• Rehan Vasi

The Financial Conundrum

Case for International Students in Canada

"Banks should tell us how to save money and take care of our financial health. I didn't know the impact of having a good credit score in this country"

- Sabster Bajwa, an International student in Toronto, ON

There are approximately 725,000 international students currently enrolled across Canada. Once a student lands in this country, they have a matter of days to open a bank account, which by the way takes about 30 mins on average, involves signing an agreement that we all completely understand right? and also receiving a shiny new credit card. The account is then conveniently created, papers are signed and the student is now into the void, to start a new life without understanding the terms & conditions and the financial jargon of this newfound financial system.

In a snapshot, here is an International student's journey to becoming financially responsible under the current model.

Land in Canada > Open an account > Spend using the account > Consequences > Financial Education by realization > Become financially responsible

This is great, it is easy and convenient to open a bank account.

However, remember Sabster? yes, Sabster who's quoted when you started reading this post. Sabster had opened a bank account within 25 mins. He didn't know the importance of paying minimum credit card payments on time. He had no idea how interest rates work and was given minimal and jargon-filled information about credit cards. As a result, Sabster had a chequing account and two credit cards with different banks, all set for building a poor credit score. So it happened, in an of age paperless transactions, Interac convenience and automated payments. Sabster had now pilled up a significant credit card debt and an unbalanced chequing to credit ratio. This was the moment, Sabster knew, he realized and decided to take control of his finance. So he looked online, he scrolled on medium and even read articles on his bank’s website. However, all he could find was financial jargon and terms that he needed to take initiative to understand. He wanted something that was human-centred and personalized. He needed financial information that was easy to understand and actionable.

It's been 3 years since Sabster moved to Canada at the age of 18 and he realized with consequences, the importance of financial decision making. So he went online, struggled, failed and became financially literate after booking multiple appointments with his Financial Advisor.

Learning from Sabster's story we think about - is this process informative? Is the student informed about how to financially succeed before they enter the financial system and make decisions? What if we can educate them on:

  • The importance of building good credit

  • Which bank is best for your financial goals

  • Understanding mortgages and insurance plans

  • Simplifying financial jargon (the bank's language)

  • Making basic financial concepts easy to grasp

  • Ensuring how to become financially responsible

This will give birth to a new model to become financially responsible.

Land in Canada > Awareness > Financial Education > Open a bank account > Usage with financial responsibility > Meet financial goals along the way

Notice by following this new model, a student will not face consequences, will not become a victim to his/her own spending decisions and financial choices. But, is already responsible before entering the financial system and capable of achieving financial goals.

This is why financial literacy is so crucial. It is knowledge before taking action. It is entering a system after knowing the rules along with the capability of navigating with success. This is the model we need.

Like Sabster, there are many people from all walks of life that are experiencing this conundrum, they wish they knew what to ask and how to get that right financial information, so they can make sound financial decisions and attain their financial goals. So stay tuned, as we’re going to be talking even further on these experiences and give a new language to financial information by making it meaningful, free from jargon and most importantly human-centred.


"Financial literacy allows you to take advantage of financial products rather than financial products taking advantage of you"

- Morty Kidwi, an International Student in Vancouver, BC


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