Debt–laden Canadians struggling to save

By Vikram Barhat | April 20, 2011 | Last updated on April 20, 2011
2 min read

More than half of Canadians find it impossible to save while trying to pay down debt and meet basic living expenses, according to the TD Canada Trust 2011 Report on Savings.

The online survey of 1,003 adult Canadians also discovered that 38% of participants have no savings at all.

“A small shift in your everyday behaviour can lead to more meaningful changes,” said Carrie Russell, senior vice-president, TD Canada Trust. “As the saying goes, take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. If you’re having difficulty, start small and automate, which helps take the pain out of saving.”

The report aims to understand Canadians’ habits, attitudes and knowledge on saving in the current economy. It was found that Canadians struggle to save because many use disposable income to service debts (39%), do not have enough money to cover living expenses (30%) and shop beyond their means (12%).

“Aim to set aside 10% of your pre-tax income each month for emergencies, retirement and other savings,” said Russell. “If you’re finding it hard to save, work up to it, but don’t make the mistake of not saving at all just because you can’t reach that goal right away.”

On the bright side, though, 30% participants felt they had enough money saved to cover living expenses for at least four months of contingency.

When it comes to saving for difficult times, Manitoba and Saskatchewan claimed top saving spots with 37% residents likely to have four months worth of living expenses tucked away. However, 61% of residents of the two provinces admit they are not very knowledgeable about saving and are interested in receiving professional advice on how to save, reduce debt and budget.

Ontario residents are feeling the saving squeeze on account of various debts and the soaring cost of living. More than 54% Ontarians find it a real struggle or impossible to save. Two percent below the national average, only 28% Ontarians have saved enough to see them through four months, the report said.

Focused on debt service over saving, 55% Albertans admitted to having little or no savings. A third of Albertans, however, have enough savings to last for four months.

In B.C. it’s again the high cost of living that’s making saving for difficult times difficult. The survey noted 44% B.C. residents find it impossible to save because they use disposable income to pay debts (47%), in contrast to 9% who can’t save because they shop beyond their means.

The report found that 22% of Atlantic Canadians find it impossible to save. Sixty nine per cent of those residents would rather pay off their debts. Half of those polled in Atlantic Canada, though, say they save a portion of their pay cheque each month and 34% have one to six months of living expenses squirreled away for troubling times.

Vikram Barhat