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There’s no doubt that market volatility, rising inflation and the war in Ukraine are having an impact on the finances of Canadians. On the surface, it might seem as though we’re all dealing with the same financial challenges. The truth is more complex.

When it comes to financial wellness, market and economic factors are just one piece of the puzzle. Not all Canadians experience the same levels of confidence and well-being when it comes to their finances, and not all Canadians believe they can access the same financial services.

A recent study that we conducted at FP Canada in partnership with Innovative Research Group shows that many sociodemographic groups face significant barriers to financial health — and to obtaining the professional advice that could help them achieve it.

The goal of the research was to establish a benchmark for IMAGINE 2030, FP Canada’s vision for the financial well-being of all Canadians. Through a survey of over 4,000 individuals from many different backgrounds, we established four key indices of financial health: financial well-being, financial confidence, financial access (the extent to which respondents felt financial planning was accessible to them) and financial trust (whether they trust professional financial advice). The results are sobering.

When it comes to experiencing financial well-being, the average Canadian scored 49 out of 100. About half said they spend a lot of time worrying about money. These numbers alone suggest that the financial planning profession has plenty of work to do.

But the results reveal more.

Women (with an average well-being score of 46), Indigenous people (42), people with disabilities (40) and members of the LGBTQ community (39) all had scores below the average. These differences may seem relatively small, but each point represents significant disparities in real-world experiences.

Financial well-being isn’t the only area where we saw imbalances. Members of the groups above under-indexed across all four indices, and for new Canadians, there was room for improvement with regards to financial access and financial trust.

Perhaps most disconcertingly, many Canadians believed they would face discrimination if they worked with a financial planner — including 58% of Indigenous people.

Needless to say, we must do better. All Canadians deserve the peace of mind that comes with financial security, and there’s no shortage of research showing the positive difference that professional financial planning can make. The question is, how do we reach members of the community who may not fully trust planners, or feel that their services are within reach?

One important step is creating a more diverse profession so Canadians can see themselves reflected in the professionals who support their financial planning needs. Currently, just 26% of Canadians agree with the statement “financial professionals often look a lot like me.” We can work to change that, and every member of the profession has a role to play.

It starts with making diversity, equity and inclusion central to everything we do. There are many steps we can take as part of a holistic approach, such as creating educational opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds, and making workplaces more welcoming and inclusive.

At FP Canada, we support diversity and inclusion in a number of ways. We are assessing our education pathways to eliminate barriers that may be preventing individuals from choosing financial planning as a career. We are also working closely with our industry partners and post-secondary institutions as they look to recruit more individuals from underrepresented communities. Finally, we are undertaking research and working to educate those seeking certification to help them engage effectively with clients from more diverse backgrounds.

In addition to encouraging diversity within the profession, we must find ways of communicating the benefits of financial planning to members of marginalized and historically underrepresented groups. Demographic trends highlight the need for professional financial advice among underserved groups within the Canadian population. Women will manage an increasing concentration of investable assets in the years ahead. Entrepreneurship is growing among Indigenous people, and the numbers of new Canadians and individuals who identify as LGBTQ are growing.

It’s not just about marketing and promoting services to a larger swath of the Canadian population; it’s also about deliberate learning on the part of planners. Before a professional can effectively serve a client, they must understand the challenges (both financial and social) these individuals face in their daily lives. Investing the time to speak with and learn more about Canadians from many backgrounds and walks of life will be critical to achieving that goal.

There’s no denying the opportunity this profession has to make meaningful and positive change in the lives of Canadians regardless of their age, race, gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation.

In short, the population is changing, and the financial planning profession must change along with it. The well-being of Canadians depends on it.

Tashia Batstone is president and CEO of FP Canada.