Summer is finally here and so is the promise of brighter days ahead. As lockdowns ease, the economy expands and many of us get busier, now is the time to ensure that we make financial wellness for all Canadians an imperative. The past 16 months have highlighted the critical need to enhance financial resilience, and this is our opportunity to look at things differently.
The pandemic has been a rich learning environment for the financial planning industry. Professional financial planners across the country rose to the occasion to help many Canadians navigate the financial uncertainty associated with the pandemic. The FP Canada 2021 Financial Stress Index found that even in the middle of the pandemic, nearly four in 10 Canadians said money was their No. 1 concern and, rather disturbingly, one in three said the stress led to health-related issues. But Canadians who worked with a professional financial planner were far less likely to cite money as their top concern or say it led to health-related issues.
Despite the evidence that highlights the benefits of working with a professional financial planner, an overwhelming majority of Canadians choose not to do so for various reasons. Misconceptions that financial planning is only for the wealthy and costs a lot of money are partly to blame, and many lack knowledge on how to find a planner.
As I look over the horizon, I believe the future of the profession lies in the democratization of financial planning. Knowing that Canadians who work with a professional financial planner are more comfortable about their financial health, we need to focus on ensuring all Canadians can access sound financial advice – regardless of their income, age, gender or race.
In this context, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s new five-year national financial literacy strategy is a welcome step in the right direction. The strategy emphasizes supporting the diverse needs of Canadians and helping build financial resilience. Our individual and collective prosperity, going forward, will squarely depend on Canadians’ ability to develop the financial resiliency to respond to unexpected life events.
The strategy zeroes in on improving Canadians’ skills and behaviours through methods proven to build financial resilience. This includes a focus on skills to help Canadians navigate the financial marketplace and just-in-time financial knowledge when they need it to help them achieve their financial goals. Of particular note is the emphasis on enhancing the access Canadians have to professional financial advice that is trustworthy and affordable, and communicating with consumers in a way that is easily understood to ensure they have the skills to fully be part of the financial marketplace, which will be increasingly digital in the future.
The National Strategy framework for improving the financial ecosystem also spells out the role that financial industry stakeholders can play. FP Canada is already undertaking work that aligns with some of the objectives outlined in the strategy. In January 2020, we launched the Qualified Associate Financial Planner (QAFP) certification, for professionals who help Canadians with everyday financial planning needs. We also launched initiatives for financial planners to give back to the community. Our pro-bono program — CFP Professionals Help — pairs up Certified Financial Planners with MPPs and MLAs to host financial planning seminars for those most in need of financial advice.
At a more micro level, this is also an opportunity for the financial planning profession to look at how it can address diversity in its ranks and customize offerings to women, young Canadians, new Canadians and Indigenous peoples — demographics that may have been underserved in the past. We must come together to find new ways to ensure that financial resilience and economic prosperity is accessible to all.
The future success of the financial planning industry hinges on our collective ability to create a big enough tent that is inclusive and seeks to cater to the needs of all Canadians.