Home > Blog


Can a financial literacy program deliver knowledge and shift behaviours so that people living on low incomes can make informed decisions when it comes to their personal finances?

Credit unions think so. One way that several are doing this is through matched savings programs. Matched savings or individual development accounts are an effective approach to improving the financial capability of low income members, while at the same time matching members’ savings towards a goal such as home ownership or education. By participating in these programs, members gain valuable saving skills and improve their economic well-being.

To help credit unions develop these programs, the trade association for Canada’s credit unions recently introduced the Matched Savings Program Toolkit, which is its latest social responsibility resource.

The toolkit highlights the role of financial institutions in matched savings programs drawing on examples of programs like learn$ave. It walks credit unions through how to plan, implement, administer and measure a matched savings program. It also features a useful checklist of best practises and items to consider for each element along the way.

Affinity Credit Union, Assiniboine Credit Union, Vancity Credit Union and Social and Enterprise Development Innovations have generously shared resources including financial literacy curricula, program calendars, program guides and metrics for assessing the impact that these programs have. These resources are organized in the toolkit’s appendices.

How did this idea for the toolkit originate?

Credit unions are different from other financial institutions. For instance, credit unions are guided by international co-operative principles, one of which is to provide members with “education, training and information,” including the skills and confidence members need to make responsible decisions when it comes to managing their personal finances.

In 2012, credit unions across Canada, set out to gain a better understanding of financial literacy programs, approaches and offerings. In particular, the credit union system wanted to know whether financial literacy programs were effectively bridging the gap between what members knew they should be doing, and how they actually managed their finances. The results of this project are highlighted in the research brief, Financial Literacy – What’s Best and What’s Next.

Through this system-wide financial literacy project, matched savings accounts were identified as an effective way to help low-income individuals grow their assets and increase their financial knowledge. The program matches every dollar participants save on their own.

The Matched Savings Program Toolkit was prepared by , Policy Analyst, Credit Union Central of Canada. Click here to download the toolkit.

About Credit Union Central of Canada (Canadian Central)

Credit Union Central of Canada is the national trade association for the Canadian credit union system. Canada’s credit union system is a vital competitor in the financial services industry. Canadian Central represents five regional Centrals and one Federation representing 332 credit unions with more than $159.2 billion in assets and serving over 5.3 million members, outside of Quebec. For more information about Canada’s credit union system and Canadian Central visit www.cucentral.ca.


Kate Martin works as a policy analyst for the credit union system, where her work focuses on credit union social responsibility and government relations. Kate has participated in the Parliamentary Internship Program at the House of Commons, and completed an MA in History from the University of Victoria, where she had the opportunity to study the relationship between indigenous peoples and settler peoples in British Columbia.

Tags: assets, credit, Saving

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

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.

Blog Categories