Money: Building a strong financial foundation for your life in Canada

by FCAC

One of the cornerstones of your new life in Canada is a strong financial base. There is a wide variety of financial products and services to choose from, and the competition for customers can be fierce. You may feel that you need to hurry, but choose carefully and remember: the decisions you make now could have long-term costs, so shop around for financial services and products that suit your needs.

Where to begin

A good starting point is the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC). Set up by the Government of Canada in 2001, the Agency offers free and objective publications, tip sheets and other resources to help consumers make informed choices when they manage their personal finances.

A budget to help you plan

An important first step is to prepare a budget. Keeping track of your expenses and income will help you stay on top of your cash flow. Our tip sheet, Making a Budget and Sticking to It, includes a budget worksheet and suggestions on ways to achieve your financial goals. Once you have a budget, you can start looking into how you are going to manage your money.

Before you open a bank account, or apply for a credit card or mortgage, check out our website at fcac.gc.ca. You will find lots of handy information, tips and interactive tools to help you learn more about the different financial products and services available in Canada.

Our publications give the facts you need

You have the right to open a bank account as long as you have the required identification as listed in our publication "Opening a Personal Bank Account". Our credit card and mortgage publications also contain a wealth of information that will answer your questions. They are written in a clear, easy-to-read style to help you quickly find what you need. There is also information on your rights and responsibilities as a consumer, and what you can do if you have a complaint about a financial institution regulated by the federal government.

Our online tools let you personalize your search

The Agency’s website has several calculators and tools to help you with your search for financial products and services. FCAC's Banking Package Selector Tool has information about more than 150 types of chequing and savings bank accounts. Some allow you to bank for free online, at bank machines or in the branch; others charge fees or require you to keep a minimum amount of money in the account to avoid paying fees. If you plan to use a debit card a lot, you may be interested in a banking package that gives you a greater number of free transactions.

The Credit Card Selector Tool has details on approximately 250 credit cards available in Canada, including more than 70 that charge no annual fee, as well as premium and specialized cards. The Mortgage Qualifier Tool will help you determine whether you can qualify for a home mortgage, based on your income and expenses. Then, our Mortgage Calculator projects your mortgage payments and suggests a payment schedule.

Success stories — see what others have done

Our website includes video testimonials from Canadians who have used our tools for themselves or to teach others how to manage their money.

Ashley Reid talks about how she used the Credit Card Payment Calculator to reduce the amount of fees and interest she was paying on her credit card. The Mortgage Qualifier helped her realize that she would have to put off her dream of buying a home a little longer.

Rodney Noriega got into debt because of student loans and credit card spending. Then he discovered the FCAC website and tried out the online tools. They helped him understand interest rates, service fees, the benefits and risks of credit cards, and ultimately how to beat his debt.

Counsellors in Toronto and Montréal share their experiences of assisting new immigrants, with the support of FCAC resources. Monica Daga, herself an immigrant, tells her own story of how she ran up debts and gradually paid them off. Brian Smith talks about the pressures felt by young visible minorities arriving in Canada, and he explains how he uses the FCAC tools to help these people cope.

Ready to build your financial foundation? Want to access the tools and read the tip sheets and publications available from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada? Visit the FCAC website at www.fcac.gc.ca or call us toll-free at 1 866 461 3222.