Two of three Canadians have saved nothing for retirement during COVID, retirement tops list of worries: new research from HOOPP and Abacus Data

TORONTO, June 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Most Canadians have not set aside anything for retirement in the past year (63%) which is up 5% since last year, according to the third annual Canadian Retirement Survey from Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) and Abacus Data. The survey also found a widespread belief that better access to workplace pensions is needed to avoid a retirement crisis.

The findings, based on an April 2021 survey of 2,500 Canadians, affirm there is a high level of anxiety among Canadians about their ability to save for retirement. Half (48%) said they are “very concerned” about not having enough money in retirement. This was more than concern for one’s own physical health (44%), mental health (40%), debt load (31%) and job security (26%). (Retirement was the second greatest concern, after daily cost of living.)

“After more than a year of COVID-19, Canadians remain steadfast in their personal and societal concerns around retirement security,” said Steven McCormick, SVP, Plan Operations, HOOPP. “As day-to-day financial pressures mount for some and ease for others, Canadians across the board are acutely aware of the importance, and challenge, of saving for retirement.”

Almost half (46%) of Canadians said they’ve saved more money during COVID than they otherwise would have. However, of these, half (52%) set aside nothing for retirement during the past year. Of those who said they saved less than usual, 72% saved nothing for retirement.

The COVID-19 pandemic harmed the finances of half of Canadians (52%) and did so disproportionately amongst the younger and lower-income groups. Canadians aged 44 and younger are twice as likely to have had their finances greatly harmed (24%) than Canadians 60+ (11%). Likewise, Canadians earning less than $50K are twice as likely to have had their finances greatly harmed (25%) than those earning $100K+ (12%).

“The pandemic has exacerbated the divide between those who can save for retirement and those who can’t,” said Abacus Data Chief Executive David Coletto. “Those who are the least likely to save – younger and lower-income Canadians – were the hardest hit by the health crisis. This year’s results also show widespread agreement that employers can play an important role in making saving for retirement more affordable.”

Regardless of one’s current finances or the impact of COVID, there are widespread and consistent concerns about having enough money for retirement. Of those making $50K or less, 52% said they were very concerned; and even amongst those making more than $100K, a full 42% said they were very concerned. When asked why they hadn’t saved for retirement, the most common response was living paycheque to paycheque, with one in three (36%) identifying with this reality.

This year’s results once again confirm that Canadians continue to think long-term and big picture on retirement issues. Two-thirds (67%) agree there is an emerging retirement crisis and 65% said that saving for retirement is prohibitively expensive.

For the third straight year, Canadians also widely recognize that workplace pensions are key to the solution:

  • 71% are willing to forgo a higher salary for a (better) pension plan (74% last year)
  • A strong majority say that all workers should have access to affordable (85%) and efficient (84%) retirement savings arrangements (85% and 86% respectively last year)
  • 77% say employers have a responsibility to offer a pension plan (76% last year)
  • 75% agree that without good pensions in place, the economy will suffer; and 74% said that, in the absence of good workplace pensions, individuals will become a burden on taxpayers (77% and 76% respectively last year)

“These findings, consistent with prior years, point to a clear desire amongst Canadians for greater access to workplace pensions,” said McCormick. “As business leaders and decision-makers plan for our post-COVID ‘new normal,’ it’s clear that Canadians would strongly support improvements to retirement security for everyone.”

He added: “HOOPP is proud to do its part by providing retirement security to healthcare workers, many of whom fall into groups that often don’t have access to pensions, such as women, part-time workers and younger Canadians. For our membership, the impacts of this pandemic will continue to be felt even after we emerge from the immediate crisis; but they can take some comfort in knowing their pension is secure.”

The survey was conducted between April 19 and 27, 2021. The margin of error is + / - 1.96, 19 times out of 20. See more detailed results here.

About the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan

HOOPP serves Ontario’s hospital and community-based healthcare sector, with more than 610 participating employers. Its membership includes nurses, medical technicians, food services staff, housekeeping staff, and many others who provide valued healthcare services. In total, HOOPP has more than 400,000 active, deferred and retired members.

HOOPP operates as a private independent trust, and is governed by a Board of Trustees with a sole fiduciary duty to deliver the pension promise. The Board is jointly governed by the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) and four unions: the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union (OPSEU), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). This governance model provides representation from both management and workers in support of the long-term interests of the Plan.

About Abacus

Abacus Data is an innovative, fast-growing public opinion and marketing research consultancy. We use the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate top-flight research-based advice to our clients. We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and exceptional value. We are the only research and strategy firm that helps organizations respond to the disruptive risks and opportunities in a world where demographics and technology are changing more quickly than ever. To learn more visit:


James Geuzebroek, Senior Manager, Media and Public Affairs,

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