Uncertainty continues to be the only certainty in the financial markets these days, and that volatility is causing concern for Canadians, particularly those in the ‘sandwich generation’—baby boomers who are simultaneously caring for children and aging parents.
According to the third quarter results of the Russell Financial Health Index, the overall financial health of Canadian investors stood at 47.47. That’s slightly lower than the same time last year, and bearing the lowest levels since the benchmark was established in 2008.
The two key concerns expressed by survey respondents were having sufficient income for a desired lifestyle in retirement and having reliable sources of income in retirement. But concerns over two other life factors reached an all-time high: children and aging parents needing help; and the financial impact of the death of a spouse.
“These concerns are not surprising,” says Keith Pangretitsch, director of national sales at Russell Investments Canada. “An increasing number of baby boomers are finding themselves caught in the sandwich generation, a financial and emotional squeeze, as they struggle to cope simultaneously with the costs of caring for aging parents, while helping children pay for school or launch careers—all the while attempting to fund their own retirement.”
The market volatility of the past six months has rattled many investors, according to a Leger Marketing survey for BMO InvestorLine. Thirty one percent of respondents said they were concerned that there is no end in sight to the rollercoaster ride they’ve experienced this year.
Over half of Canadian investors (53%) are concerned that America’s and Europe’s economic troubles will spread to Canada.
This general nervousness has 69% of Canadians paying close attention to their portfolios the survey found, with 24% fearing their investments are not panning out as expected.
“Although Canadians are worried about the state of the economy, it is reassuring to know that they are monitoring their portfolios on a regular basis,” said Cesar Rainusso, Vice President, BMO InvestorLine. “Regardless of the circumstances, staying on top of your investments is one of the most effective ways to ensure you can get through turbulent times.”
Benjamin Reitzes, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets suggests that the recent deal struck in Europe on how to manage sovereign debt should be seen as a sign for hope.
“If there are no speed bumps—such as unexpected flare ups—over the next few months, this plan could be sufficient to contain the European crisis,” he says.
According to a third survey by Credit Canada and Capital One Canada, 39% of those in the sandwich generation are concerned they might not be able to pay for their children’s education because they need to financially support their parents. Of those, 40% expressed concern that they will have to borrow money from family and friends.
“What’s most concerning is the amount of expenses that this group of Canadians is being forced to take on at a time when they should be saving for retirement,” said Laurie Campbell, executive director for Credit Canada. “Our latest survey also found that two- thirds of Canadians in the sandwich generation have become burdened with additional financial problems as they deal with the reality of these heightened responsibilities. The end result is that more than half of these people (55%) now expect to retire later than expected so they can play financial catch up.”
The survey also showed that 36% of sandwich-generation Canadians have had to dip into their savings and 37% have needed to work more hours.