Eva's Financial Literacy Toolkit

Welcome to the Eva’s Financial Literacy Toolkit!

Financial literacy. What does it mean to you? Do you get nervous when you hear those words? Does it cause your stress levels to rise as you remember the bills waiting for you at home or your credit you’ve been trying to restore? Or does it motivate you to stay on track and be diligent with your savings goals? Financial literacy – and money in general – makes everyone feel differently because we all have a different relationship with it. Whether that relationship is a cause of our stress, or a success for us to celebrate, it’s about time we talk about it more freely and in a more engaging way for our youth.

This toolkit was created to increase the financial literacy and champion the financial empowerment of homeless and at-risk youth. It was designed, facilitated and evaluated at Eva’s three youth shelter sites in Toronto: Eva’s Phoenix, Eva’s Place and Eva’s Satellite. On this Toolkit website you will find an overview of the project, synopses of the research including the literature review and gap analysis, the six outcome-oriented modules that are free to download along with the Activity Booklet for participants, as well as facilitator recommendations. The content was brought together from a variety of resources, and measured through the use of youth-driven focus groups, surveys and engagement committees. I’m delighted to share my findings and to mobilize the knowledge I have gained through my facilitation experiences at Eva’s three sites! I encourage you to have fun with the content of the workshops I’ve created should you wish to take it on and teach financial literacy workshops of your own. Join in on the change to heighten engagement and enjoyment in financial literacy programming!

-Meaghan, Toolkit Creator

Project Purpose

In its final report in December, 2010, the Task Force on Financial Literacy defined financial literacy as having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions. In a time when personal finances are becoming more and more complex, financial literacy skills for our youth are critical, so why do we continue to lack engaging programming in this field, particularly for marginalized youth learners?

This project aimed to review, refine and redesign financial literacy programming for homeless and at-risk youth in order to equip them with the skills they need to obtain financial independence: a key for sustaining independent housing and reducing homelessness nationally. Upon the completion of a literature review and gap analysis, it became evident that the project needed to set the goal of developing a broader context for financial literacy education. The Toolkit that was subsequently created was able to achieve this goal by rebuilding the curriculum from the ground up. Through scrapping traditional curriculum and pedagogy and harnessing the youth voice, this Toolkit model was able to redesign financial literacy programming for youth at risk in an authentic and organic way. Through the use of experiential and activity-based learning, the content can change according to the needs of the individuals and context of the organization facilitating the modules. This is achieved through client-responsive teaching strategies. In addition, the leverage of the youth voice was essential to developing the content of the toolkit – it allowed the content to be relevant to the current financial realities homeless and at-risk youth are facing.

Researched, facilitated, and evaluated at Eva’s three shelter sites over the past year, the full Financial Literacy Toolkit is now available on this site which encompasses the research synopses, a set of six outcome-oriented modules that are free for anyone to download, evaluation templates, successes, challenges and recommendations for use.


I would like to extend a thank you to the administration, housing, programming and employment staff at Eva’s three sites for their continued support of the implementation and evaluation of this toolkit. Through their continued encouragement that residents attend workshops, the impact seen and measured was incredible. Most of all, however, I would like to thank the residents for their hard work, dedication and use of these modules. Without their avid participation and detailed evaluations, the toolkit may not have taken the shape it has. You are my inspiration!

I would also like to thank the TD Financial Literacy Fund for their grant to make this dream a possibility and to Prosper Canada for providing many of the resources used in the Toolkit in their Community Facilitator Toolbox.

About Eva’s

Eva’s provides safe shelter, training, counselling, and a wide range of innovative programs and services to help homeless and at-risk youth reach their potential to lead productive, self-sufficient and healthy lives. With cutting-edge services, and distinctive programming, Eva’s offers a continuum of service not available anywhere else in Canada. Locally, Eva’s operates three unique shelters that accommodate 114 youth – aged 16-24 – each night. Nationally, Eva’s works to build innovative and long term solutions to end youth homelessness.

Our Mission

To work collaboratively with homeless and at-risk youth to help them reach their potential to lead productive, self-sufficient and healthy lives by providing safe shelter and a range of services, and to create long term solutions for homeless youth by developing and implementing proactive and progressive services.

Contact Information

Meaghan Brugha, Program Creator

Jamey Vella, Design & Layout – Anxiety Attack Designs

To request a hard copy version of the Facilitator Resource Binder and Activity Booklet, please contact us at [email protected]


Eva’s Facilitator’s Manual: Looking for the workshops? Download the full six financial literacy modules through the above link: Budgeting Basics, Savvy Saver, Brainy Banking, Tackling Taxes and Conquering Credit. Don’t forget the Activity Booklet below!

Activity Booklet: Download the full Activity Booklet here, including six workshops worth of templates and goal-setting and tracking charts!

Evaluation Recording Tool: This is an excel sheet that will help you track participant responses to both the pre- and post-workshop surveys, which can be found at the end of each subject in the Facilitator’s Manual.

Facilitation Tips
  • Offer incentives whenever possible, and give certificates of completion for the workshops.
  • Incorporate multimedia whenever you think it may fit well with your group, without distracting from the subject.
  • The more art or expressive activity you can include, the better. One way to incorporate this is through cartooning. Depending on the size of the class and how frequently you meet with them, cartooning might be a fun option to express common financial misconceptions and work through emotional barriers to financial literacy.
  • Don’t give advice to the participants – try to inform their decisions with detailed information, data and resources. It is not our role to be a Financial Advisor.
  • Use an anti-oppression framework. Be judgement and coercive free and ensure that participants are as well.
  • Don’t be afraid to localize the content and make it your own. Use the pre- and post-workshop survey responses to adjust the content and structure for what works for your group!
  • Stay flexible! Things change, interests change, people change – keep a flexible attitude during the workshops. Only 3 people showed up for a budgeting workshop and are bursting with banking questions? Let’s chat about banking! They want to make a zombie apocalypse digital story about teaching zombies income tax? I’m into it! Seriously… that sounds amazing. Use your discretion and understanding of the individuals you are working with.
Participatory Research

During the first quarter of this research project at Eva’s, focus groups were conducted with residents in order to incorporate their voice into the programming model. It allowed the research to obtain a greater range of insights from unique and personal experiences and explored opinions of financial literacy in a collective context. It aimed to explore assumptions for the motivation and rationale for certain financially-related behaviours or emotional responses and identified educational opportunities therein:

Behavioural insights: Participants in focus groups did not see relevance of the questions or topics to their lifestyles as their limited or non-existent incomes have typically made it extremely difficult to save and budget. There is a need for realistic goal-setting activities for all areas of financial literacy and accountability and motivation present to move forward and act on these goals. Successes must be celebrated.

Emotional insights: Word associations in focus groups revealed over 50% of responses as negative connotations to talking and thinking about finances. There was also discomfort expressed around paying bills and doing taxes, extreme negativity and nervousness around debt, spending and credit cards with words like “impossible”, “stress”, and “unhappiness” used by many participants and significant distrust shown for banks and the government. There is a need to further explore the relationship homeless and at-risk youth have with money and how it impacts their financial decision-making and stability.

Cognitive insights: Participants in focus groups understood basic financial concepts with many answers made with confidence. The clearest need for knowledge was around debt reduction, taxes, credit and navigating their needs versus their wants.

Literature Review & Gap Analysis

A comprehensive literature review was completed as part of the research quarter of this project. The following were major themes that emerged from the review. This is followed by an overview of the gap analysis.

  • Financial literacy initiatives aimed at youth are often generic and not designed to address the needs of low-income youth in particular – curriculum content should be meaningful and relevant to the lives and situations of the participants.
  • Using traditional top-down pedagogy for educational programming involving marginalized youth risks alienating them further from the education process. We need to employ effective, non-traditional experiential learning opportunities for all life-skills programming. If program participants actively participate in the application of their knowledge and make connections to their everyday life, they are more likely to learn effectively.
  • Facilitators need to be fully aware of the power imbalances present in the classroom and use an anti-oppressive framework in their programming.
    The capacity of shelter staff should be built and strengthened alongside the participants in the educational programming.

Gap Analysis

The participatory research indicated a need for a combined group/individual structure that anyone could take at anytime with no prior knowledge required. As argued in the literature review, this is best coupled with a user-led and controlled environment with non-traditional pedagogy and experiential learning activities framing the delivery of the content. In addition, an anti-oppressive framework is necessary for participants to feel ownership of the material and their learning. Certificates and incentives should also be offered to increase engagement and empowerment through recognition. The Toolkit was constructed, and modules designed, utilizing these recommendations.

Evaluation Analyses

Throughout the facilitation of the workshops, participants had the opportunity to give their opinions and suggestions for program content and structure changes through the pre- and post-workshop surveys. The responses were analyzed and used to make changes to the program model. The following is a brief overview of common responses:

  • There was evident personal and group growth, as well as the development of more realistic and obtainable financial goals made at the end of the workshops by participants who had attended more than one workshop.
  • Participants stated that their levels of confidence increased exceedingly in answering financially-related questions, as did their ability to grasp financial concepts and understand budgeting, spending, saving, banking, debt, tax and credit basics as they took more workshops.
  • When participants were asked if they would take another financial literacy workshop in the post-workshop surveys, 93% of responses stated yes. When asked to elaborate they shared such comments as “It’s fun!”, “I want to take more in order to remember the things I learned”, “It’s informative and keeps me motivated”, and “I can’t even come up with questions, which means I must need the info”.
  • Participants stated that they were most stressed about credit.
  • 90% of participants stated that they thought the workshop would help in their responses to the pre-workshop surveys, which indicates a hope or desire to gain knowledge.
  • Their favourite parts of the workshops included: “The games”, “Talking about credit and sharing each other’s stories”, “The handouts”, “Seeing how expenses added up! It was crazy!”, “Being able to understand how I should be careful with money”, “Expanding and discussing certain topics”, and “Getting all my questions answered”
  • For the Dislike section on the post-workshop survey, they normally noted things like the length of the workshop being too long, and the snacks not being what they wanted. They also wanted more multimedia.
  • When they were asked if they changed their mind about anything during the workshop, they noted such things as: “Money Mart”, “Negative thinking about credit”, “How I feel about debt”, “My budgeting approach”, “Saving for your future self”, “Benefits of filing taxes”, and “Complaining about income tax deductions. I’ll stop now”.
  • When asked if the workshop was interesting and the activities were useful (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.4.
  • When asked if the participant was leaving the workshop with more knowledge (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.4.
  • When asked if the pace of the workshop was good (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.3.
  • When asked if the participant was more confident in the subject area than when they came in (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.3.
  • When asked if they would stick to the plan they made in the workshop – whether that be requesting a copy of their credit report, following their budget or savings goals, or filing their taxes on time next year – (1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree), the average response was 4.2.
Participant Quotes

“I needed this information!” (Wise spending workshop)

“The info that was given was very helpful. A lot I didn’t know about” (Conquering Credit)

“The info was kinda spot on for me. It gave me access to more money” (Tackling Taxes)

“Being in the workshop shed light on a new concept. That I should see myself as an investment. It gave me motive to view careful spending and saving as investing in me.” (Savvy Saver)

“I used to think about money as a non-entity. Like, I would look at the numbers in my bank account as if they weren’t real – I didn’t understand the value of a dollar.” (Resident committee)

“My budget made me stressed because I felt as though I couldn’t/wouldn’t make enough money. It increased my sense of urgency to find a more suitable job.” (Budgeting Basics)

“When I first met with Meaghan, I didn’t even know how much money I owed. Now I have a savings of $5000 and one of my visas paid off. I’m very aware of my expenses. Thanks!” (Resident committee)

“After a workshop, I learned I wasn’t the only one facing the same money probs!” (Resident committee)

DUCA Financial Services Credit Union LTD. is a supporter of Eva’s Independent Living Programs including Financial Literacy skill building for youth