Canadian banks failing to help customers understand personal finances - survey

Source: BMO Financial Group

Canadians say financial institutions need to do a better job of helping them understand their personal finances, according to a national survey by BMO Financial Group.

The BMO Financial Pulse survey, conducted by Harris/Decima indicates:

  • Four in ten survey respondents, 41 per cent, believe financial institutions make money matters more complicated.

"While the survey showed a large number of Canadians turn to banks for information or advice, there is a huge opportunity for financial institutions to improve on helping people make sense of their money," said Dr. Sherry Cooper, Chief Economist, BMO Financial Group, and author of the best selling book The New Retirement: How It Will Change Our Future.

Financial planning and preparedness is in the details

The survey findings indicate Canadians have a good grasp of financial concepts, but don't necessarily understand how everyday financial decisions can impact their financial plans and preparedness.

  • More than half, 53 per cent, think they need to have a certain income level to warrant a professionally prepared financial plan;
  • Nine in ten Canadians, 94 per cent, could correctly define mutual funds and 91 per cent could define income trusts;
  • Only 50 per cent of Canadians understand the concept of compound interest;
  • More than three-quarters of Canadians, 77 per cent, do not understand that the credit card interest rates on outstanding balances and cash advances are the same.

"Most Canadians say they have an average level of knowledge when it comes to money matters," said Dr. Cooper. "However with recent market volatility and the expanding global financial crisis, it is imperative that Canadian financial institutions do a better job in helping Canadians understand their personal finances."

Canadians want to know more about money matters

Depending on how Canadians view their level of financial knowledge, and depending on their stage in life, the money matters they wish they knew more about are different.

Respondents who believe they have average or below average knowledge of financial matters say they are most concerned about debt reduction and managing monthly debt.

Canadians who said they have above average and average knowledge of financial matters wish they knew more about investment strategies and minimizing taxes.

More young families than Boomers want to know about saving for their child's education, but more Boomers than young families want to know about investment strategies.

About the Survey

The Harris/Decima poll, commissioned by BMO Financial Group, was conducted from September 2 to 8, 2008 and based on a randomly selected sample of 1,000 Canadian adults. Data were collected using Harris/Decima's proprietary online panel. Data have been weighted to ensure the sample is representative of the gender, age, and regional profile of the Canadian population.

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