The importance of talking to children about money and finances in challenging times

News release

Canadian students continue to rank among the top countries worldwide for financial literacy

May 11, 2020
Ottawa, Ontario

To mark the release of the financial literacy results from the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is encouraging parents to talk to their children about money and finances during these challenging times. 

The results of the triennial worldwide survey of 15-year-old students found that teens who talked about finances with their parents, even just once a week, scored 33 points higher in financial literacy than those who did not. Higher levels of financial literacy in students are associated with confidence in keeping track of their account balance and planning their spending with consideration of their current financial situation. Both are key factors in building a financially secure future. 

Canada ranked second, tied with Finland, out of 20 participating countries and economies for the second time in a row. Compared to the OECD average of 86 percent, 91 percent of Canadian students performed tasks associated with at least the minimum level of financial literacy required to participate fully in modern society. While, almost half (44%) of Canadian students performed tasks associated with advanced levels of financial literacy. 

As many families are re-evaluating their household finances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents should consider involving their children in conversations about news related to economics or finances and how the family is responding financially to these unprecedented circumstances. This can be a good way to open the door to discussing important personal finance topics, such as helping children understand how external factors can influence family finances and the importance of having an emergency budget. 

Beginning conversations about personal finances early will help strengthen financial literacy in children and prepare them to manage their finances responsibly in the future. When children are young, parents can begin with basic concepts such as counting and recognizing coins and bills. As children grow older, parents can discuss budgeting, income, expenses, and saving. For teens, introducing concepts about using credit, saving for something they want, and managing debt can set them on the right path for future financial success. 

FCAC makes it easy to talk to children about money. Encouraging discussions between parents and children is an important element of FCAC’s financial literacy efforts. The webpage “Teaching children about money” offers free, unbiased resources and tools to get you started.

FCAC funded the Canadian component of the PISA financial literacy survey and it was administered by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada in seven provinces.


“I am pleased that once again Canada ranks among the top countries in the world for financial literacy among youth. As Canadian families face new financial realities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s PISA results are a reminder that involving children in conversations about money at home can have a profoundly positive impact on their future financial success and overall well-being. Now, more than ever, it is important for parents to help their children understand personal finances and start building good financial habits.”

Judith Robertson, Commissioner, Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Quick facts

  • Canada has been participating in the financial literacy component of PISA since its inception in 2012. Canada’s most recent results were comparable to its 2015 results with Canadian students ranking second overall in both surveys.

  • Canadian 15-year-old students achieved a mean score of 532 in financial literacy, 28 points above the OECD average. There was no variance between genders or based on immigration status.

  • The seven provinces that participated in the survey were British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island.

  • 20 countries and economies participated in the 2018 financial literacy component of the survey. Economies refers to when only certain cities or region of a country participate in the survey.

  • The PISA survey also has a reading, mathematics and science component, the results of which were released by the OECD in December 2019.

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Media Relations
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

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