Meet Jane Rooney, Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader

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This article is part of the Investor Office series of discussions with key figures in Canada’s financial services industry whose work impacts investors. The views expressed in this article are entirely those of Jane Rooney and are not intended to represent the views of the Investor Office or the Ontario Securities Commission.

Jane Rooney is Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader. The Investor Office recently sat down with Jane to discuss her background, the role of Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader, Financial Literacy Month and other priorities.

Meet Jane

Back in university, I stayed at home for school and got an economics degree from Carleton University. Something that people may not know about me is that throughout high school and university I was a lifeguard, and I was able to pay for university, be self-sufficient and come out with no student debt. Looking back, I can see parallels from my time protecting people in the water and my job now educating and protecting people on financial matters.

Before joining the FCAC, I worked as a Payments System Coordinator and Policy Analyst at the Canadian Payments Association. I joined the FCAC in January 2002 as a Consumer Education Officer and my first area of focus was on the rights and responsibilities of consumers.

I’ve been here now for fifteen years and I’ve progressed throughout the organization to different positions, including six years as the Director of Financial Literacy and Consumer Education Program. I was named the first Financial Literacy Leader of Canada in April 2014.

On what “financial literacy” means…

Financial literacy is having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.

This means possessing the knowledge to understand the products and services that are available, having the skills required to manage money properly through things like budgeting, and having the confidence to ask questions when shopping around and choosing products that best suit your needs.

On the role of Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader…

Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader is tasked with providing national leadership on financial literacy and strengthening the knowledge, skills and confidence of Canadians. With this role we are able to coordinate efforts among all stakeholders, including the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. I’m also able to collaborate with others like the Ontario Securities Commission so that together our efforts help strengthen people’s ability to manage their money.

I think it has been very successful. We have partnerships in all three sectors and there is a great effort to work together collaboratively.

On the National Strategy for Financial Literacy…

The National Strategy for Financial Literacy is our roadmap to help guide, rally and mobilize stakeholders all around the country. It contains several high-level principles and three specific goals for Canadians, which are to manage money and debt wisely, plan and save for the future, and protect against fraud and financial abuse.

We are trying to mobilize people around these three goals so that we can achieve them through tailored programs, sharing information and collaboration, and also by engaging Canadians directly.

On plans for Financial Literacy Month 2016…

November is Financial Literacy Month and it provides us with the opportunity to focus on the topic, though financial literacy is a life skill that we have to think about for the whole year.

The theme of Financial Literacy Month this year is “Managing money and debt wisely: It pays to know!” There are actually five weeks during the month this year and we’ve set themes for every week of the month, built around the research we’ve uncovered.

• Week 1: Start with a budget, let’s go back to basics.
• Week 2: Live within your means; do not exceed your expenses.
• Week 3: Your rights and responsibilities.
• Week 4: Having a savings plan for emergencies and unexpected expenses.
• Week 5: Review your finances.

We have a calendar of events on our website, ItPaysToKnow.gc.ca. We’re asking all stakeholders to populate the calendar with events they are doing throughout the month, and of course I’ll be travelling all across the country to promote and participate in activities that are underway across Canada, including a research symposium that we are organizing.

On her current priorities…

We’re focused on implementing the National Strategy through our stakeholders. We are very fortunate to have twelve networks across Canada that have been created to help advance and improve financial literacy efforts, and we want to better coordinate and work with those networks. I will also be announcing a national steering committee in the near future so that I can work with fifteen experts within the financial sector to help us implement the strategy.

While undertaking financial literacy efforts in schools and with our young people, we also have to focus on adults in the workplace and we are working with partners to deliver financial literacy training there as well.

We also have four specific target audiences – youth, seniors, low income people and indigenous people – and are working with stakeholders to reach them. Those are the audiences that show worrying trends in our research and Statistics Canada’s Canadian Financial Capability Survey.

Any final thoughts?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s International Network on Financial Education has a committee with 114 countries represented. I came back from one of the meetings the other week, and it was wonderful to see that Canada is at the forefront of financial education internationally. At the meeting a number of countries have said that our national strategy is a model that they are going to be replicating for their own strategies, because it’s function-based. Internationally, Canada is seen as a leader, and that makes me proud of the work that we and all of our partners are doing in this area.

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