CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA
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December 2013

Actuarial Contribution Strengthens Financial Literacy Tool

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Marc-André Vinson, ACIA

Canadians now have a valuable online tool to help them plan for later life, thanks in part to a member of the CIA, plus the Actuarial Foundation of Canada (AFC).

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) launched its Financial Goal Calculator last month following meetings involving agency staff and CIA Associate Marc-André Vinson. The extensive online tool shows people how to get out of debt, or save for retirement or some other goal, by calculating their current position and needs and providing straightforward advice and answers to financial questions.

The CIA’s involvement followed a request from the AFC, which works to—among other things—advance public understanding of financial and risk-related matters.

Mr. Vinson, national retirement practice leader at Buck Consultants, explained: "The CIA asked me to participate as I had done similar work in the past. The FCAC was trying to build a model integrating financial planning and looking at things like household debt and retirement. There are a lot of retirement modellers about, but not many that combine all those things while showing where savings must be directed.

"The FCAC had had other modellers, and gained really good traction. They had a skeletal version of the new tool, but wanted more meat around the actuarial aspects of it. I reviewed what they had and provided some input on what they needed to be asking while limiting the information they required from the users. That was the first step, and then they built a more elaborate version so that we could kick the tires and try to complete it.

"They had a very good goal, of releasing it in November—Financial Literacy Month. They wanted to hear how people reacted to the tool and used it so they could scale it up in its next iteration. You need to get the views of the user so you can adapt to their needs."

The project was a great and rewarding experience, Mr. Vinson added. "The FCAC sought help where they had weaknesses, and I was glad to be a part of it. It’s definitely something I would be involved in again. Anything we can do to make people more sensitive to retirement topics is worth doing. Most people do not like to get their heads around it, but we can really help."

He said the calculator’s simplicity was the key to its success: "You want people to use it, and if it is too intimidating they will give up. The FCAC have proven they can make it simple enough and useful enough, and we're very happy with it."

Bob Sharkey, Chair of the AFC, said: "The FCAC commissioner thanked the foundation during her speech at the tool launch event. The FCAC’s press release acknowledges the assistance of the AFC and includes a link to its webpage.

"This type of positive portrayal of the AFC and the actuarial profession is an integral part of every program supported by the AFC.

"The FCAC has indicated a strong interest in future collaboration with volunteer actuaries, and the AFC is actively pursuing this prospect. In addition to the FCAC, other leading agencies in the financial literacy arena have been approached and other ideas for collaboration are under review.

"In conclusion, the AFC is working hard on initiatives that hold considerable promise, especially in the field of youth math education and financial literacy, where there is a strong link to the actuarial profession. Together with its ongoing programs, the AFC meets its philanthropic goals and promotes the positive image of the actuarial profession in youth education, financial literacy, and research."

Don’t miss January’s (e)Bulletin for a broader look at the AFC and its work.


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