Canadians lag in financial planning

By Vikram Barhat | May 30, 2011 | Last updated on May 30, 2011
3 min read

Despite proven advantages of financial planning for retirement, the majority of Canadians don’t have a financial plan for their future, according to an HSBC survey.

The sixth edition of the Future of Retirement study, a global survey from HSBC, revealed that those who have a financial plan in place enjoy a clear ‘planning premium’ with hard financial benefits, yet 65% percent of Canadian respondents, far more than the global figure of 50%, lack a financial plan.

Those who have planned, noted the study, have amassed nearly two-and-a-half times (245%) more capital in their retirement plans compared to non-planners. Of the seventeen countries surveyed Canada ranked 14th, with 35% of respondents reporting having a strategy in place.

“Canadians should be more aware of their long-term financial needs and implement a plan to address these needs, even if they are starting out with a limited amount of money,” said Margaret Willis, executive vice-president, retail banking and wealth management, HSBC Bank Canada. “A small investment now can provide real peace of mind and a positive outlook on retirement later in life.”

People who plan hold a much broader range of retirement and non-retirement assets than those who do not plan. They also enjoy a much more positive outlook towards later life as they stress less about coping with financial needs in retirement.

Alongside the planning benefit, the findings also show a clear advice advantage for those who seek professional financial advice. In general, advice-seekers report greater levels of financial wealth than non-advice seekers, the survey reported.

The study establishes a connection between professional financial advice and benefits of the broadest range, and the highest value, of financial assets. Indeed, the best of both worlds.

Those who have taken advice have amassed nearly two and a half times (245%) the average Canadian retirement assets and nearly nine times (864%) the non-retirement assets of those who do neither.

Despite the obvious advantages, Canada had one of the lowest percentages of respondents who indicated having a financial plan for their future. In terms of financial preparedness, or rather lack thereof, Canada is not alone.

There are major global shortfalls in retirement preparedness; overall 41% of respondents feel poorly prepared for retirement and two-thirds expressed a concern that they will not be able to cope financially in retirement.

The survey also uncovered a major East-West divide in retirement perceptions. The factors driving a positive mindset seem to be closely associated with benign economic conditions and growing wealth in the emerging markets where, even during the financial crisis and recent global economic downturn, there has been continued growth in GDP, fuelling rising household incomes and an increased ability to undertake a strong savings habit.

Canadian financial advisors can take heart in the fact that Canadians do understand the importance of saving for retirement. This was evidenced in 74% Canadian respondents saying not having to worry about money was extremely important to achieve a happy retirement. However, this also means there does exist a disconnect when it comes to planning and implementation.

Below are some planning steps resulting from this survey:

  • Establish some clear goals, both short term and long term
  • Benchmark yourself: Are you on track to meet your goals?
  • Develop a comprehensive financial plan
  • Implement the plan
  • Keep your plan under review

Where people are actively planning ahead, there are genuine benefits to be enjoyed, such as increased access to private pensions and savings products as well as a more positive outlook on retirement, it reported.

Vikram Barhat