Tracy Granger knows all about budgeting to save for a big goal.

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Opinion

Tracy Granger knows all about budgeting to save for a big goal.

The millennial mom, after all, has faced her fair share of challenges to get on solid financial footing — like a lot of other Manitobans who juggle work, family and financial obligations.

But she’s also a realtor, and Granger often must take the time to help would-be buyers brush up on their financial basics.

"A lot of clients I work with have gone out into the world and amassed credit-card debt, and then they want to buy a home," the broker-owner of T Real Estate says.

So, they work very hard, and try to save and pay down debt at the same time, which is always challenging. As such, a guiding hand is helpful.

That’s why Granger is heartened by the launch of a new website by the provincial government called moneysmartmanitoba.ca.

Designed to help Manitobans make better financial decisions, the initiative is the result of plenty of consultations with industry, regulators and average folks, says Ainsley Cunningham, the education and communications manager for the Manitoba Financial Services Agency (MFSA) and the website’s project lead.

"This website covers all topics, including real estate, insurance, credit union... Everything to do with financial literacy that we regulate," she adds.

Moneysmartmanitoba.ca builds on two already successful stand-alone sites launched by the agency in the past few years.

The makeitcountonline.ca site is popular with teachers in the province as a financial-literacy resource for students, and Cunningham says she receives requests for its materials almost daily.

As well, the province’s recognizeinvestmentfraud.com draws a number of visitors seeking to avoid being duped out of their money by financial fraudsters.

But until the launch of moneysmartmanitoba.ca earlier this month, average Manitobans who might want to brush up on the basics of finance had no place to call home for an online resource.

"In the past, there has not been information, for example, readily available through a website on real estate matters for the public."

Of course, it’s not that the internet doesn’t have an abundance of information on personal finance.

The problem is that it’s scattered all over the place. Moneysmartmanitoba.ca aims to help Manitobans cut through the clutter.

"So, the navigation is user-friendly and we have got smaller bits of information because people don’t want to spend hours researching and looking at this kind of stuff," Cunningham says.

"It’s in a format that’s much more easily digestible."

Those bite-sized pieces of knowledge include five videos, including one about property-disclosure statements that explains what an agreement is, and why you might want to make it a condition of an offer to purchase when looking at buying a home, Cunningham says.

"They are 30-second — maybe a minute-long — videos that people can take a look at to give them some information in short bursts."

The site’s ease of navigation is evident the moment you arrive. You’re immediately presented with four options: "Financial Basics," which includes budgeting and goal setting; "Planning and Managing," to help you find a financial adviser and get started with investing; "Informed Investing," where you can get more detailed facts about fees; and "Preservation and Wealth Management," which tackles insurance, wills and related topics.

Edmonton-based financial author and educator Kelley Keehn says "it’s fantastic" to see a provincial government develop a one-stop financial literacy site for its citizens.

But she says moneysmartmanitoba.ca could use a little more detail in some areas.

"Where it’s lacking for me a little bit is learning about what a financial adviser is," says Keehn, a consumer advocate for the Financial Planning Standards Council.

While it’s great to define this role, she says, "I wish they’d also acknowledge a certified financial planner."

The issue in this respect is that advisers generally provide services to individuals who have assets, whereas "you can hire a financial planner by the hour or by the plan," she says.

So, people don’t need to have assets to access the services of these professionals. (Albeit, many individuals actually who work with a financial planner also have investments managed by these same professionals and, consequently, get planning "for free" along the way.)

Cunningham acknowledges the site is a work in progress, and it will continually expand and improve.

Granger hopes those upgrades include more visually driven content.

"While it does cover basic budgeting, it doesn’t offer much for visual examples — things that would be more concrete for people who learn that way."

Indeed, the new website is short on infographics that can break down complex information visually with colour coding and images so people can quickly grasp concepts.

Given the site is intended for individuals with rudimentary financial knowledge, anything that can put information in packages that are easy on the eyes of the public will only make moneysmartmanitoba.ca better.

That said, the new website is a good step toward helping Manitobans sharpen their financial acumen.

"This site is built... to understand the basic concepts of finance," Cunningham says. "People’s situations are so vastly different that it’s not like we can prescribe a specific plan, but we can say, ‘Here are a bunch of options that you should think about and then make an informed decision on what’s best for you.’"