Remarks by Jane Rooney, Financial Literacy Leader, at the Human Resources Council TBS Mental Health and Wellness Info Session

Speech

February 8, 2018
Ottawa, Ontario

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Good morning!

It’s a pleasure to be here today to talk about the role of financial literacy in the context of workplace mental health.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk with you about the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, where I work.

FCAC’s mandate is to protect the financial consumer.

We see everything through a consumer lens.

We have two programs to protect consumers: First, we are responsible for the supervision of financial institutions such as banks when it comes to consumer protection – for example, ensuring that banks provide access to basic banking, and disclose their fees and interest on loan products.

Second, we play a national role in strengthening financial literacy, which we define as having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make informed financial decisions.

In 2014, the federal government appointed me as Canada’s first Financial Literacy Leader to provide national leadership on this issue, and to work with stakeholders toward strengthening the financial literacy of Canadians.

Much of my work involves connections – with our government partners, with our stakeholders, and with the wider community.

But I’d like to talk about another kind of connection today: the connection between financial literacy and workplace mental health.

The research is clear: money is a leading cause of stress.

A 2014 survey by the Financial Planning Standards Council found that 42 percent of Canadians rank money as their greatest source of stress – higher than work, health or family obligations.

A 2017 survey of employees by the Canadian Payroll association found:

  • 47 percent of Canadians say they’re living paycheque to paycheque;
  • 41 percent spend all or more of their net pay; and
  • 35 percent say they feel overwhelmed by debt.

A recent poll commissioned by the Financial Planning Standards Council and Credit Canada also found some disturbing signs of financial stress: 20 per cent of those surveyed had a credit card balance larger than their savings account.

This trend isn’t just happening in Canada.

Similarly, a 2015 survey, showed that money was the leading cause of stress for a vast majority of countries in Europe, Asia and North America.

Reasons for Financial Stress

The reasons for financial stress are many.

People today confront an array of challenges when it comes to making financial decisions and managing their money.

Just last fall, Stats Can released new data showing that household debt continues to rise – the debt to income ratio now stands at 168 percent, an all-time high.

At the same time, research consistently shows many people are not equipped to handle money matters.

They lack the knowledge, skills and confidence required to manage money effectively.

Financial decisions surrounding retirement planning and investing are complex, and the options for credit cards, mortgages and other credit vehicles have multiplied.

It’s important to note that financial struggles are not limited to particular types of work, specific industries, or salary ranges; financial issues can impact anyone, and everyone.

We’re also learning that financial stress can have a spillover effect on the workplace.

Money worries can keep employees from focusing on their work, and can have significant impacts on productivity and the bottom line.

Research cited by Benefits Canada found that 67 percent of employees have admitted to dealing with financial issues while they are at work.

In fact, another study shows that employees with heavy financial burdens spend about one hour per day at work dealing with personal financial issues, while those with moderate financial burdens spend approximately one and a half hours a week.

Furthermore, 50 per cent of employees felt financial stress was impacting their performance at work, according to a 2017 survey by the Canadian Payroll Association.

That means fully half of Canadian employees may be experiencing the following problems:

  • mental health effects, including anxiety, depression, and relationship problems
  • a greater likelihood of high-risk behaviours, including substance abuse, gambling, excessive shopping and eating problems
  • financially distressed employees can also create tension, and shift workloads onto others, which can reduce morale among co-workers
  • absenteeism goes up, and so does “presenteeism,” or the inability of employees to function well when they are at work
  • financially distressed people may also delay their retirement because they are unable to pay their bills, let alone set aside funds for retirement.
  • all of these problems can place a heavier burden on employee benefit plans and workers’ compensation programs.

How FL can help

The good news is that financial literacy can help.

Financial literacy programs help people to feel more in control of their money.

They can teach them how to budget, so they can pay down their debt and set aside emergency savings.

And the workplace is a great place to deliver these programs, much like the school system is a great channel for youth.

You can get a group of people together to share the same information where they are already at.

In fact, the Canadian Payroll Association survey found that 82 percent of employees would be interested in financial education programs offered by their employer.

In 2014 we held public consultations to support the development of our National Strategy for Financial Literacy, Count me in, Canada.

This slide gives you an overview.

In our consultations, we learned that financial literacy tools and training are best delivered to Canadians ‘where they are at’ and ‘where they spend time.’

By providing employees with the knowledge of how they can better their financial situation, employers are empowering their employees. In turn, these employees are likely to be engaged in their workplace.

A health and wellness study by Manulife in 2014 found that employees who are financially prepared are more engaged, more likely to enjoy their work, and more likely to say they are motivated to do their best at work.

So, at FCAC we created a workplace financial literacy working group.

It’s designed to help adults achieve the goals of our national strategy, namely to:

  • manage money and debt wisely;
  • save and plan for the future; and
  • ensure they know their rights and responsibilities pertaining to financial products and services

Our working group is made up of 11 participants from strategically selected associations.

Members include professional actuaries, accountants, payroll specialists and HR specialists.

As you can see from this slide, the ultimate goals are to:

  • develop a Best Practices Framework for financial literacy in the Workplace and disseminate it to employers across Canada;
  • undertake pilot projects, evaluate and report on findings; and
  • deliver workplace financial literacy programs/initiatives

The approach of the working group is to build connections and collaborate so that workplaces across Canada don’t have to start from scratch as they begin to build their financial literacy in-house.

Which brings me to the question of what you can do, within the government of Canada, to better promote financial literacy in your workplaces.

First off, I’d like to let you know about some of our great online resources and tools that will help government employees tackle financial stress.

You can access all of our information and tools, as well as our videos, by going to Canada.ca/money.

We have financial literacy programs for adults including one called Financial Basics, and another called Your Financial Toolkit.

Some of our other online resources include account and credit card comparison tools which have been upgraded and improved.

You will also find:

  • FCAC’s budget calculator;
  • Our financial goal calculator;
  • Our mortgage calculators; and
  • Our financial literacy self-assessment quiz.

Our Canadian Financial Literacy Database is an important online resource.

It’s a one-stop place where employees can find tools to learn how to manage money and debt, whether they’re thinking about buying a new home or getting ready for retirement, for example.

We have added financial literacy links to the government’s Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace site.

Our workplace financial literacy page is specifically designed to help employers build financial literacy into the workplace.

So please take a look and if you have intranets, please include our links in your materials on mental health, or use them as part of your workplace mental health and wellness programs.

Other Calls to Action

You can also host a financial literacy session in your workplace.

FCAC has developed a workplace pilot project and we are looking for opportunities to deliver the program – this opportunity is only available until the end of March.

Our pilot workshops will use content from our very successful Your Financial Toolkit program, and cover topics ranging from budgeting, to managing debt, to understanding credit.

By hosting one of these free 60-minute lunch-and-learn workshops, your employees will get:

  • Workshops facilitated by experienced professionals; and
  • Handouts and takeaway materials.

But this isn’t your only option.

Alternatively, you could host an existing workplace program developed by one of FCAC’s workplace working group members, such as the Chartered Professional Accountants, or Credit Counselling Canada.

These can be tailored to your needs and interests.

For example, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada offer financial literacy workshops on a range of topics, from how to save, to tax strategies, to retirement planning.

There’s also another great initiative you can join.

You can sign up your workplace for the Financial Health at Work Challenge, which we launched last November.

Some of your workplaces may have already participated in the Mental Health in the Workplace Challenge which was created by Best Life Rewarded Innovations.

More than 100 employers including government departments are taking part.

We liked that idea so much we’ve now partnered with Best Life Rewarded to create this new challenge to promote financial literacy at work.

It’s a free, educational initiative to help Canadians learn more about money matters and take important small steps to improve their own personal financial well-being.

Participants can earn points toward prizes when they complete learning activities about budgeting, saving, borrowing, debt and their rights and responsibilities as financial consumers.

The material is presented in an engaging format, including videos, tools and written information.

The Challenge is designed to be turnkey: employers don’t need to use additional resources and little effort.

You can find out more information by going to www.MoneyFitChallenge.com

And finally, we have posters and brochures you can display in the common areas of your workplace.

The poster reads: Are You Stressed About Money? and includes the character, Floyd, as well as some key information about our online resources.

We have also developed a brochure entitled, Financial Literacy in the Workplace Pays Off.

This brochure is aimed at employers to help inform their organizations about the impact of financial stress and the potential benefits of implementing workplace financial literacy initiatives.

It also includes links to FCAC’s helpful resources.

Displaying these posters and distributing these brochures can make a difference to your employees, so if you email us a request to the same address I mentioned, we will send you the PDFs, or printed versions.

We are always developing innovative ways to direct people to our tools.

For example, we promote them using Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Please link to our pages and feel free to retweet and repost our messages!

Here’s another example of a Floyd video – this is part of our new ad campaign that we’re promoting on social media:

So a funny take on the danger of taking on debt without having a plan to pay it off.

I hope this has inspired some of you here today to guide your employees toward improving their financial literacy.

As human resource professionals, you are well position to seize opportunities at teachable moments to improve the financial literacy of employees, and thereby contribute to better financial literacy in Canada.

This just-in-time approach means employees will gain financial knowledge, skills and confidence when they need it most.

The results should include reduced stress, reduced absenteeism, and increased workplace productivity.

And that means everyone will benefit.

Thank you.

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