Many Canadians regularly use social media to find, send and create information, and now FCAC has stepped into the world of social networking to extend the reach of its consumer education materials.
Since last May, more than 1,200 Canadians, including financial advisors, real estate professionals and journalists, have followed FCAC on Twitter, another 2,500 or so have viewed its videos on YouTube, and many more followed its posts on the Financial Literacy Month pages on Facebook and LinkedIn. The value added: a new channel to bring FCAC’s resources to consumers and to empower them to make sound financial decisions.
FCAC is always looking for novel ways to reach and interact with consumers. Social media was a natural step to deliver information and resources on topics such as mortgages, credit cards, debt and credit reports directly to consumers.
“Our social media presence has been a huge milestone for us,” said André-Marc Allain, FCAC’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “Consumers want information that is easy to understand and they want it at their fingertips. We get that. That is why we continually adapt and evolve, and develop tools that engage Canadians and deliver information in the ways they want it.”
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FCAC also participates in some of the #cdnmoney chats on Wednesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Twitter, where consumers can discuss personal finances with influential bloggers and journalists (The #cdnmoney chats are conducted in English only.)
Household debt in Canada is a growing concern. While the Bank of Canada warns that household debt nationally has soared to an all-time high, some companies are advertising that they can negotiate a deal to reduce the amounts individuals must repay to their creditors. Canadians who worry about how to repay their debt are being tempted to commit to a debt repayment package that seems too good to be true. FCAC warns that it probably is.
FCAC urges consumers to be wary about companies that claim they can negotiate a deal with creditors where they will have to repay only a part of their debt. Often calling themselves “debt reduction,” “debt settlement,” “debt relief” or “debt negotiation” firms, these companies use aggressive sales tactics, unrealistic claims about slashing debt, misleading information about protecting credit ratings and false claims about government involvement, approval or programs.
“Unfortunately, people do not always see the benefits that debt reduction companies lead them to expect—and some people wind up even deeper in debt than they were before,” says Ursula Menke, FCAC Commissioner.
Consumers with debt should regularly check the statements from their creditors and stay informed about due dates and any changes to their accounts, fees or interest rates. Those who feel their debt is too high should consider options such as
Those considering a debt-reduction service should check the company’s background using the Internet or the Better Business Bureau.
For additional details on debt reduction companies or for useful tip sheets on how to deal with a debt collector, manage and ultimately beat debt, or put together a budget and stick to it, check out FCAC’s recent Consumer Alert on debt reduction companies.
Budgeting: does the word make your clients cringe? Do they have good intentions, but teeter between their wants and needs and then dip into the red zone to fulfill them? They are not alone: only 66 percent of young adults make a budget, and of those that do, nearly half don’t stick to it.
Whether trying to decrease debt or increase savings, tracking finances is the quickest way to balance wants and needs while attaining financial goals. But where can consumers start?
A good place to get going is to keep track of everything they buy and every bill they pay for one month—everything from grocery and daily coffee receipts to hydro and cable bills. Keeping track of such expenses in, for example, FCAC’s Budget Worksheet, will give them a realistic idea of their spending habits.
The next step is to create a balanced budget: a plan where income exceeds expenses and where money left over can repay debt faster or increase savings for an important financial goal. This means making a list of income sources and expenses based on a month’s worth of tracking, then setting a dollar figure for each expense so that total expenses are less than total income. In the long run, tracking actual spending and adjusting the budget accordingly will help your clients understand where they spend most of their money and where they may be falling short. It will also help them change their spending habits to ultimately pay off that lingering debt, or have the money to pursue that study program, buy that first home, go on that dream vacation or take full advantage of their hard-earned retirement.
To help, there are a slew of online tools available, including FCAC’s Budget Calculator.
Racking up debt has become commonplace for Canadians, whether they’re fresh out of school, have just bought a new home, are parents of three or are just about to retire. Confronting their debt head-on can be the best starting point to working out a realistic budget and achieving financial success.
No matter what their situation is, FCAC has tips, tools and resources that can help your clients deal with debt and become financially successful.
As we go through life, our financial responsibilities and priorities shift. Consumers need special financial knowledge to successfully navigate through key life events such as graduating from college, buying a home or having children. Those “teachable moments” in life often leave us at a crossroads: Can I afford to move out on my own? How can I plan to deal with my debts? What can I do to financially prepare to buy my first home?
The answers to such questions lie in being financially informed. Whether your client is just starting out or about to retire, planning for these important events can go a long way toward helping them reach their financial goals. FCAC’s website has a new section that offers helpful information about the financial aspects of the most common life events, such as moving out on your own, starting your first job or owning a home.
FCAC will be adding more topics, such as living as a couple, having children and paying for post-secondary education through the coming months.
Financial literacy means having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions. Inaugurated in November 2011, the Financial Literacy Month brings together resources, information, products and services developed by a wide variety of organizations across Canada that help Canadians make informed financial decisions. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is proud to play a part in bringing together and coordinating efforts of activities and events that highlight the importance of increased financial literary. FCAC will be contacting you soon to be part of the Financial Literacy Month activities of 2012, so start thinking and planning for this year’s activities.
Have you used or taught FCAC’s financial life skills resource for students called The City? Have you facilitated or taken part in a Financial Basics workshop? If so, FCAC would like your feedback. The Agency would like to know what you think about its tools, workshops and materials so we can enhance our educational materials. You can also let us know if there is a topic we have not yet covered and that you would like some information on.
Please take a few minutes to take part in the electronic survey that corresponds to the tools, workshops and materials you have used from the selection below: