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My daughters are only seven and ten, but we are teaching them how to save and keep track of their money already. Why? I don’t want them to make the same mistakes that I made up until my late twenties.

For older youth, the Healthy Aboriginal Network (HAN) created The Game Plan, our financial literacy comic book. It’s about Jake, an 18 year old that is forced to learn the hard way that we are what we do in life, not what we own. The production of the comic was funded by the TD Financial Literacy Grant Fund.

Finding the story

HAN improves literacy on health and social issues by creating engaging comic book stories. So you’d think this project would be a piece of cake for us. It wasn’t. We really struggled to find the balance between story and the financial concepts we wanted to touch on. So we did our homework by commissioning secondary research into the areas of Aboriginal financial literacy, financial literacy in general, youth financial education, learning theories, behavioural change, and social marketing campaigns.

As a result of the research, HAN determined that:

• The target audience for the comic should be urban Aboriginal Youth.
• The comic’s story should be aimed at youth in the pre-contemplation and
   contemplation stages of financial literacy behaviour change because there
   are a lack of resources available for this group.
• The comic’s story must connect emotionally with the reader to raise their
   awareness of the need to change their money management behaviours and
   convince them that it is a worthwhile endeavor to pursue.
• Topics covered by the comic should focus on the money management skills
   of basic saving, spending, and debt.

Testing the initial draft

Once we felt that we had an engaging story we set out to create the focus group short. We use storyboards for the videos, which are really just rough pencil sketches, and we import the images into a movie editing program to give the stills movement. We posted the video to YouTube to test with the financial community and adults that work with youth. And we tested the story in person with youth on Vancouver Island, Vancouver and Toronto. This gave HAN preliminary quality and impact measurement data, and the ability to make changes where necessary before committing to a final colour publication.

The goal and how it’s being measured

The final comic was published in August 2013. The goal of the book is to have readers realize that saving and debt have real consequences that impact both positively and negatively. We want readers to consider consequences they may have been unaware of before reading the comic and to start to see that proper money management is a better path to achieving one’s real life goals. As opposed to consumerism, which is more of a temporary "feel good" patch that actually avoids the work needed to achieve real success.

To measure the reach, impact, and achievement of the comic’s goal, HAN is undertaking an evaluation of readers’ attitudes towards savings, spending, and debt before and after reading the comic. We are also tracking the distribution of the comic and visits to the financial literacy resource page listed on the back of the comic for readers to find out more information on the topic.


Sean Muir is the founder and executive director of the Healthy Aboriginal Network (HAN). HAN creates comic books on health and social issues for youth - www.thehealthyaboriginal.net.

Tags: aboriginal, debt, financial planning, saving, youth

Why is mainstream financial advice often wrong for older low-income Canadians?

Financial Literacy Matters | By Natasha McKenna

Most financial information and retirement advice available is conceived with middle or higher-income Canadians in mind. When we look at retirement planning from a low-income perspective, however, we can see how mainstream information and advice doesn’t always apply and can actually be harmful to the overall well-being of Canadians approaching retirement age or already retired.

CCFL’s recently released research report, The Case for Financial Literacy, maintains that “low-income and vulnerable Canadians are not necessarily less financially literate than other people, but face real challenges in accessing accurate and appropriate financial information and advice suited to their life context and financial needs.” It goes on to state that “(m)ainstream financial information, tools, and advice, while useful for middle or higher income Canadians, are often less so for low-income Canadians and can even be detrimental.”

John Stapleton, a social policy consultant, saw this firsthand in his volunteer work. The low-income seniors and near seniors he was working with weren’t able to access appropriate retirement advice. He makes the case that two of the key assumptions underpinning mainstream retirement planning advice don’t apply to older people living with low-incomes. These are:

        1. Our post-retirement income will be less than our pre-retirement income.
        2. Our taxable income will be lower after age 65.

The reality is that many low-income seniors’ incomes increase when they turn 65, as they become eligible for Old Age Security (OAS), the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and/or Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) benefits. Depending on the individual’s mix of income sources, this increase can result in them facing higher taxes once they reach 65. Because many low-income seniors and financial advisors aren’t aware of this fact, seniors risk making choices that will leave them with less – not more – money in their retirement.

On October 25th, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) hosted a community forum in Toronto organized by Open Policy Ontario, St. Christopher House, Woodgreen Community Services, and SEDI to launch a new information kit called Planning for Retirement on a Low-Income. This was developed by Open Policy to provide clear, relevant and accessible financial planning information to low-income, older Ontarians.

(Panelists John Stapleton, Miryam Zeballos, James Daw and Michael Creek at community forum)

At the launch, Michael Creek of Working for Change reflected on his own experience living in poverty and how these tools can, as he said, “make a real difference in people’s lives.” Miryam Zeballos from St. Christopher House also outlined the usefulness of this resource in helping to establish GIS and CPP eligibility for older newcomers.

The booklets and additional resources, including the presentations made on October 25th, are available online. They are valuable resources for low-income people and organizations seeking reliable financial information and advice to offer their low-income clients.



Natasha McKenna is a Financial Literacy Trainer and Coordinator with the CCFL. She was a member of the agency reference group for the Low Income Retirement Planning tools.

Tags: financial advice, financial planning, retirement, seniors

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The CCFL Blog provides a platform for timely discussions and commentary on policy, practice, research and news relevant to the field of financial literacy for low income and vulnerable groups. Contributors include guest experts, community leaders and CCFL staff. The views expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the CCFL.

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