It pays to know—reducing financial stress

 

By Lucie Tedesco, Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

May 4, 2017

This is Mental Health Week in Canada, an excellent opportunity for us to reflect on, learn about and discuss issues related to mental health. One such issue is financial stress. According to the 2014 Sun Life Canadian Health Index, the top three reasons for stress are finances—specifically, personal or household finances, trying to maintain a budget and unexpected expenses.

As Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), I am proud to lend my voice to discussions among Canadians about ways we can reduce financial stresses in our lives.

Preparing to move into your first apartment. Shopping for a house. Saving for retirement. Real-life experiences like these—and countless others in between—can be stressful. In addition to milestone events, day-to-day financial struggles and worries also affect a significant portion of our population. Among respondents to the Canadian Payroll Association’s 2016 Research Survey of Employed Canadians, 39 percent reported being overwhelmed by debt, and 38 percent indicated they would have difficulty meeting their financial obligations if their paycheque was delayed for a week.

Canadians need to know that they can turn things around, and that FCAC can help. For anyone seeking financial information and guidance, we offer a broad range of useful publications and resources. Rather than describe our work at length, I invite readers to explore our website and search for answers to their specific questions. They should try our online tools as well, including budget and mortgage calculators, account and credit card selectors, and the financial goal calculator.

At the Agency, we refer to those who use the services and products of banks, trust and loan companies and other organizations in our financial services sector as financial consumers. Virtually everyone in this country is a financial consumer—with rights and responsibilities.

By rights, I mean the legal obligations of financial institutions to us. For example, the information they provide us about the accounts, credit cards and other products and services they offer must be clear, simple and not misleading.
As for our responsibilities, fulfilling them comes down to seeking information to help with your decision-making. If I could speak directly to every Canadian financial consumer, I would say this:

Do your research. Carefully read all documents your financial institution provides you, whether they are for your signature or not. Ask questions. Compare banks and their products and services. And if a financial institution fails to carry out its obligations to you, let us know by calling 1-866-461-FCAC (3222) for services in English, and 1-866-461-ACFC (2232) for services in French.

As we state in our public awareness products about stress and money, “It’s worth investing time to improve your financial wellbeing.” The bottom line is that, while we cannot necessarily eliminate financial stress from our lives, we can reduce it. Improvements in our financial wellbeing bring improvements in other important aspects of our lives.

During Mental Health Week, Canadians are encouraged to take some positive, honest steps. This seems to me a great time for us to say to ourselves, “I’m going to take control of my finances.”

Next step: action. Please get started with a visit to our website at Canada.ca/money.

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