Rachael Wong has helped countless families throughout her career at TD, but one family in particular stands out.
Roughly 15 years ago, the now TD District Vice President worked with a young family who immigrated to Canada from India with their young daughter, some modest savings and the goal of starting a new life. With nothing but a foreign passport and the help of a financial advisor, they were able to open a bank account, establish credit history for a car loan and mortgage, and start investing for their future.
Today, the family is mortgage free, on track to meet their retirement goals and have put their daughter through university debt free.
While their journey has been nothing short of a success, for most new immigrants managing finances is a daunting task - especially when trying to juggle many things at once like finding a job, childcare and navigating a new transit system.
In fact, a recent TD Survey1 found that more than half of new Canadians (55 per cent) do not think they have enough knowledge to get the most out of the financial service choices available to them in Canada.
These kinds of challenges are all too familiar for Farhaneh Haque, an immigrant to Canada herself, who now also serves as a District Vice President for TD in Brampton, helping other new Canadians find their financial footing in a new country.
To help better understand the challenges facing new Canadians as they look to establish themselves financially in a new country, the TD Newsroom recently spoke with Haque (Brampton) and Wong (Markham) about the kind of tips they offer to help newcomers gain the knowledge and confidence they need to reach their financial goals.
Q: Why do you think new Canadians believe they lack the knowledge to get the most out of the financial service choices available to them?
FH: New Canadians have the difficult task of understanding and adjusting to a very new way of life here in Canada. Everything here is different – language, customs, culture, climate, and financial systems – compared to the experience they would have had back home. Understanding and navigating in this new world takes time, knowledge and a trusted advisor.
RW: Learning their way around an entirely new financial system and understanding the differences between banks in their native country compared to those here in Canada is often difficult for new immigrants. For example, the concept of buying on credit is usually new and different as many new Canadians are accustomed to buying only that which they can purchase through cash savings.
Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge for new Canadians?
FH: Many new Canadians that we interact with face the challenge of finding adequate employment, so they can manage their day-to-day expenses while oftentimes supporting and sending money to their families back home.
RW: I believe one of biggest challenges for new Canadians is integrating into the culture and gaining the confidence to interact with other members of society. In Canada we are fortunate to have strong social networks for many diverse communities, but it still takes work.
Language, cultural differences, and the daunting task of navigating a new financial environment may decrease confidence in their ability to get the most out of the financial service choices available to them in Canada. Without proper advice and guidance from their banks, it can be stressful to figure out even the simple day to day matters such as establishing credit history in order to get a credit card or car loan.
Q: What is the most important financial priority for a new Canadian?
FH: In my experience, many new Canadians are very much focused on planting roots in Canada and financially this often translates to home ownership as a key priority.
RW: While settling into their new country and owning a home is often one of the top priorities of new Canadians, many are also focused on saving for retirement and covering daily expenses.
Q: What steps can a new Canadian take to become more financially knowledgeable and confident?
FH: New Canadians can start by choosing the right bank and right advisor that meets their needs. For example, they might choose a bank that provides services or has professionals that speak their native language, is convenient to access with longer opening hours on evenings and weekends, or provides great online banking tools and advice.
Once you are comfortable with the financial institution, meet with an advisor who can help choose the right account based on your unique needs as well as expected transaction patterns, such as money transfers to family back home.
RW: We know how overwhelming and stressful it can feel when moving to a new country, and managing day-to-day expenses is an important place to get started. Starting a budget to track your spending could help put you more at ease.
I would also recommend speaking with a financial advisor to discuss long- and short-term goals. An advisor can help develop a plan to address competing priorities like saving for a home, car or retirement, and provide tips on how to help maximize savings for the future.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to move to Canada?
FH: As an immigrant myself, I would say learn the language. Communicating effectively is the most important tool to succeed in Canada. There is a lot of information out there and if you can't understand and communicate then the task of learning is that much more difficult.
Secondly, the journey of a new immigrant is very challenging, so staying positive is very important. Making a big move to a new country, culture, climate, and customs is not easy on your emotions and can be challenging, so stay positive and keep your mind focused on your future in Canada.
Volunteering or joining a networking group can help new Canadians embrace their new surroundings. You may also find a support system of individuals who may have already gone through a similar journey and can help you settle in faster.
RW: Do your homework and be curious. There is a lot of information and financial tools available online that can help set new Canadians up for success and assist with choosing a financial institution that will align with their needs and values.
More specifically, look for a bank that offers a New to Canada banking package designed for recent immigrants.
Q: What can banks do to help new Canadians as they look to establish their financial footing in a new country?
FH: We have a huge opportunity in this space and organizations like TD can do a lot to help new Canadians settle in financially. Providing financial literacy classes and workshops through local branches and engaging with new immigrant groups can help them learn about the Canadian financial system. Offering financial tools that are broken down in terms that are easy to understand and translated in their native language is also important.
Secondly, financial institutions should offer products and services that make it easier for new Canadians to settle in and meet their obligations back home. For example, it might seem small for a Canadian to have access to a money transfer service, but for a new Canadian easy money transfers are very important.
RW: Banks have done a great job setting up new to Canada packages that provide tailored products and services that make it easy for new immigrants to achieve their financial goals. The offerings have improved and evolved over time to meet the needs of new Canadians, making it easier for them to get off on the right foot.
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