The Emerging Financial Literacy Field

Publication date: 
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Question: 

I have worked as a financial planner for a few years and am ready to expand what I do. A friend suggested that I look into facilitating financial literacy workshops. I couldn't find much information on the Internet about this. Do you have any ideas about how I could break into this field?

Answer: 

It's an interesting question. I had noticed a lot of workshops a few months ago and I wondered if the field was growing. I couldn't find much information about working in the financial literacy field either, so I decided to contact Melanie Buffel, a facilitator/coordinator of the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy (CCFL).

Buffel says that interest in the field is indeed growing and that job prospects are likely to increase as more government ministries and private funders are interested in supporting efforts. (The Task Force on Financial Literacy, which was set up in 2009, produced a report (PDF) with 30 recommendations including that the federal government promote financial literacy through programs such as Employment Insurance, Old Age Security and the Canada Student Loan Program.) Still, Buffel cautions that opportunities will likely remain fairly limited compared to other established areas.

According to Buffel, there is no specific formal credential to be a financial literacy facilitator. She says that the CCFL generally looks for people who have a degree in fields such as business, adult education or community development and that some applicants also have designations as accountants, certified financial planners or accredited financial counsellors. In addition, says Buffel, financial literacy candidates need experience in both group facilitation and content/curriculum development, an understanding of the concepts of financial literacy and experience working with low-income Canadians.

I looked at one (dormant) job posting for a financial literacy facilitator that also required candidates to have "significant knowledge in at least one of the following areas: federal and provincial income security programs and policies, the Canadian tax system, access to financial services, assets and savings vehicles, financial planning tools."

Community agencies (which can be found on the 211Toronto.ca website), credit counselling organizations, and financial companies sometimes offer financial literacy workshops or programs. Buffel notes that "a full-time position that does only financial literacy facilitation is probably still fairly rare." Financial literacy education would commonly be part of a larger life skills program offered by a community organization, she says. In addition, people in the following areas might provide financial literacy information as part of their role:

"It is also becoming more common that people go into business for themselves and take on contracts, write blogs, produce newsletters, send daily money tip emails, etc.," says Buffel. "[What you do] may depend in large part on who you want to work with: low-income or middle- to upper-income families, new immigrants, youth, students, Aboriginal [persons], seniors, etc. Each target audience may have specific channels and kinds of program associated with them."

Buffel suggests surveying the available financial literacy programs in your area and scheduling information interviews with those in the field to get a better sense of the requirements of the job, the format of the program and whether it's a fit with your skills and credentials. Consider contacting local credit unions and banks to see if they are offering or funding any financial literacy programs. "This area is still so new that lots of informational interviewing will give you a better sense of what opportunities exist in your community," says Buffel.

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Poss.ca is a free online magazine to help Toronto job seekers find work. An initiative of Findhelp Information Services, poss.ca is an Employment Ontario project funded in part by the Government of Canada.

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