How to help your immigrant parents understand their finances

Finances are hard. Now, try being a first-generation Canadian and being the main resource for your migrant parents on all-things Canada… including how to manage money. So, what do you do when your parents come to you with questions about banking? Are you panicking yet? Maybe trying to pass them off to a sibling? Wondering when you became the adult in the equation?

If you’re a first-generation Canadian and are looking for tips to help your parents out, we’ve got you covered.

Be patient

We can’t stress this enough. Settling into a new country can be hard. Learning a new language and adapting to a different way of life is a challenge for everyone – especially those who are used to things being done a certain way.

Not only are your parents dealing with a language barrier, they’re also navigating an increasingly-digital banking experience which may be entirely new to them.

When you’re helping them out, you might have to answer seemingly basic questions, or you might have them ask you the same things in different ways. That’s okay. Taking your time will help them better understand what you’re saying, and help you avoid getting stressed or frazzled.

Start with the basics

When it comes to banking and managing money, it all starts with understanding the basics:

  • How much money you have
  • How much money you owe
  • How to transfer money and make payments
  • How to deposit and withdraw money
  • How fees work for different accounts

Depending on the account your mom or dad has, you might want to run through this list and clearly point out what each number means (and where they can find it).

As most people are visual learners, this will help your parents understand how to better navigate their bank’s website and statements.

Dealing with changes

In today’s digital world, bank services evolve and change over time to better suit the needs of customers like you. While we try our best to make change easy, customers sometimes get used to the habits that they’ve built over the years.

If your parents are confused over something that’s changed – whether it’s a new design, an update to their bank fees, or a new service that they’ve never used before – try to understand exactly what’s unfamiliar to them. Ask them to describe or give examples of what they’re used to seeing so you can compare and spot the differences.

Help them with their goals

When it comes to money, everyone’s goals are different. Whether getting out of debt, better managing expenses, saving for a house, or putting money away for retirement, our financial goals help us live the life we want.

If your parents are open with you about their financial goals (and you’re comfortable giving them a hand with this), it might be useful to go over their financial situation and understand what they want to achieve and make a plan to help them get there.

Get professional help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or feel like you might not be the best resource for your parent, tell them. Find a financial advisor and set up an appointment to go over their finances. You should plan to join that appointment if language is a bit of a barrier to make sure the advisor understands your parents’ financial questions and goals.

Another important area of finances your parents may need help with is the tax system. For that, check out the Canada Revenue Agency’s tax guide for newcomers to Canada.