Courtesy of the St. FX University News

Dr. Mary Oxner (Centre) and student research assistants Michael Livingstone (Left) and Kara Pictou. Photo by St. FX

A project to develop a financial literacy program sensitive to the needs and financial decisions of youth in a local First Nations community has netted a team of StFX researchers led by business professor Dr. Mary Oxner a $62,218 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Outreach Grant.

“The purpose of the grant is to prepare a program for the Paqtnkek First Nation community to address financial literacy issues that youth aged 18 to 35 have,” says Dr. Oxner, the principal investigator.

Co-investigators include business professors Drs. Tom Mahaffey and Ken MacAulay, and Dr. Joanne Tompkins from StFX’s Faculty of Education.

Dr. Oxner says financial literacy – the ability to discern financial choices, discuss money and financial issues, plan for the future, and respond to life events – is low everywhere across the country.

Policy makers in Canada have identified that a financial literacy strategy for Canada is a necessity, she says. Recent initiatives have centered on improving financial literacy through educational programs. Programs have been developed to improve the financial literacy of high school-aged youth, the economically disadvantaged, investors, new parents, and retirees.

This project, she says, extends a community-based, financial literacy program begun by StFX business faculty in 2004, to now target First Nations youth, a growing segment of the population who face significant financial decisions which have long-term consequences. In particular, she says, a financial literacy educational strategy needs to address the uniqueness of the financial decision scenarios faced by First Nations people.

This summer, she hired two students, Michael Livingstone, a fourth year accounting student from Kentville, NS, and Kara Pictou, an arts student from Paqtnkek First Nation, NS, as research assistants. They spent the summer compiling a comprehensive review of available information, as well as looking at characteristics of First Nation communities to gain some understanding on structural factors that would have impact on decisions.

The next phase of the project will involve a focus group this fall to identify financial decision scenarios that First Nations youth are likely to encounter, and the kind of information they would like to help with those decisions.

Dr. Oxner says the team will then develop a curriculum that addresses scenarios identified by extracting and adapting information and tools from already developed curricula and literature. A second focus group will then bring this curriculum back to the community for input.

When all the steps are in place, Dr. Oxner says they will deliver a series of financial literacy workshops for youth, disseminate the curriculum and workshops through traditional print media and online and interactive content; and disseminate the findings of curriculum evaluations to the appropriate community partners as part of a larger discussion of broad-based strategies to improve the financial literacy of First Nations youth.

She says community members are very interested in having a program developed.

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