How are Canadian household finances holding up during lockdown?

New study reveals who is coping and who is struggling with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic

How are Canadian household finances holding up during lockdown?
Steve Randall

We’ve all been affected in many ways by the coronavirus pandemic, but when it comes to finances, the impact is far from universal.

A new study released today (4/27) by Angus Reid Institute shows that no group by age or gender is free from financial or mental stress resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, but that the share of those who say they are “financially struggling” (16%) is highest among 35-54 year olds at 19% of men and 18% of women.

Younger Canadian men (18-34 years) make up the smallest share of those financially struggling (11%) with women in this age group more so (15%).

Older Canadian men (55+ years) are more financially struggling than average (17%) with women in this age group less so (14%).

Around one third of all respondents said they are managing well, both financially and mentally.

Income groups sharing the stress
By household income, the share of respondents saying they are financially struggling is highest among those with less than $25,000 (18%) but hovers around the mid-teens for other income bands including 13% of those on $150K or more.

Respondents in BC are most likely to be finding finances challenging (20%) followed by Albertans (19%). Those in Atlantic Canada are less likely to say they are struggling (8%).

Again, roughly one third of respondents said they are managing well.

The survey highlights the mental health impact of the current situation as well as the financial one. Half of Canadians (50%) report a worsening of their mental health, with one-in-ten (10% overall) saying it has worsened “a lot”.

Asked to describe how they have been primarily feeling in recent weeks, Canadians are most likely to say they’re worried, (44%), anxious (41%) and bored (30%), although fully one-third (34%) also say they are “grateful”.

Investment loss impact
The report asked those who said they were “hardest hit” or “financially struggling” for the reasons behind this.

The highest single reason was “loss of investment value” cited by 30% overall and 43% of those who say they are financially struggling.

Advice on how financial advisors can keep their clients calm and focused on the long term was recently shared by Purpose Advisor Solutions CEO Jeff Gans.

Loss of household income and job losses are the other central themes for those who report a major impact from the coronavirus crisis.

While most Canadians (68%) have not applied for Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Surprisingly, more than half of those who say they are financially struggling – or the hardest hit - have not applied for federal benefits. Fourteen percent of these two groups have applied for, but not received, benefits.

Despite the concerns about their finances and mental health, more than three quarters of all respondents believe it is too soon to lift restrictions in their province.