated approach to its research and policy functions that ensures a standardized process for identifying and prioritizing research.

Planned action(s): Undertake the development of an integrated and prioritized research plan in consultation with partners.

Key milestone(s) and target dates:

  1. Renew the research committee (Mar 2021)
  2. Develop an integrated research plan (Mar 2021)

Recommendation 6

Continue to invest in awareness and promotion of financial literacy, particularly in regions where interest and take-up has been weaker.

Management response: Partially agree

The Agency is committed to investing in the awareness and promotion of financial literacy for all Canadians through a fulsome approach. The focus will be on target populations, as identified in the renewed National Strategy, regardless of geography.

Planned action(s): Establish a cross-functional approach to communication, outreach and engagement.

Key milestone(s) and target dates:

  1. Develop a global communications strategy (Mar 2021)
  2. Report on the implementation of the renewed National Strategy for Financial Literacy (Mar 2022)

Annex B: Evaluation questions

Relevance

1. Is there an ongoing need for financial literacy programming in Canada? 

  1. What are the most important gaps/areas of unmet need?

2. To what extent are the objectives of FCAC’s financial literacy program aligned with the federal role and priorities? With FCAC’s mandate?

3. What is the most appropriate role or niche for the federal government in improving financial literacy in Canada?

Effectiveness

Immediate/Intermediate outcomes

4. To what extent are Canadians aware of and accessing FCAC financial literacy programs and resources? 

  1. Do users/participants find FCAC’s educational programs and informational resources easy to understand and valuable?

5. Does participation in FCAC’s educational programs and tools result in increased knowledge, skills, confidence and behaviour changes amongst participants?

6. To what extent has the financial literacy evidence base been increased and used to inform financial literacy initiatives as a result of implementation of the National Research Plan? 

7. To what extent has FCAC’s stakeholder engagement work strengthened collaboration and coordination?  

8. To what extent has promotion and outreach increased the profile and recognition of the importance of financial literacy in Canada? The awareness of Canadians’ rights and responsibilities as financial consumers?

Ultimate outcome

9. To what extent has Canadians’ financial literacy been strengthened? 

10. What has been the value or benefit of having a National Strategy? 

Design and delivery

11. Were the areas of focus that were selected by the program (budgeting, saving for unexpected events, choosing financial products and services wisely) the most appropriate to achieve intended outcomes? 

  1. Were the financial literacy program components and activities (development of resources and tools, stakeholder engagement, research, and promotion and outreach/awareness) together the most appropriate to address these areas of focus?

12. To what extent is FCAC using appropriate strategies or methods for measuring the effect of its direct initiatives on participants/users (e.g. change in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours)?

13. To what extent are the governance and collaborative committee and network structures appropriate and effective for achieving intended outcomes?

Efficiency

14. Has the financial literacy program been delivered in an efficient manner?

Annex C: Logic model

Financial Literacy Program logic model

FCAC priority

Strengthen the knowledge, skills and confidence of financial consumers to help them make informed financial decisions.


National Financial Literacy Strategy

Strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians and empower them to achieve the following goals:


Ultimate outcome

Canadians’ financial decision-making and consumer behaviours are strengthened.

Canadians’ financial well-being is improved.


Intermediate outcome

Increased knowledge, skills and confidence of Canadians with respect to their finances and consumer rights and responsibilities.

Improved financial literacy initiatives that are targeted and informed by evidence.

Increased program reach and sharing across financial literacy initiatives and stakeholders.


Immediate outcomes

Increased availability, access and participation in financial literacy and consumer education resources and tools.

Increased base of evidence in priority research areas.

Coordination and collaboration with stakeholders are strengthened.

Increased awareness of the importance of financial literacy.


Outputs

  • Web content, educational resources and informational tools
  • National Research Plan on Financial Literary, progress reports on Plan Knowledge transfer strategy
  • Research products, reports (e.g. CFCS, evaluation best practices and measurement strategies)
  • National Financial Literacy Strategy
  • Annual Financial Literacy Month
  • CFLD
  • Networks, committees, collaborations, events
  • National Conference on Financial Literacy
  • Updates, reports, dashboard on FinLit initiatives, stakeholder engagement, meetings, speaking requests, etc.
  • Marketing and communication resources for dissemination
  • Report on marketing and communication strategies

Activities

Resources and tools:

  • Research, (re)design, develop tools and resources
  • Research, write and publish web content
  • Maintain tools, content, educational programs

Research and policy:

  • Implement baseline and follow-up
  • CFCS
  • With Research Committee, identify research priorities
  • Collaborate and coordinate research initiatives of research community according to National Research Plan on Financial Literary
  • Share and promote research findings
  • Research/evaluation to determine effectiveness of financial literacy interventions

Stakeholder engagement:

  • Coordinate national FinLit initiatives such as FLM, national conference, CFLD
  • Support the FLL’s office and the FinLit program/mandate (e.g. meetings, briefing books, presentations, follow-ups, etc.)
  • Liaise with and coordinate key FinLit committees and networks both nationally and internationally (e.g. NSC, ICFL, Working groups, INFE, etc.)

Promotion and outreach:

  • Develop and implement targeted marketing and communication plans
  • Develop and implement stakeholder outreach plans in support of initiatives, target audiences and areas of focus
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: