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The Financial Health, Resilience And Wellness Of Canadians

Evidence type: Insight i

Context:

The Canadian Financial Health Index was developed to improve financial health and financial resilience among Canadians. The project aimed to demonstrably improve the financial health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities by collaborating with financial stakeholders and institutions to better support the financial health of their customers and clients.

The Indices are written with a holistic view of financial wellbeing, which is seen to incorporate three main constituents:

  1. Financial Health – defined as the ability to balance immediate financial needs with longer-term needs, and to be able to manage periods of financial hardship.
  2. Financial Resilience – seen as the ability to cope with financial shocks and unexpected life-events.
  3. Financial Wellness – expressed as emotional wellbeing in terms of someone’s financial situation and current and future obligations (the opposite of financial stress).

The study:

This 2019 report created by Seymour Consulting/Financial Health Index presents the findings from the 2019 Financial Health Index, as well as examining three-year trends across the Indices. The Financial Health Index Study is billed as ‘Canada’s first and most robust longitudinal investigation into consumer financial health and wellbeing, and the role financial institutions can play to improve Canadians’ financial wellness’. The 2019 edition represents the third wave of the Index (previously conducted in 2017 and 2018).

The 2019 Index is an online survey of Canadians across all Canadian provinces, excluding Quebec. Data was collected in June 2019 from 3,010 adults, who reported being the primary or joint financial decision maker in their household. Respondents were aged between 18 and 70 years old, and households who reported their household income as below $25,000 were oversampled to ensure they were sufficiently represented in the survey. The data used for the analysis is weighted by province, gender, age and household income, to be representative of the Canadian population.

Key findings:

  • The report finds that at a national level, financial stress continues to be a major problem for Canadians in 2019, having a negative impact on personal wellbeing.
  • Some changes from previous reports that were affecting the financial health and wellbeing of Canadians in 2019 were:
    • Increased financial stress (impacting both emotional and physical health);
    • Increased borrowing for everyday expenses;
    • Lower levels of confidence that they can get through times of financial hardship as a result of unplanned life events;
    • Many Canadians have high-to-moderate debt stress, and a lack of savings due to higher expenses and affordability.
  • There has been a major increase in the number of Canadians borrowing for everyday expenses, rising from 26% in 2017 to 40% in 2019.
  • Almost half (46%) of Canadians report using credit to buy food or cover expenses because they have run short of money.
  • Over a third (37%) of Canadians feel “not at all confident” or “not very confident” they can get through periods of financial hardship in 2019. Another 27% are only “somewhat confident.”
  • In 2019 half of all Canadians have a savings buffer of less than two months expenditure. This has increased significantly from 36% in 2017.
  • Over half of all Canadians (53%) reported that money worries were causing them to lose sleep at night, compared to 42% in 2017. Seven-in-ten (70%) Canadians agree that money worries cause them some type of emotional stress.
  • The number of people reporting that they pay all of their bills on time fell from 75% in 2017 to just 62% in 2019.
  • The authors conclude their report by stating that there is a need for financial institutions, Government and other stakeholders to better support and help their customers and clients in more meaningful ways. This would include providing more relevant products and services, providing more bespoke advice, and supporting people’s personal wellbeing more holistically, with regard to their financial decision making throughout the life course.

Points to consider:

Methodological strengths and limitations:

  • This report is based on a large online sample that is weighted to be representative of the wider Canadian population, suggesting the reader can have a fair degree of confidence in the results.
  • While the authors refer to a longitudinal study, it’s unclear whether this is truly longitudinal research, i.e. measures change in the same people over time. To accurately determine change, true longitudinal data would need to be analysed.

Relevance:

  • This report is relevant to all stakeholders, academics and policymakers who are interested in the interplay between financial health, wellness and resilience. It is of particular relevance to those immersed in a Canadian policy landscape.

Generalisability/ transferability:

  • While the findings in this paper are nationally representative of people in Canada (excluding Quebec), they are not directly applicable to the UK. However, some of the knowledge acquired and subsequent implications may be transferrable to and helpful for informing UK policymakers.

Key info

Year of publication
2019
Country/Countries
Canada
Contact information

Eloise Duncan, CEO and Founder Financial Health Index & Seymour Consulting

eloise@seymourconsulting.ca