According to a Sun Life Financial/Ipsos Reid survey released today, 57 per cent of Canadians are not better off financially than they were a year ago. The sentiment is even stronger for women and seniors (aged 55 and older), with 61 per cent saying they aren't better off financially than this time last year.   

Sun Life Financial's Annual Check-Up Survey asked Canadians about their personal finances, retirement planning and the economy as the year draws to a close. As the finance ministers meet at Meech Lake to discuss pension-related issues, the survey also revealed that only 36 per cent of Canadians make a contribution to their RRSP.

"It's concerning that a majority of Canadians aren't feeling better off financially than they were last year – as we head into a holiday season where we tend to spend more and save less," said Kevin Dougherty, President, Sun Life Financial Canada. "Canadians can take steps toward feeling better by putting a financial plan in writing – and perhaps consider it as a new year's resolution."

The survey provided some insights into the minority of Canadians (38 per cent) who said they were better off financially than a year ago. Of the respondents in this smaller group, 65 per cent paid down household debt this year and 50 per cent said they make lump sum contributions and/or regular monthly contributions to their RRSP.

The survey results also revealed some regional differences:

  • Quebecers are least likely to say they feel financially better off than they were last year (63 per cent).
  • Albertans are most likely to say they feel financially better off than they were last year (47 per cent), followed by Saskatchewan and Manitoba (45 per cent) and Atlantic Canadians (43 per cent).
  • Atlantic Canadians are the least likely to make RRSP contributions; 67 per cent said they do not make regular or monthly contributions. British Columbians followed at 64 per cent.

Here are some tips for Canadians to consider when making a new year's resolution about their finances:

  • Build a financial plan.
  • Pay down household debt – the survey found that only 48 per cent of Canadians paid down debt in 2013.
  • Make a contribution to your RRSP.
  • Meet with an advisor to get some advice.
  • Look into pension plan options.

This month, the Quebec government passed a bill to support a Voluntary Retirement Savings Plan, marking a significant step toward meeting a critical need in saving for retirement. Sun Life Financial welcomes this development and, outside of Quebec, believes a Pooled Registered Pension Plan will address the concerns of millions of working Canadians who do not have workplace retirement savings plans.