Financial education services
The government of Canada offers access to many organizations that can help you with Canadian Financial Literacy. Many of the services are free-of-charge and there will be something available to you in every province.
If you’re in Toronto, Ont. you can participate in the Toronto Public Library (TPL)’s free Financial Empowerment program. Developed with Prosper Canada, the program is designed to help you access government benefits, learn how to save your money (even with low-income), plan for the future, and file your taxes.
Craig Todd-Langille, manager of adult programs at The Toronto Public Library, has witnessed how these programs have benefited newcomers.
“Often people may come and ask you about one aspect of their financial situation,” says Todd-Langille, “but then the counsellors can help them[…] work through more money goals and strategies.”
As you delve further into your financial standing, you may find that the cost of living in Canada forces you to develop your professional skills (while also working to obtain a higher salary). Or you might discover that both you and your spouse need to work in order to sustain your family.
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Knowing your actual income
As you learn how to create a budget, you’ll also learn how much taxes affect your income.
Noemi Garcia, a program manager at North York Community House, emphasizes the importance of budgeting and the importance of being able to manage the money you have.
Garcia oversees the financial empowerment and mobile settlement programs, where she co-manages a team of 37 workers, known as “settlement workers.” The settlement workers travel within the community to provide help with financial tasks such as managing debt, budgeting and filing income taxes.
Knowledge of how taxes affect your income is critical, as it affects the bottom line of your budget. It’s important that you know what deductions will be taken off your paycheque, and how your gross (pre-tax) and net (after tax) income differ. This difference can have a big impact on your employment decisions.
Additionally, you might not realize that sales tax and provincial taxes can affect the actual cost of products: the price you see advertised for a product or service will actually be higher when you take these into account.
Garcia notes that one of the reasons why many newcomers only stay in a position for a few weeks is due to the fact that they discover that their take-home pay isn’t enough to sustain them and their family.
Creating a roadmap for your finances lets you find a route to financial success. This path will inform your career moves, and allow you to discover and explore opportunities that are more in-line with your vision. It also lets you know if you require additional training or education, or if both you and your spouse will need to work to achieve your financial goals.
Garcia observes that if you know how to budget, you’ll be able to save money even if you have a low-paying job. Even if you have a high-paying job but don’t know how to budget, “you will not have savings, because you're spending all you do have on the illusion that you have all this money.”
Financial empowerment and government benefits
Garcia observes that newcomers may not have worked recently, and be unaware that in order to access government benefits, they need to file their taxes.
Part of the aim of the Financial Empowerment program and other services offered by North York Community House is to help newcomers learn about all elements of financial planning.
“We provide information in general, they make their own decisions,” says Garcia.
As a newcomer, knowing how to file your taxes not only lets you understand the difference between your gross and net income, but it has the added advantage of letting you access the benefits you’re entitled to.
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Knowing your needs
There’s no one-size-fits all solution to budgeting, and what works for one person may not help you get ahead.
In Garcia’s words, budgeting “helps people plan and see their reality.”
Once you take account of where and how you’re spending money, you discover the truth of your financial situation.
As Garcia points out, when you create a budget “you realize what you have been missing.” Not only do you empower yourself to navigate the Canadian economy, but you also discover how to maximize savings and make more conscientious financial decisions. It can also help narrow your job search, leading to greater opportunities.
Coast to coast
If you’re looking for financial literacy programs in your area, you can try the following:
Alberta: Centre For Newcomers offers free financial coaching and financial literacy workshops.
British Columbia: Chartered Professional Accountants British Columbia has a free financial literacy program for residents of B.C. and Yukon.
Manitoba: The government of Manitoba provides guides and information on consumer education for new immigrants.
Manitoba Start also offers settlement programs and information.
Newfoundland: The Association for New Canadians NL provides settlement and orientation services, including financial literacy.
New Brunswick: ABC Life Literacy Canada offers the ABC Money Matters program to increase financial literacy for newcomers to New Brunswick. The program is also available throughout Canada.
Nova Scotia: The YWCA Halifax offers a Financial Literacy for Newcomers (FLNP) program, that includes information on budgeting, saving, taxes, and other relevant information.
Nunavut: The Government of Nunavut participates in Financial Literacy Month, and ABC Life Literacy Canada’s Money Matters Core program is offered in the territory.
Northwest Territories: The Welcome to the NWT guide for newcomers provides information regarding financial matters in the territory. Newcomers are also encouraged to contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada for assistance and more information.
Ontario: Prosper Canada provides financial empowerment services, including financial literacy and coaching, to vulnerable communities throughout Ontario and all of Canada.
Prince Edward Island: Immigrant & Refugee Services Association Prince Edward Island offers resources for financial literacy.
Quebec: The ABC Money Matters program is available in Quebec, and aims to increase financial literacy and education among newcomers.
Saskatchewan: The Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority of Saskatchewan provides information on financial literacy for newcomers.
The Saskatchewan Literacy Networks also provides information and tools regarding financial literacy.
Yukon: Chartered Professional Accountants British Columbia has a free financial literacy program for residents of B.C. and Yukon.
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