by an (not too) Old Accountant, Michael L. Crawford, BA (Hons), CMA

When the editors of CNMAG approached me to write this article, they asked for “financial tips” for young people and keep it to around 400 words. That is like being asked to write a brief history of the British Navy. On the one hand, a difficult task; on the other, a lot of material with which to work.

As an accountant, over the years in business and private practice, I have seen the same mistakes repeated time and time again. Here are some of things I wish young people knew:

Bank Account

Every person in the country should have a bank account. From the day they are born or arrive in Canada it should be one of an individual’s first tasks to open an account. Banks give out lots of free advice and information; your deposits are insured up to $100,000.

If you have a job or receive government benefits, there is no easier or more efficient method to receive your money than Direct Deposit.

All Banks and Trust Companies in Canada can also accept and offer Interac (or direct debit) services. This eliminates the need to carry large sums of cash and may help cut down on impulse purchases.

Cheque Cashing Services/Payday Loans

Cheque Cashing/Payday Loan companies while – they seem convenient – are no friend to the consumer and have even had their share of legal troubles. The interest rates and/or fees they charge for their services don’t seem very high, until you consider them on an annual basis and discover that they are very high indeed.

Interest rates are at historical lows in Canada and these companies should be avoided at all costs when it comes to borrowing money. One can argue that these companies do provide some valuable services such as money transfers and prepaid credit cards – but they are definitely not the place to cash cheques or get loans.

Tax Returns

Young people come to my practice in one of two ways. First, their parents, who require them to file in order to determine the amount of tuition the parents can transfer to their own returns. Second, a request, or worse, a demand to file a return(s) from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). In both cases about 80 percent of the time these young people are entitled to refunds, especially students.

The tax return isn’t just about income tax. It is also a link to a number of other benefits, Sales Tax Credits, Property Tax Credits (even if you are a renter), Child Tax Credits and the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Credit. However, you have to file your return in order to receive these benefits. And another thing, all of these benefits are tax free. What could be better?

This article is for general information purposes only. For your specific situation please contact a financial professional, tax consultant or the appropriate government agency.

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The Youth Skills Link program has funded projects in Ontario. In 2004, it funded the Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) Reuse It program in London, Ontario, which helped youth facing barriers to employment gain work experience in recycling and waste management service. The project included the manufacturing and sales of goods from recycled materials. Throughout the placement, the participants attended employability workshops to improve their job readiness.

In February, 2009, Bermo Management Services in Orléans, Ontario announced that they will be receiving $213,637 in federal funding through the Government of Canada’s Skills Link program to establish the Jeunes Entrepreneurs Bermo project.

"This project will enable 10 individuals to participate and succeed in the job market by providing them with the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and work experience needed to become entrepreneurs," said Ottawa-Orléans MP Royal Galipeau.

The Skills Link Program continues to support worthy projects across Canada, as it has done for many years.