A new decade is nearly upon us, and with that comes the opportunity to reflect on all that’s been accomplished in the past 10 years and to reset goals for the future. Since the year ahead marks the culmination of the Vision 2020 goals FP Canada set during the inaugural Financial Planning Week in Canada in 2009, it’s fitting to stop and evaluate the progress made on improving Canadians’ financial wellness, and to consider where to go from here.
Vision 2020 had the aspiration that by the year 2020, Canada would be shaped by a nation of people, organizations and a regulatory environment that:
- values financial planning;
- shares responsibility for ensuring the financial planning needs of Canadians are well served; and
- has a viable financial planning profession that ensures that those who need professional advice have broad access to competent, ethical financial planners.
When Vision 2020 was established, it was clear that despite the many obvious benefits of engaging in financial planning, too many Canadians were winging it financially and failing to recognize the importance of building a plan to achieve financial well-being. For those who were seeking advice, far too many were struggling to wade through the muddy waters of financial advice, financial advisors and financial planners, and had no idea where to turn for guidance.
Financial Planning Week was created to ignite a conversation that would lead to greater collaboration and meaningful action to help make financial planning a greater part of all Canadians’ lives. It was created as an ongoing campaign that would involve all stakeholders — financial planners, industry, regulators, governments, educators, media and all Canadians — to work together and enact the change needed to improve the financial well-being of Canadians.
In the decade since, there have been many achievements worth celebrating.
There have been significant strides in recognizing financial planning as a profession for the good of society in recent years, and policymakers are recognizing the need to restrict the use of the “financial planner” title to only those who have met appropriate professional standards. The Ontario government’s Financial Professionals Title Protection Act, introduced earlier this year, will require anyone in Ontario wishing to use “financial planner” or “financial advisor” as a title to have a recognized certification. Earlier this month, Saskatchewan followed suit with the introduction of The Financial Planners and Financial Advisors Act — legislation that will impose similar restrictions for those using the “financial planner” or “financial advisor” titles.
Although the full rules and regulations that will govern the legislation in both Ontario and Saskatchewan are still being developed, these governments have laid the foundation for a strong professional framework for financial planning. The legislation in these provinces will finally give consumers clarity and confidence to know whom to seek for the financial planning and advice they need.
As we enter the next decade, we need to build on this progress through similar policy action from other provinces — with harmonization across all jurisdictions.
Financial literacy has also made great strides in the past decade. Since Parliament proclaimed each November Financial Literacy Month in 2012, this annual initiative has continued to expand and evolve. This reflects the growing recognition that understanding the basics about money is essential to help Canadians build the confidence they need to make better financial decisions.
An important element of financial literacy is ensuring Canadians understand the distinct types of financial advice in the marketplace, and the unique nature and critical importance of holistic financial planning. Industry firms, governments, regulators and planners themselves have collectively devoted extensive efforts to educating Canadians on this distinction over the past 10 years. As a result, the conversation has changed. More than ever, consumers are beginning to recognize the distinct value of holistic financial planning, and industry is engaging their clients in the planning process more than ever before.
The rise of fintech and robo-advice is another trend that has undeniably shaped the latter half of the past decade. In many ways, this has been positive in getting Canadians — especially younger Canadians — engaged with their finances. However, it presents a new challenge: ensuring planners embrace technology, and continue to add value to their clients in providing the personalized, human connection that technology cannot replace.
Despite the progress made in the past decade, we still have a long way to go. The population is aging and many Canadians aren’t saving nearly enough, housing continues to become more and more unaffordable, and personal debt remains at near record levels. For many, the future is scary.
As we kick off the next decade, we must continue to take steps to ensure Canadians are better prepared and more in control of their financial health. Canadians need to know that through proper planning, financial confidence is attainable. Collectively, we need to continue to work together to further build on the vision we’ve realized, and establish the foundation for a society in which all Canadians have the tools they need to achieve financial wellness.