Actuaries Contribute to Financial Literacy

By Nancy Yake, FCIA

The actuarial profession is making a difference to the financial literacy of Canadians.

Over the past couple of years the Actuarial Foundation of Canada (AFC) has embarked on an initiative to develop new partnerships with organizations that are active in the financial literacy arena in Canada, such as the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) and the Investor Education Fund (IEF). Working with its new partners, the AFC plans to target projects that will benefit from combining actuarial expertise with the partner’s resources to deliver more meaningful financial literacy programs to Canadians. In this way the AFC will help improve the public’s awareness and understanding of important consumer financial issues that have an actuarial component.

Investor Education Fund

The IEF is a non-profit organization set up by the Ontario Securities Commission. Its goal is to help consumers make better financial decisions.

A recent AFC initiative with the IEF focused on recording a series of informational videos on retirement and health care issues. They were posted on the Globe and Mail’s website in June, and are available for viewing by all Canadians. Three relate to health care issues in retirement and feature discussions between Ellen Whelan, an actuary representing the AFC, and Rob Carrick, a personal finance columnist for the Globe and Mail. Ms. Whelan is an experienced health care actuary with a commitment to improve financial education for Canadian youth. Mr. Carrick has been writing about investing, business, and economics for more than two decades. Together they explore and discuss key health care issues for Canadians to consider when planning for their retirement.

Viewers will become more aware of a number of health topics that can have a significant impact on their financial planning and their financial security in retirement. During their recorded discussions, Ellen Whelan and Rob Carrick address issues such as:

These videos can be viewed here.

Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

The FCAC is an independent organization established by the federal government, and has a vision of empowering Canadian financial consumers.

Over the last several months, the AFC has contributed volunteer expertise to the agency’s projects to update and improve parts of the FCAC website. The site includes a number of useful financial literacy resources for consumers, including a series on various life events and their financial implications.

Al Edwards, an actuary representing the AFC, provided comments to the FCAC’s update of a module related to planning your retirement. It and the companion module Living in Retirement offer good general information for retirees and those moving towards retirement. During this review, Mr. Edwards relied not only on his background as an actuary, but also his professional experience with financial services and his personal experience as an early retiree. He noted that much of his input related to the importance of considering health-related expenses, especially for those electing early retirement or those living out of their home province, and the importance of financial planning on an after-tax basis. He also pointed out that the Living in Retirement series appropriately positions retirement planning as an ongoing process and not as a one-time event.

The updated and improved advice is now posted on the FCAC website.


Ellen Whelan and Al Edwards have made a difference to financial literacy in Canada, and have achieved both professional and personal satisfaction from volunteer jobs well done.

These recent projects reflect the continuing success of the partnerships that the AFC has developed with other organizations. It is anticipated that these partnerships will continue to meld the expertise of actuaries with the resources and scope of other organizations to enhance financial literacy in Canada.

In addition to these new financial literacy initiatives, the AFC continues to support and fund a broad range of programs across Canada that target youth math education for all ages, from pre-school to university, as well as to fund various public policy research studies. For information on the AFC and the wide range of programs that it supports, or to make a donation, visit its website.

By supporting the AFC with their time and their donations, actuaries can and do make a difference in the areas of youth education, financial literacy, and public policy research.

Nancy Yake, FCIA, is a past secretary of the AFC.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires