Canadians aren’t happy with their retirement prospects and savings, reveals a national survey by the Canadian Payroll Association. While survey responses paint a poor financial picture of Canadians, it’s up to advisors to help clients separate feelings from fact and take control of their finances.

For example, almost half of working Canadians (46%) say they’ll have to work longer than they planned to five years ago. Why? They say they’re not saving enough, reveals the survey.

Almost half of those surveyed (46%) think they need a retirement nest egg of at least $1 million. More Ontario residents set the bar at that amount, with 53% saying they need as much.

To reach financial security, more than a quarter of working Canadians (26%) say earning more is key, versus 19% who cite spending less.

Encouragingly, the survey finds a 5% increase in the number of employees with total household incomes of more than $125K, and a slight rise in full-time employment to 89% from 87%, compared to the previous survey.

Overwhelmed by debt

Further complicating retirement goals is Canadians’ debt levels. More than one-third (35%) of Canadians surveyed and 37% of Ontarians surveyed are overwhelmed by their debt. And nearly one-third (31%) of respondents nationally (32% in Ontario) say their debt loads increased over the year.

Read: How growing household debt levels are putting Canada at risk

Similar to previous years’ surveys, 94% of Canadians say they carry debt. The most common debt types are mortgages (28%), credit cards (17%), car loans (18%) and lines of credit (17%).

Not surprisingly, given the high cost of real estate, more respondents than ever find mortgages on principal residences the most difficult debt to pay down (32%) — the first time that mortgages surpass credit card debt in the survey’s nine years.

Read: Mortgage balances up, delinquency rates down

The primary reason for increased debt is higher overall spending. The major reasons for increased spending are higher living expenses (32%) and unexpected expenses (25%).

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Paycheque to paycheque

Indeed, survey respondents cite high living costs as the reason they spend all — or more than — their net pay ( 41% of employees nationally and 42% in Ontario spend all or more than their net pay).

That means savings suffer, with 42% of survey respondents (43% of Ontario employees) saying they save 5% or less of their earnings.

Illustrating just how strapped some employees are, 22% (both nationally and in Ontario) say they couldn’t come up with $2,000 within a month for an emergency expense.

In fact, the survey reveals 47% of working Canadians report they would struggle to meet financial obligations if their paycheques were delayed a week. In Ontario, 49% live paycheque to paycheque.

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About the survey: A total of 4,766 employees from across Canada, and from a wide range of industry sectors, responded to an online research survey between June 27, 2017, and August 5, 2017, using a convenience sampling methodology.