As we step into Financial Literacy Month, I find myself deeply concerned by the numerous reports revealing the financial strain on working Canadians. A staggering 19.5 million Canadians are grappling with financial vulnerability, a situation brought starkly to light by the Financial Resilience Institute and echoed in the findings of the Seymour Financial Resilience Index. These documents present a daunting picture: 76% of our population is financially vulnerable, with 18% in an extremely precarious position. An alarming 37% of Canadians, some earning upwards of $100,000, find themselves more financially stressed than they were a year ago.
Cultural Curiosity Perspective
Given the striking statistic that 63% of Canadians are depleting their entire net paycheck, which in turn significantly impacts mental health and workplace productivity, I’m led to consider how my position and knowledge can be of assistance. From my cultural curiosity perspective, I see the importance of adopting a tailored approach to financial education—one that is sensitive to the various cultural contexts that individuals and team leaders operate within.
I am eager to champion the development of educational programs that are not one-size-fits-all but are instead customized to address the different financial circumstances and cultural distinctions of diverse populations. There is an urgent need for financial literacy initiatives that go beyond generic advice, recognizing and incorporating cultural sensitivities to be truly effective and meaningful.
One-size-fits-all solutions are inadequate.
- Reality: Canadians feel that financial planning (including budgeting, retirement, or investment advice) is the most important aspect in a benefits plan(30%), reports TELUS Health.
- Fact: Diverse employees have diverse learning needs. Prove me wrong.
- Challenge: There is a lack of understanding that “money questions” need to be answered with consideration of cultural perceptions, beliefs, and prejudices.
If you stop reading here because you think that “money does not have color” (meaning that a dollar exists in its own right, outside race, culture, or social ties), I will state that there is a high risk of you being wrong and encourage you to do the research yourself.
Here are a couple of reads that might change your mind:
In the meantime, for everyone who sees sense in my words, here is some guidance.
The mosaic of cultural views on money is an intricate blend of historical events, spiritual traditions, societal expectations, and a broad array of influences that span age groups, family structures, community practices, and the vast diversity of human experience. Don’t ignore this
Everyone wants to make enough to live a worry-free life. That number will be different for everyone, depending on circumstances and values, and managing stress in this domain often means managing expectations – cultural expectations including
There are various beliefs and biases across cultures related to ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ money management, with the former referring to money used for everyday purchases and the latter to long-term wealth. Balance is incredibly important here, as stepping out of the cultural comfort zone too far with the lack of knowledge or skills might not only create distress but lead to very harmful consequences.
If one was raised in a culture—be it a nation, community, or family—where the practice of saving was not emphasized, the blame should not be assigned for the absence of savings in a different context. New habits can be learned, just as bicycle riding can be learned by an adult who never had the opportunity in childhood. Furthermore, it is essential that “saving” be defined in terms that are specific to the individual, since various methods of saving may be more or less suitable based on one’s beliefs.
There is a huge difference across cultures in the perception of “good spending”. In some cultures, displaying wealth through luxury purchases is common. Other cultures may value frugality and frown upon pretentious displays of wealth. For one, good spending benefits others; for another, good spending should bring joy to you exclusively – because it’s your money. There is no right or wrong – you are the owner and you are the master.
Below are pragmatic tips designed to aid both my readers who are immigrants and those managing culturally diverse teams.
- Don’t jump into doing what the Joneses do, as the Joneses might be broke.
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is an expression that means trying to keep up with your neighbors’ social status and material possessions. For immigrants in Canada, it’s wise not to immediately try to match the spending habits of those around you. Appearances can be deceiving; the people you’re trying to keep up with might actually be in a lot of debt. It’s much better to focus on your own financial stability: make a realistic budget, save money, and make financial choices that are right for you and your future, rather than trying to impress others.
2. Learn to manage YOUR money first.
While establishing a credit history is a crucial aspect of financial health in Canada, it is vital for you to first understand and adeptly manage your own money in the context of a new environment. Credit cards, loans, and mortgages are NOT your money, and the misuse of these instruments can lead to debt and financial instability. Before delving into these credit options, it is important to get acclimated to the cost of living in Canada, understand the nuances of budgeting in a different currency, and learn the local financial norms and regulations. Only after gaining this foundational knowledge should you consider utilizing credit as a tool for building a credit history, always with a strategy for timely repayment and within the means of one’s own budget.
3. Look for a trusted Financial Advisor first and an English Teacher second.
When you move to Canada, finding a financial mentor who gets both the Canadian way of doing things and where you’re coming from culturally can make a huge difference. It’s so helpful to have someone who can explain the financial ins and outs in a way that makes sense to you and respects your cultural background (nation, community, family, and any other level). This person can be more helpful than an English teacher when you first arrive because they can guide you on how to manage money wisely in your new environment, from understanding the basics to planning for the future. It’s critical to find a trustworthy advisor with whom you feel comfortable discussing any issue, no matter how trivial they may seem—remember, when it involves your finances, no question is stupid. Be cautious, though; always stay vigilant against fraudulent behavior and seek advisors who are verified and reputable. Watch for our November email which will deliver key insights on identifying and engaging with such a financial mentor.
- Why should they tell you?
People Leaders should recognize that the sensitivity of financial discussions within families often translates into the workplace. If communication about money is taboo between spouses, it’s unreasonable to expect employees to be forthcoming about their financial difficulties. The foundation of such sensitive conversations is trust, which is cultivated differently among diverse cultures. To some, discussing financial matters may imply a significant level of trust. For leaders aiming to enhance their team’s financial literacy, the first step should be to establish a relationship of trust. This involves creating a safe, nonjudgmental space where employees feel valued and understood, encouraging open dialogue about finances without fear of reprisal or embarrassment. It’s about showing genuine concern for their overall well-being, which can make employees feel more comfortable discussing the money management issues they face.
2. Are you sure it’s money?
It is crucial for leaders to identify the root of employees’ financial issues. Often, it’s not just about understanding money itself but about forming sound financial habits. Instead of delivering another generic seminar on retirement savings plans like RRSPs and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), there might be a greater need to empower employees with practical strategies for involving their families in systematic budgeting. This could include workshops on how to communicate about money at home, how to set shared financial goals, and how to track household spending. By providing tools and knowledge that support collaborative financial planning, leaders can help employees and their families establish a foundation for lasting financial discipline.
3. Weak Humans or Lack of Ethics of Design?
Building financial resilience is as important as developing emotional or professional resilience, particularly in a society where consumerism is prevalent, and sophisticated marketing strategies are designed to manipulate consumer behavior. For a newcomer holding their first credit card, the barrage of enticing advertisements for attractive products can be overwhelming. Leaders have a responsibility to educate their employees on developing a resilient mindset towards spending. This means fostering an understanding of the ethical concerns surrounding marketing practices, known as the “Ethics of Design,” and equipping employees with the critical thinking skills needed to make wise financial decisions amidst aggressive sales tactics. By cultivating an awareness of these influences, leaders can help employees strengthen their financial restraint and make choices that align with their personal values and long-term financial health.
As usual, I’ll conclude with a personal story.
A couple of years ago, my daughter came home from school with homework that included the suggestion that she would most likely need to borrow money for such a life necessity as a fridge.
No jokes—I was angry with that assumption, which obviously elevated my stress level. Due to my cultural beliefs (which I prefer to maintain in this case), I want my children to understand that they can earn and spend their OWN money on something like a fridge.
Do they need to understand what credit is? Absolutely! But not through the lens that borrowing is the first, let alone the only, way to obtain what you need and want.
To recognize when cultural bias may be influencing your financial decisions, remain vigilant for moments when your choices seem to reflect stereotypes or traditional practices without clear logical justification. However, don’t hesitate to question norms that contradict your values.
Achieving a balance is essential; while it’s beneficial to step outside your cultural comfort zone, doing so without the necessary knowledge or skills can lead to significant stress and potentially harmful consequences. Remember that the management of money is profoundly linked with cultural norms, societal frameworks, and the tapestry of history. Thus, it is crucial to navigate the subject of finances with a high degree of cultural awareness and a keen understanding of the subtle influences that your own cultural background may exert on your financial decision-making processes.
Be culturally curious, never stop learning, and grow your wealth!
In our interconnected world, navigating the rich tapestry of cultural diversity is not merely a necessity, but an opportunity to become successful in your personal and professional life. At Quiet Tenacity, we believe that the key to a prosperous future lies in cultural curiosity. Join us on this journey.