Financial Literacy: Lessons from International Experience


Larry Orton


Canadian Policy Research Networks




The ability to understand, analyze, and use information about financial decisions in day-to-day
life and to plan for the future is important to the well-being of Canadians. Our level of “financial
literacy” affects our ability to provide for our families, to invest in our education and that of our
children, and to contribute to our communities, all important aspects of citizenship in our society.
Difficulties with financial literacy can affect Canadians at all income levels. And the penalty for
financial illiteracy can be severe, especially for low-income families, who stand to lose the most
proportionally from poor financial decisions.
This report, by CPRN Senior Research Fellow Larry Orton, outlines why financial literacy is of
growing importance; reviews the international experience with financial literacy initiatives, with
a focus on the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand; and identifies
what Canada might learn from these programs.
Orton identifies several steps that could improve financial literacy in Canada, including
improving access to and awareness of information on financial decision-making, developing
model curricula for financial education that can be used in the schools and in workplaces, and
taking a closer look at other countries’ best practices. He notes that financial literacy is a longterm
goal that requires an integrated approach involving multiple government programs. And he
identifies viable public policy actions that can be taken to achieve financially literate citizens.

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