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Why do Canadians have problems with money? Why do we have too much debt, and no savings? Obviously the prolonged recession has not helped, but I believe one of the reasons we get into financial trouble is that we simply don’t fully understand money, credit and debt. In Canada, financial education is not a priority in our schools, or for adults once they are out of school.

That’s why I think that Credit Education Week in Canada is a great idea. It’s one week in the year when we can take the time to focus on money, and educating ourselves about credit.

Credit Education Week Canada 2010 starts today, November 15, and runs for the week, until November 19, 2010. This year’s edition is Canada’s fourth annual Credit Education Week, and the focus this year is on newcomers, and the theme is The Language of Money.

That’s an interesting concept: The Language of Money. As a bankruptcy trustee in Canada, I am very aware of how we use language to describe money, and our financial situation.

Some words are complicated; people get confused with words like “creditor” and “debtor”, and there’s little doubt that that confusion makes it difficult for people to talk about money. We don’t want to admit that we don’t know what the big words mean, so we just don’t talk about it.

(For the record, a “creditor” is someone you owe money to, like a bank or credit card company. A “debtor” is you, the person who owes the money).

Some words are easy, but they have hidden meanings. For example, what is a credit card? That’s easy, you say. A credit card is something that we use to buy things; it gives us access to credit. We all know that credit is a good thing. We all know that you should “give credit where credit is due”. When someone does something good, we should give them credit for a job well done. Credit is good.

Of course a credit card is neither good nor bad. It’s an inanimate object; it’s just a hunk of plastic. It’s how you use it that makes it good or bad.

But that’s the hidden meaning: we use the word credit card to convince ourselves that credit is good.

What would happen if we called it a debt card. Calling it a debt card makes sense; when you buy something with plastic you are incurring debt. You now have a debt that you have to pay at the end of the month, and if you don’t you will pay interest.

See the difference words can make? Calling something a debt card educates us on what it really is, and what it really does.

So, this week, as you read about Credit Education Week in Canada, pay attention to the language you use to describe money. It may give you a new perspective on how money works, and it may make it easier for you to spend less, save more, and deal with your debt.

If you can’t attend any Credit Education Week events, then educate yourself on the various methods for dealing with debt, including:

  1. Pay off your debts on your own. Make a budget, cut your expenses, and pay off your debts yourself. This works well if you owe a manageable amount.
  2. If you can afford to pay off your debts in full, but just need a break on the interest, credit counselling is an option.
  3. If you can’t afford to pay off your debts in full, but you can afford to pay back something, a consumer proposal is a logical option. Most credit card companies will accept a reasonable consumer proposal.
  4. If you can’t afford a proposal, personal bankruptcy in Canada may be your final option.

Use our free debt options calculator to educate yourself on the various options for dealing with debt.

You have the power to educate yourself, so use Credit Education Week as your opportunity to educate yourself about credit and debt. It will be time well spent.