Financial literacy rates in Canada are staggeringly low. In a recent study by Statistics Canada, only 22% of men answered 5 out of 14 standard financial literacy questions correctly, and a mere 15% of women did the same. With basic financial literacy rates this low, it’s not surprising that the most often read financial headlines in Canada these days seem to be how the housing marketing is out of control, Canadians aren’t saving enough for retirement, and consumer debt is at an all-time high.
There are actions we, as financially enlightened Canadians, can take to help our fellow Canadians increase their financial literacy rates. We can have open and insightful conversations with our friends and family, weaving in financial knowledge wherever it feels appropriate. Or we can do more, and that’s what Enactus Canada and the Capital One Financial Education Challenge aims to do.
The Capital One Financial Education Challenge is one of four challenges that takes place at the Enactus Canada Regional and National Expositions. Teams from around Canada participate by designing projects that empower people in their communities through financial education and entrepreneurship.
I was lucky enough to learn about the Enactus program last year when I sat with the group from Saint Mary’s University and learned about their project, but this year I got even more involved and became a judge for the 2017 Capital One Financial Education Challenge Regional Championships. I saw seven local teams present, including last year’s winner Memorial University and my old school Dalhousie University.
What I saw was an amazing effort put forth by the students to change financial literacy in their local communities, from working with at-risk youth to creating a self-sustaining business that provides a steady source of free textbooks to a local refugee center.
While it was incredibly difficult to pick just one winner of the seven teams I judged, it became clear that two teams stood out from the rest as having not just an excellent idea to increase financial literacy in their area, but also the impressive execution of their plans and real, measurable outcomes.
Those two teams were Enactus Saint Mary’s and Enactus Memorial University.
Also a winner last year, Enactus Memorial University presented a truly innovative project that went beyond standard financial education and became a self-sustaining business. Through their Your Turn Boutique, Project SucSeed, and their education program they employed 14 at-risk youth and generated $26,942 in employment income.
Enactus Saint Mary’s also had a strong program of providing individualized consulting expertise to help individuals with autism start and grow their businesses. In 10 months, their Entrepreneurship Works program helped 13 entrepreneurs across five provinces increase revenues by $76,275.
My experience judging the 2017 Capital One Financial Education Challenge Regional Championships here in Halifax was nothing short of inspiring. These students do so much for financial education for no pay, and by spreading the word about financial literacy, I have no doubt they have a much broader impact on the world than what they were able report for their presentations.
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