Photo: CPP Investment Board
A second-year criminology student at the University of Manitoba and aspiring lawyer, Couvier has already made a contribution, albeit modest, to a tax-free savings account, and dreamed about how she’d like to stop working in her fifties, freeing up time to volunteer instead.
“It’s a goal of mine to have enough money to retire early and still be active within the community,” Couvier says in a break between classes, “being able to volunteer instead of working.”
Couvier’s uniquely mature approach to personal finance has been influenced by two main factors. First is her maternal grandmother, who still works as a supervisor in a hospital kitchen, partly by choice and partly out of necessity, at the age of 62.
“I would prefer not to put my body through that,” Couvier says. “I’d prefer to use my time as I want to.”
The second reason Couvier has the wherewithal to tackle long-term financial planning while still in her teenage years is a groundbreaking grade 11 class she took in her tiny hometown of Birtle, Manitoba. The class, pioneered and taught by educator and author Kyle Prevost, has introduced Couvier and dozens of other students to the sometimes dizzying world of personal finance, giving them an important headstart on a securing a more stable, stress-free future.
Financial Literacy Should Be A Priority
Besides planning for the financial realities of post-secondary education, students learn about the pitfalls of credit card debt, what’s involved in getting a mortgage, the ins and outs of insurance, and saving for retirement, among other subjects.
“I’ve kept in contact with most of the people from that class,” Couvier says. “We all feel quite fortunate to have taken it and gained some of this knowledge. It’s really beneficial to start thinking about this stuff as early as you can.”
Besides teaching, Prevost has written several books and maintains a blog, Young and Thrifty, that articulates the principles of personal finance to young people. He takes pride in showing teens how to improve their lives by achieving independence and well-being through financial stability.
“If you have a grounding in personal finance, you can actually be a much more effective citizen,” Prevost says, “because you understand these big-picture ideas that are being talked about all the time.”
Prevost’s lessons occasionally produce some memorable reactions, particularly when he demonstrates the power compounding can have on the long-term growth of savings and investments.
“I had one student who wasn’t the most numerically literate,” Prevost recalls. “He actually ran out into the hall and was calling his friends in from other classrooms, saying ‘Hey, you need to come and see this.’ He thought it was like magic.”
Understanding your finances with your first paycheque
Prevost’s students also tend to have pronounced reactions after receiving their first paycheque from a part-time job. What starts with heated questions about deductions soon turns into an eye-opening primer on the merits of the Canada Pension Plan.
“They’re like ‘Why is the government taking my money?’” Prevost says. “Then, of course, you try to explain what CPP does, what employment insurance does, and here’s what you get in return. You try to teach them about balance and why CPP works. We have to put some money aside when we’re younger if we’re going to get these payouts for the last 30 years of our life. Generally, at that point, they’re much more supportive.”
Since its founding more than half a century ago, the Canada Pension Plan has been providing a foundational retirement income to Canadians from coast to coast to coast. For the past 19 years, CPP’s long-term viability has been ensured by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, an independent organization that invests CPP assets not currently needed to pay benefits. With a focus on holding a diverse basket of low to high-risk assets, and both the time and patience to think long-term, CPPIB has more than doubled the value of CPP’s assets, generating a 10-year net real rate of return of 9.1 percent.
“We play an important role in contributing to a stable base upon which Canadians can build financial security in retirement, and we take that responsibility seriously,” says Michel Leduc, CPPIB’s Senior Managing Director of Public Affairs and Communications.
Grateful for the lessons she’s already learned and begun to put into practice, Couvier plans to keep taking her financial situation seriously, too.
“Being able to kind of understand some of these things at a young age and know what you need to do moving forward so it’s not a rush is really comforting,” she says. “It has definitely provided the tools to help us make our own future.”