Fostering Financial Literacy Among At Risk Youth #CapitalOneEnactus

How old were you when you got your first credit card? I was 19. If you’re expecting a warning story though, this isn’t it. I never maxed out my credit card. I didn’t make credit purchases that I couldn’t really afford. You see, I was fortunate enough to learn financial restraint and literacy at home and in a consumer education course at school. I know this isn’t the case for everyone though, and that’s why financial literacy is a vital life skill for every young person in Canada. Unfortunately, not all young people have the same opportunities to learn these skills. What then?

Some of you may know that in my other life I’m a social worker. Well, for seven years I worked with homeless and at risk youth in downtown Vancouver. Many young people came to our shelter with zero financial or employability skills, and those needs were tremendous obstacles in their journey to self-sufficiency. How do you get a job when you have no idea how to create a resume, fill out a job application, or dress for a job interview? Even if you do end up getting that job, how do you get ahead without knowing how to budget your paycheck to last for two weeks, how to pay bills, how to save for a rainy day, or how to use credit wisely?

The Count on Me Program helps disadvantaged youth learn financial literacy and employability skills.

The Count on Me Program helps disadvantaged youth learn financial literacy and employability skills.

As a Simon Fraser University alum myself, I’m proud to tell you about the Count on Me project going on at SFU right now. This project is near and dear to me, not just because of the SFU link, but because of who the program helps. Count on Me is an Enactus SFU program that seeks to foster both financial literacy and employability skills in disadvantaged youths, empowering them with the tools they need to build their own secure and fulfilling futures. Through this grassroots project, student leaders have directly impacted 41 youth and increased their financial assets by $18,263.

Two trained youth leaders from Enactus SFU facilitate six weekly workshops covering:

  • Goal setting and budgeting,
  • Resumes and cover letters,
  • Banking & saving and credit,
  • Income & taxes, and
  • Job interviews.

This year, the SFU team presented their Count on Me program during the Capital One Financial Education Challenge, where they were chosen as one of the two winning teams from Western Canada! Capital One has sponsored this challenge for five years in partnership with Enactus Canada, encouraging students from across the country to improve financial literacy in their local communities and beyond. By providing financial education to Canadians, Enactus teams are empowering them to make informed, positive financial decisions that will ultimately improve their quality of life.

What is Enactus?

Enactus is a global organization that uses entrepreneurial action as a catalyst for progress and takes to heart the concepts of social entrepreneurship and the triple bottom-line (social, environmental, and financial). Enactus teams all over the world develop innovative programs that address social, environmental and economic needs in their own communities, in an attempt to improve the livelihoods of others.

Here at home, Enactus Canada showcases the impact of teams across the country through regional and national competitions. Regional competitions took place last month, and as I mentioned, Count on Me was one of the two winners from Western Canada! They’ll be competing to be crowned national champion of the Capital One Financial Education Challenge at the national competition on May 3 in Toronto. I hope you’ll join me in cheering them on!


The beauty of the Capital One Financial Education Challenge and the Enactus program is that not only do they help teach young people financial literacy skills, but the students who participate in planning and delivering Enactus programs are building their own skills too. They’re acquiring business skills, learning to take a global perspective, developing sustainable practices, and becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Talk about a win-win!

Help the Enactus SFU team make their program even better by commenting below:

What’s the most important financial lesson you learned as a young adult just starting to manage your own money? Let me know for a chance to be featured in a future post!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation. Nevertheless, all opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ.

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  • My most important financial lesson learned in youth is that minimum wage is too low. Get the experience and then move up and on.

  • I think the major thing I learned when young is you will work at anything to provide for your kids (even if you hate the job, you put them first) and there are things you want in life , and things you need in don’t need that brand new patio set, you don’t need that vacation to Mexico, but you DO need food and shelter!!

  • Banks and credit card companies are ridiculously predatory; I remember getting my first CC when I was 18 years old, within two days of starting university (there was a booth right at the main entrance of uni)… Wish they would outlaw this practice because I saw so many of my friends get into trouble. I will always be grateful to my Nanny for passing on amazing financial literacy to my sister and I growing up; she taught us to save, invest (i.e. make the money work for us and not the banks), give back to society, etc.

  • My most important lesson was to spend less than you make, so you can save.

    I also learned to cut costs on what doesn’t matter as much to you, so you can splurge on what you really care about!

  • This sounds like a great program. The most important lesson I learned was to never spend every single cent that is coming in. It is important to set something aside for just in case.

  • I was exactly like you. I got my CC when I was 19 and headed off to university. I was told it was for online purchases and temporary loans until the next pay day! These were great rules to learn at a young age.

  • When I was young, I learned the importance of saving, but not budgeting… So I became very frugal and tried to save every penny. In the end it served me well, because I was able to graduate from my undergrad free of debt (with some help from my parents). But, budgeting would have served even better and been a lesson that lasted longer.

  • I was always super responsible with money as a teen and young adult too, I think it’s because I started making my own money as young as 12 and I loved loved loved to save. We are trying to teach our boys not to impulse buy but to save for things they really want even at their young ages.

  • So important to teach financial literacy at an early age. We never really discussed money with our kids and it was a big mistake. They grew up not really understanding financial responsibility.

  • It is so important to teach our children from a young age to be responsible with their time and money!

  • I learned to save up for the things I wanted. In university I wanted to go to Europe, but I didn’t use my line of credit to help pay for the trip. I worked, saved up and then went once I had enough money to go.

  • You were so much better then me – I had my credit card for the first time at nineteen and blew the whole amount (don’t even know on what now!). I just never learned the skills that I needed to understand credit, budgeting ,e tc. This is such an important tool for youth that often gets over looked.

  • I was 19 as well but unlike you I maxed my credit card out and only paid the minimums which took forever to pay off. This is so important to teach youth, I wish someone had taught me.

  • Great post! What I learned was …. is this purchase a need or a want. When you can answer this question, often the money stays in your pocket.

  • I think this is a great program and I am so glad to hear about things like this targeting at risk youth because there are massive gaps in our communities that at risk youth fall through otherwise. I got my first credit card and spent the money fast and spent a lot of time paying it back. We were poor growing up and my Mom struggled as a single parent to pay bills. I worked multiple jobs in university just to pay tuition and room and board and really struggled with finances. I wish there had been some guidance at my university or even support for students away from home for the first time. It was a lot of change. In one way though that early lesson was not anything I would wish on my kids BUT it taught me fast that credit cards are hard to pay off. I am much better at managing my money as an adult and I think that was a great lesson for me even though it was a hard one to learn.

  • I learned to distinguish ‘needs’ from ‘wants’ and to try to save for unseen emergencies. I think this program should be compulsory in all high schools. When our children receive credit cards in University, then they hopefully be more responsible in their use of them. Thank you for telling us about this program.