With ‘Blue Monday’ around the corner, finances are on many people’s minds

January often ushers in optimism and for many, money and finances are high on the wish list

By Krista Sylvester | January 13, 2022 |5:00 am

Money Matters programs are a great way for adults to get more control of their finances. Improved financial literacy is often a New Year's resolution for many people.

Photo: ABC Life Literacy Canada

Another January, another Blue Monday on the horizon. 

Blue Monday, known as the most depressing day of the year, falls on the third Monday of January. 

While there are several factors of why it’s deemed as such — including the cold weather and short days — one of the biggest reasons is that it’s also the time people start getting their credit card bills from the holiday season. 

The start of a New Year ushers in optimism and for many, money and finances are high on the wish list. 

In fact, 4 in 10 Canadians report that money is a daily concern and a third of low-income Canadians report that they worry about money almost constantly, according to numbers from the ABC Life Literacy. 

Mind on my money, and money on my mind 

The continuing pandemic has heightened this concern for those struggling with basic financial literacy skills, says Elizabeth Robinson, ABC Life Literacy Canada director of programs. 

“January is a time of year when a lot of people are thinking about their finances, maybe they’ve set a new year’s resolution to finally pay down their debt, or get their finances in order or set up a budget,” Robinson says. 

“Thinking about the anxiety around your debt, there’s some concrete things that you can do to sort of help manage that even if you’re not in a position to pay down the debt immediately.”

Robinson says it’s important to know you’re not alone. 

“The first thing that we always recommend is, don’t try to handle this by yourself, talk to someone; a friend or family member that you trust, maybe you have an advisor or mentor,” she says, adding there are also many free credit counselling services available. 

“Don’t try to handle the problem on your own, definitely find someone to talk to.”

Swimming with the sharks 

A 2018 study found that Albertans are so uncomfortable with the topic of financial literacy, roughly the same number would choose to be tested on their financial literacy (12%) as would choose to swim with sharks (9%).

The same study, commissioned by the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), also discovered that half of Albertan respondents (53%) described feelings of anxiousness, stress, insecurity, feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed when it comes to their financial future.

Published in November for Financial Literacy Month, the Zolo survey of about 1,400 Canadians found more than 51% of Alberta respondents were very confident in their financial knowledge — the highest among provinces.

“We’ve found in our work that the more confident you feel about your finances, it actually correlates pretty strongly with feeling less stressed about your finances and making smarter choices,” Robinson says. 

“So, it’s a great sign that people are feeling confident, and they’re more likely to make good choices.” 

Despite the positive results, Robinson says there is still work to be done. 

“The little bit of a downside here is that the confidence didn’t quite match on the scale. Sometimes there’s a little bit of a gap between how confident we feel and how much we know,” she adds. 

How to tackle those challenges 

Robinson says one step Calgarians should do is make a list in their quest to tackle their financial challenges. 

“Sometimes, people become worried and scared and they kind of don’t want to know the truth about their financial picture. It just seems too overwhelming,” she says. 

Robinson says a great place to start is writing down your income, your expenses, and your debt to get a clearer picture. 

“That’s a really great place to start from because you can know you’re making good decisions when you have all the information that you want in front of you.”

Robinson says it’s normal to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about financial situations. 

“That first step of admitting that you don’t know everything about your money, or that you’re worried about your debt can be the hardest part,” she says, adding traditional school curriculum doesn’t always cover everything you need to know. 

“There’s a shame associated with not knowing … because ‘I’m an adult, and I should know these things already.’ So, there’s a lot of shame and stigma.” 

There is a wide variety of programs available to those looking to enhance their financial literacy, including local Money Matters programs. In 2021, Money Matters had 48 workshops in Calgary reaching 950 adult learners.

Here is more information about the Money Matters programs. 

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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