Demonstrating value: Reflecting on financial communication for youth

August 14 was National Financial Awareness Day, a day dedicated to the importance of money management.

As a 25-year-old corporate communications consultant who currently belongs to the nearly half of Canadian renters who worry they will never be able to afford a house, the idea of managing my finances to prepare for the future feels daunting.

My passion for corporate communications – particularly in the finance sector – was borne out of the pandemic, where I grew to appreciate the role of financial institutions in supporting with the execution of government programs such as CERB and helping small business owners keep their doors open in tough times.

In the past year at Argyle, I’ve had the opportunity to work on financial communications campaigns targeted toward youth like me who are navigating the current economy with limited financial literacy skills. We partnered with TikTok influencer Naomi Leanage last Fall to create a Desjardins FinTalks video series with financial tips for youth.

Developing the strategy for this campaign uncovered a larger question: how can financial brands prove their value to young adults in these difficult times – earning affinity, building lifelong customer relationships, and strengthening social cohesion?

Understanding financial priorities for young professionals

I consider myself lucky to have a steady income and to be splitting my rent with a partner who does as well. Even so, I’ve noticed we seem to be saving less as the cost of living goes up. We’re spending more on groceries than ever before and I worry about how keeping our portable AC on while I work from home is affecting our hydro bills. At the same time, I also want to be able to go out with friends, plan trips, and buy new clothes for my semi-regular trips to the office without feeling guilty. After all, it’s been more than two years (a good chunk of my early twenties!) without being able to treat myself in these ways.

I believe I feel similarly to other young professionals in that my financial priorities already seem to be at odds with each other, meaning I haven’t been confident in my ability to plan financially for the future. The current state of the economy doesn’t help either: topics like the recession, inflation, and the precarious housing market are dominating the news cycle, contributing to an overall sense of uncertainty. For example, I’ve received conflicting advice when it comes to investing – some have suggested investing is necessary because savings accounts are losing money due to inflation, while others say now is not the time to start investing because markets are too unstable. It feels like there is no clear path to sound financial management.

Using communications tools to build financial empowerment

The Desjardins FinTalks video series was top of mind when I first heard about National Financial Awareness Day. We launched this program last November to align with Financial Literacy Month and sought to empower youth to feel more confident in managing their finances. To make our content more accessible, we started with the basics. Naomi created videos on budgeting, saving, and investing with resources provided by a Desjardins advisor. Many of these tips resonated with me personally, including the following:

  • Whenever possible, make food and drinks at home instead of eating out

  • Grocery shop with a specific list (and on a full stomach!) to avoid impulsive purchases

  • Take advantage of cheaper transportation and entertainment alternatives such as public transit and libraries

  • Set up automatic transfers to dedicated savings accounts, such as TFSAs

  • Start with small, achievable savings goals before working up to bigger ones

  • Investing is a good financial habit to develop over time – education is the first step

We received a bronze CPRS award for Marketing Communications Campaign of the Year for this video series, but in addition to the above tips, what has really stayed with me is the concept of financial empowerment.

To me, financial empowerment means feeling confident in navigating the resources available to you to make your finances work for you. Although external forces such as inflation may be impacting me right now, I know I can start small when it comes to saving and budgeting to build habits that will serve me in the future – no matter what it looks like.

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