FINANCIAL LITERACY: UNDERSTANDING ITS RELEVANCE IN OUR LIVES
By Marina Rosas
Adapted from Tough Times, May-June, 2017
The key to understanding what it means to be financially literate is being able to relate to the actual meaning of money. Ask yourself: “What are my values, feelings and thoughts about money?”
Consider how it can improve your life and how your level of confidence and skills can help you establish goals to overcome financial hardship.
With over 222,000 people in the Region of Peel experiencing poverty and struggling to live each and every day, many are in need of affordable housing, emergency shelter, food, and financial security.
To overcome this, people are encouraged to build on their independence and the best way is to know what your options are to gain financial security and establish a means to obtain money.
Money: does it mean power, time, wealth…?
Does it mean everything to you, or nothing at all?
The world revolves around money and it’s your job to discover how you can have access to it and wisely manage it. Let’s look at one very important aspect: what possible income is at your fingertips and what programs and benefits are there to support it
Income, benefits and tax credits
As a Settlement/Employment Counsellor, I often tell my clients to set SMART goals in their job search. And to set goals relating to money.
You can help yourself gain income through employment readiness and access to government income!
Employment readiness: Are you employable? What skills do you have? Do you have an education? If not, get ready to work! Look for programs in the Region of Peel to facilitate your job search and en-able you to stay in a job, such as programs offering skills-matching and career decision services, work skills improvement, language training, adult learning with in-class training and practicum placements, as well as volunteering.
If you’re thinking of going back to school, some programs provide grants, bursaries and scholarships, or financial assistance through loans. Some programs can only be accessed while on social assistance. Explore your options, ask questions and seek appropriate assistance.
Government Income: Access to Ontario government benefits is also a way to obtain money, so you must stay current with filing your taxes, allowing the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate your benefits and tax returns based on income and expenses report-ed each year. Once filed, money can be collected by claiming a number of credits and benefits, including income tax credits and support for parents, students and seniors, among others.
Possible benefits include:
Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB): a refundable tax credit for individuals and families with low income;
GST/ HST Credit: Tax-free quarterly payment that helps families and individuals with low or modest income offset all or part of the GST or HST they have paid;
Retirement income: Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement: You may get a monthly benefit when you reach age 65 or receive supplemental income if you have a low retirement income;
Canada Pension Plan provides a monthly benefit to people who have contributed during their working lives;
Registered Retirement Savings Plan: holds savings and investment assets for retirement by employees and self-employed people.
Childcare Financial Support: government subsidies and grants to help pay for child care or to support children with special needs. Some benefits include Ontario Childcare Subsidy, Ontario Child Benefit, Ontario Child Care Supplement, Universal Child Care Benefit and Canada Child Tax Benefit.
Ontario Disability Support Program: if you have a disability, you may be eligible for this program; it assists you and your family with essential living expenses, from prescription drugs, to vision care, job search and retention and career advancement.
Many more benefits are available to cover the needs and circumstances of individuals and families across the Region of Peel and all across Ontario. To get a better idea of the benefits and tax credits you may qualify for, visit www.canadabenefits.gc.ca and www.ontario.ca/page/tax-credit-calculator to complete questionnaires and receive a customized list of benefits you may be eligible for or an estimate on how much money you could receive when filing your tax return.
To help out with the costs of filing your taxes, Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario, in partnership with community agencies, also holds free tax clinics every year during the tax filing season through the Tax Preparation Assistance Program. This program al-lows for volunteer Chartered Professional Accountants to prepare personal tax returns for low-income individuals and families all across Ontario.
The bottom line to Financial Literacy is to explore your options, plan ahead and make decisions that will benefit your financial well-being in the future. Just be aware that you don’t have to do it alone. Help is available.
Marina Rosas is a settlement/employment counsellor with Peel Career Assessment Services Inc. in Mississauga.
Phone (905) 670-1967 or email email@example.com