Financial literacy: taking charge of your finances!

Managing your personal finances is like a board game, where you have to understand the ground rules (not always easy, let's face it) to move ahead - and win! To get you motivated, here are four very inspiring young people who've learned a thing or two about personal finance. In their own words, they explain how important it is to hone those skills early on.

“To get young people interested in numbers, you have to find out what motivates them!” - Jonathan Cossette, trainer

“If I start talking budgets right away, I lose half of my audience, because it’s too abstract!” says Jonathan Cossette. He’s a pro at making personal finance accessible and putting it in terms people can easily understand, leading Personal Finance: I’m in Charge workshops for the past 6 years.

“To get young people interested in numbers, you have to find what motivates them. “You want to buy a new mountain bike?” “You want to travel?” When they have a goal they need money for, saving suddenly becomes much more concrete.” Buying a cellphone, creating a grocery budget, signing a lease and getting a credit card top the list of financial concerns for young people. “The more informed we are about how to manage our money, the better decisions we make, which is why it’s important to take an interest in financial literacy,” says Cossette.

Carrefour jeunesse emploi du comté Nicolet-Yamaska et de la MRC de Bécancour, where Cossette works, is one of 103 community and school organizations that teach the Personal Finance: I’m in Charge program in partnership with the Fédération des Caisses Desjardins.

“It’s never too late to learn how to manage your money well!” - Camille Laflamme, age 16

“I don’t like math all that much, and I don’t find numbers very appealing,” says Laflamme, who’s taking the Personal Finance: I’m in Charge program as part of a grade 11 “modern world and finances” course. “But the topics covered in the workshops are concrete and practical and related to everyday life. For example, I learned how to budget, so I can save for a humanitarian trip to Guatemala.

I’ve also got a part-time job in equipment rentals for the City of Gatineau. Once my expenses are paid, I put money aside for this trip I really want to take. I used to think financial literacy was only for adults! But I’ve realized it’s never too late to learn how to manage your money well!”

“I don’t feel deprived; I’m just more aware of where my money is going.” - Sabrina Joanisse, age 25

A nurse by profession, Sabrina Joanisse says that better understanding personal finance has changed her life and given her the confidence to start her own business: “I plan to open a nursing clinic,” she says.

But before doing that, she decided to take Personal Finance: I’m in Charge workshops to improve her financial knowledge. “Until very recently, I was paying my bills as they came in, with no planning. Some months, after paying my cellphone, making my mortgage and car payments and covering other expenses, there was only a few dollars left in my account!

When I went over my finances with the trainer, I realized I was wasting a lot of money on meals out, so I looked for some tools to help. Now, I work with a calendar; I put all my payments, expenses, savings and even a little emergency fund on it, and I don’t feel deprived; I’m just more aware of where my money is going. And I’ve even created a budget for eating out!” says this nurse and future entrepreneur with pride.

“It’s a habit I’m proud of!” - Marianne Arteau

Marianne is a high school student in the international studies program at Polyvalente de Charlesbourg, who participated in a Lab Finance educational project.

What Marianne learned by being her school’s Finance Lab treasurer will serve her well the rest of her life. “Payment methods are something I use all the time. I now know how and when to use debit, PayPal, cheque or cash.” And she’s taken what she learned all the way to Spain, where she’s an exchange student. And, the older Marianne gets, the more aware she is of the value of money. “When I have cash, I put about half of it in the bank: it’s a habit I’m proud of!” says this future actuary.

What is the Finance Lab?

A Finance Lab is an association set up in a high school in partnership with a caisse and that operates like a cooperative.

It’s governed by a board of directors elected by the student members. The directors then appoint officers to perform tasks related to the Finance Lab’s marketing, finance and operations.

For example, students can pay for school and extracurricular activities, such as a prom or trip, through a mobile payment terminal.

Did you know that…

Personal Finance: I’m in Charge (for 16 to 30 year olds) and Lab Finance (for 12 to 17 year olds) are financial education programs offered in partnership with the Fédération des caisses Desjardins. Personal Finance: I’m in Charge alone has trained over 273,000 participants since it launched in 2013.

What about you? Have you learned any new personal finance concepts lately? Share in the comments below!

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