Millennials and the workforce of tomorrow are facing a brave new world.

Young Canadians are front-and-center in the gig economy, which is the rising shift in shorter-term, contract work from long-term, stable employment. They’re also experiencing high income volatility, meaning the frequency and amount of income that individuals and families rely on is precarious and less predictable. These economic factors are very real, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be understood and overcome.

Generations before millennials adapted to changing economic conditions and created a Canada that’s strong, stable and a beacon of well-being that’s recognized globally. I’m confident our future workforce can and will do the same. To do so, we must collectively change our perception of work and employment. The job structure that we used to think of as "good" may be very different in the years ahead. We must challenge ourselves to re-define – and adapt to – what good looks like in our new economic reality. We must also embrace a sense of moral obligation towards financial literacy.

Financial literacy must be a critical life skill – not simply a nice-to-have. The good news is there are encouraging signs showing that Canada’s future workforce is well positioned:

  • The evolution of our digital world has created a melting pot of fintech innovations that make financial planning convenient and accessible for young Canadians. According to Ernst & Young’s Fintech Adoption Index for 2017, 33% of digitally active consumers between the ages of 25 – 34 are already using fintech products and services for money management and planning purposes. The Canadian Bankers Association recently launched a pilot project with Carrot Rewards to better connect with younger Canadians about financial literacy using mobile technology and gamification.
  • The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducts a well-recognized global education survey called the Program for International Student Assessment. In its most recent edition, which included more than 500,000 students throughout the world, Canadian 15-year-olds ranked well above the OECD average in financial literacy.
  • We are witnessing a surge in private and public sector collaboration dedicated to financial innovation and literacy. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is executing a National Strategy for Financial Literacy and it created a new, expert steering committee to guide its financial literacy efforts with a key goal of helping all Canadians plan their finances based on their unique situations.

There’s much more being done – and much more that can be done. Helping the next generations “get it right” will take all of us. It’s up to millennials to understand the changing nature of work in Canada and how to live within their means today and tomorrow. It’s the duty of older generations to educate younger Canadians based on their experience: what to do and what not to do.

Most importantly, we need to look beyond the term “financial literacy” and recognize that we, as individuals, need to embrace lifelong financial education.

Educators, regulators, financial institutions and associations like the CBA must put in place the right knowledge streams and tools to create a culture of financial education for future generations. We need to focus not only on the content of financial education, but the context. Our programming should be designed for real people and diverse audiences. Because financial education itself isn’t the end goal. We’re working towards inspiring confidence in financial matters through every stage of life. That confidence carries a powerful ability to change behaviour and secure better outcomes for all Canadians.

That’s a powerful silver lining.

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