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financialOTTAWA, Ont. /Troy Media/ – This is Mental Health Week in Canada, an excellent opportunity to reflect on, learn about and discuss issues related to mental health. One such issue is financial stress.

According to the 2014 Sun Life Canadian Health Index, the top three reasons for stress are finances – specifically, personal or household finances, trying to maintain a budget and unexpected expenses.

As Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), I’m proud to lend my voice to discussions among Canadians about ways we can reduce financial stresses in our lives.

Preparing to move into your first apartment. Shopping for a house. Saving for retirement. Real-life experiences like these – and countless others – can be stressful.

In addition to milestone events, day-to-day financial struggles and worries affect a significant portion of our population. Among respondents to the Canadian Payroll Association’s 2016 Research Survey of Employed Canadians, 39 per cent reported being overwhelmed by debt and 38 per cent indicated they would have difficulty meeting their financial obligations if their paycheque was delayed for a week.

Canadians need to know they can turn things around and that FCAC can help. For anyone seeking financial information and guidance, we offer a broad range of useful publications and resources.

Rather than describe our work at length, I invite readers to explore our website and search for answers to their questions. Try our online tools, including budget and mortgage calculators, account and credit card selectors, and the financial goal calculator.

At the agency, we refer to those who use the services and products of banks, trust and loan companies, and other organizations in the financial services sector as financial consumers. Virtually everyone in this country is a financial consumer – with rights and responsibilities.

By rights, I mean the legal obligations of financial institutions to us. For example, the information they provide us about the accounts, credit cards, and other products and services they offer must be clear, simple and not misleading.

As for our responsibilities, fulfilling them comes down to seeking information to help with our decision-making. If I could speak directly to every Canadian financial consumer, I would say this:

Do your research. Carefully read all documents your financial institution provides you, whether they’re for your signature or not. Ask questions. Compare banks, their products and services. And if a financial institution fails to carry out its obligations to you, let us know by calling 1-866-461-FCAC (3222) for services in English and 1-866-461-ACFC (2232) for services in French.

As we state in our public awareness products about stress and money, It’s worth investing time to improve your financial well-being.

The bottom line is that, while we can’t necessarily eliminate financial stress from our lives, we can reduce it. Improvements in our financial well-being bring improvements in other important aspects of our lives.

During Mental Health Week, Canadians are encouraged to take some positive, honest steps. This is a great time to say, I’m going to take control of my finances.

Next step: action. Please get started with a visit to

Lucie Tedesco is the commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

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