Building financial literacy among the younger generations

Financial literacy

Practical information to promote a better understanding of financial management in key age demographics.


Laying the groundwork for financial literacy among the younger generations is a front-and-centre concern for families and society as a whole. Not only is it valuable for helping youth develop a strong sense of effective financial management as they move forward in life, but it also helps families adequately and successfully prepare for and carry out the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. From childhood through to early adulthood, it’s a combination of age-appropriate education, resources, and concepts that form the foundation of long-term skills and values.

Instilling financial value in tweens and early teens

Parents of children between the ages of 10 and 13 know very well that these years are filled with a number of changes and development. From a financial standpoint, youth at this stage have a growing ability to understand principles of saving and spending beyond just the basics, into longer-term goals. As such, three main areas parents should focus on are earning, saving and responsible spending.

At this stage, it can be very motivating for kids to develop an entrepreneurial plan for an age-appropriate business. Encourage your children to come up with creative ideas for earning their own money as an introduction into the financial world and to help them attach a value to dollars earned. If you haven’t done so already, talk to your child about opening a personal bank account and help them follow through on researching an account that caters to children to help them better conceptualize saving and everyday banking.

Exposing kids of this age to family wealth planning is another beneficial way to help them grasp the ideas of setting budgets and planning for financial goals. All types of financial transactions, from shopping and paying bills to planning significant purchases and vacations, will broaden their knowledge of the components that go into overall financial management and provide insights into how to be a smart consumer and saver.

Another relevant area of focus during these years is introducing philanthropy and the notion that part of being money smart includes giving back to the community and those in need. An ideal starting point is helping your child research causes they are passionate about or local charities to support through their school or sports team.

girl looking in shopping-bags

Helping teenagers understand wealth planning and decision making

In a society that favours immediacy, the mentality of “I want what I want when I want it” is one that can be common among teenagers. This tendency to think only in the short-term reinforces the value of providing youth in this age range with education about—and exposure to—a higher level of financial concepts, including budgeting, basic credit, and investing.

While laws regarding working age vary slightly among different provinces and territories, most teens are legally able to start working between 14 and 16 years old. Once your teenager secures a part-time job, review the “save, spend, share” concept, helping them decide how to allocate their paycheque and decide on amounts or percentages to automatically set aside for savings, personal spending and charitable giving.

For some parents and guardians, the thought of teenagers being responsible enough to handle credit can be unsettling. However, engraining the basics of how credit works and using it responsibly is well-served to help teens prepare for the financial independence that will hopefully come as they enter adulthood. The key is being proactive—assist in the research process about annual fees, spending limits, and interest fees, and be sure to focus on conversations about spending only what they can afford, making payments on time and how credit ratings impact current and future financial health.

father son online purchase

Shifting into financial management as a young adult

For post-secondary students and young adults new to the workforce, there is great value in learning how to put together and maintain a detailed budget. The RBC Student Budget Calculator may be a useful tool in this regard, walking users through step by step to capture all expenses and income. Grasping the concept of budgeting can help build a better understanding of the importance of saving and investing as part of overall wealth planning to reach individual financial goals.

For those in their twenties, it’s an important time to be thinking about and planning for life-changing events that come with the shift into adulthood. Whether it’s further education, marriage, a house, children, or aging parents/grandparents, these events need to be considered as young adults plan for wealth in the near future.

Part of this planning includes being informed about the purposes and benefits of short- and long-term investment options as a means to take the right steps toward building a healthy financial future. A good starting point is an education around the differences between registered and non-registered accounts, as well as the purposes and benefits of each. For going beyond the basics, a financial advisor is the best resource to provide detailed information about strategies such as growing investments in a tax-sheltered environment via RRSPs, TFSAs and FHSAs, or saving for shorter-term goals with stocks, bonds, mutual funds or GICs.

This document has been prepared for use by the RBC Wealth Management member companies, RBC Dominion Securities Inc.*, RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc., RBC Global Asset Management Inc., Royal Trust Corporation of Canada and The Royal Trust Company (collectively, the “Companies”) and their affiliate, Royal Mutual Funds Inc. (RMFI). *Member – Canada Investor Protection Fund. Each of the Companies, RMFI and Royal Bank of Canada are separate corporate entities which are affiliates. “RBC advisor” refers to Private Bankers who are employees of Royal Bank of Canada and licensed representatives of RMFI, Investment Counsellors who are employees of RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc. and the private client division of RBC Global Asset Management Inc., Senior Trust Advisors and Trust Officers who are employees of The Royal Trust Company or Royal Trust Corporation of Canada, or Investment Advisors who are employees of RBC Dominion Securities Inc. In Quebec, financial planning services are provided by RMFI which is licensed as a financial services firm in that province. In the rest of Canada, financial planning services are available through RMFI, Royal Trust Corporation of Canada, The Royal Trust Company, or RBC Dominion Securities Inc. Estate and trust services are provided by Royal Trust Corporation of Canada and The Royal Trust Company. If specific products or services are not offered by one of the Companies, clients may request a referral to another RBC partner. The strategies, advice and technical content in this publication are provided for the general guidance and benefit of our clients, based on information believed to be accurate and complete, but neither the Companies, RMFI, nor Royal Bank of Canada, nor any of its affiliates nor any other person can guarantee accuracy or completeness. This publication is not intended as nor does it constitute tax or legal advice. Readers should consult a qualified legal, tax or other professional advisor when planning to implement a strategy. This will ensure that their individual circumstances have been considered properly and that action is taken on the latest available information. Interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change. This information is not investment advice and should only be used in conjunction with a discussion with your RBC advisor. None of the Companies, RMFI, Royal Bank of Canada nor any of its affiliates nor any other person accepts any liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this report or the information contained herein. In certain branch locations, one or more of the Companies may carry on business from premises shared with other Royal Bank of Canada affiliates. Notwithstanding this fact, each of the Companies is a separate business and personal information and confidential information relating to client accounts can only be disclosed to other RBC affiliates if required to service your needs, by law or with your consent. Under the RBC Code of Conduct, RBC Privacy Principles and RBC Conflict of Interest Policy confidential information may not be shared between RBC affiliates without a valid reason.

® / TM Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. RBC Wealth Management is a registered trademark of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under licence. © 2024 Royal Bank of Canada. All rights reserved. Printed in Canada.

RBC Wealth Management is a business segment of Royal Bank of Canada. Please click the “Legal” link at the bottom of this page for further information on the entities that are member companies of RBC Wealth Management. The content in this publication is provided for general information only and is not intended to provide any advice or endorse/recommend the content contained in the publication.

® / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under licence. © Royal Bank of Canada 2024. All rights reserved.

Let’s connect

We want to talk about your financial future.

Related articles

Financial advice from our women leaders to the next generation

Financial literacy 7 minute read
- Financial advice from our women leaders to the next generation

Financial planning tips for millennials

Financial literacy 8 minute read
- Financial planning tips for millennials

Six financial literacy principles

Financial literacy 13 minute read
- Six financial literacy principles