Financial literacy workshop for Indigenous youth takes a realistic approach

It’s no secret that Millennials and Gen Zs are struggling with money a lot more than their parents’ generation. With lower wages, a high cost of living and record-breaking house prices, today’s youth are faced with many unique challenges.

The average price of a detached house in Canada is just under $750,000, and you’ll need a down payment of $50,000 and a household income of about $120,000 to buy it. If you live in Toronto or Vancouver, you’ll need to make over $220,000 a year to buy a house. With the median household income just $82,436 per year, it’s clear that home ownership may be out of reach for many.

Yet today’s youth are often told that they just need to work harder or cut back on having brunch every weekend in order to afford a house. And frankly, they’re tired of hearing this kind of old-school advice because it’s simply not realistic in today’s economy.

Enter Money Matters, a free introductory financial literacy program for adult learners from ABC Life Literacy Canada. ABC recently worked with Qalipu Cultural Foundation in Newfoundland and Labrador as part of Activate Learning to host two Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples workshops – a suite of workshops tailored at the Indigenous community.

Qalipu Cultural Foundation was formed in 2014 to preserve and promote Mi’kmaw culture and heritage in Newfoundland and Labrador, and to help their people regain knowledge of cultural practice and traditions that were lost due to colonialism. 

The organization offers a variety of programming, including Indigenous Leaders of Tomorrow, which brings together youth under 30 for different training, workshops and presentations over a six-month prior to prepare to become leaders of tomorrow from a cultural lens. 

ABC’s workshop facilitator in Newfoundland and Labrador, Logan St. Croix, facilitated Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples and took a unique approach that was tailored for a youth audience. In one of the workshops, St. Croix said they talked about “cutting down” spending instead of “cutting out” spending, which was really appreciated by the audience.

“Younger folks don’t want to hear the typical cutting out tips, because oftentimes it’s just not possible and it’s not a one-size-fits all approach,” St. Croix says. “People need to be able to take the advice that works for them and leave what doesn’t, so we focused on how to manage our money for the future while also not beating ourselves up for things we might spend money on today.”

This approach was well-received by the learners. One workshop participant indicated:

“I liked discussing the mindset of improving your finances through changes and ‘cutting down’, rather than cutting things out. I find many financial literacy workshops will tell you to cut things out to save money, but that sort of all-or-nothing technique rarely works for people.”

St. Croix said that the workbook used in the workshop also outlined how values match up to needs and wants.

“We discussed how if your budget offers a bit of extra money here and there, and if you value treating yourself to an $8 latte at the end of the day, and it will improve your mental health and not cut into your bills or rent, then it’s okay to do that.”

St. Croix says it’s important for youth to be able to find the balance of saving for the future while still living in the present, and to shift out of the idea that you should be working 45 hours a week and living on noodles just to afford a house in 20 years’ time. It’s important to focus on what’s manageable right now.

The group also discussed why you shouldn’t compare yourself to someone else because everyone has different incomes, circumstances and responsibilities, and are also at different stages in life. For example, a 20-year-old can’t compare themselves to a 40-year-old and a 40-year-old can’t compare themselves to a 40-year-old 20 years ago.

“You have to do what’s right for you in a way that’s practical and manageable,” suggests St. Croix.

Another learner agrees:

“The discussion around not shaming yourself for your money management, and the [facilitator’s] acknowledgment that everyone is working with a different amount of money (not every tip will work for everyone), was VERY refreshing. This is so often overlooked in sessions like this….My main takeaway will be aligning expenses with values [and] making purposeful spending choices.”

St. Croix says the key message in the workshops was about manageability and practicality. There was emphasis on teaching people how to reach their goals, but in a way that was manageable and without starving themselves of joy for years in order to reach said goals.

“When you can create a budget that’s realistic, you’re more likely to follow it and be successful.”

To learn more about the Money Matters program, including Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples, visit