Rising expenses hurting Canadians’ finances: women’s retirement security at risk

New research from HOOPP and Abacus Data finds half (49%) of Canadian women have less than $5,000 in savings; most Canadians feel unprepared for retirement.

TORONTO, June 20, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Amidst a rising cost of living and persistent interest rates, Canadians’ retirement outlook is particularly bleak, according to the results of the 2024 Canadian Retirement Survey from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) and Abacus Data. It’s an especially challenging environment for women, as they struggle to balance the cost of daily life with saving for retirement.

While the survey of 2,000 Canadians found one in five (22%) have no savings at all, Canadian women report having less in savings and a reduced capacity to save compared to men. Half (49%) of women have less than $5,000 in savings, compared to a third (33%) of men.

“We know women make less money than men and they are more likely to work part-time or take time off work to have children or look after their families,” said Ivana Zanardo, Head of Plan Services at HOOPP. “Factor in rising expenses and prolonged high interest rates and it’s no surprise that their retirement security is paying the price.”

It’s against this economic backdrop that a majority (57%) of unretired Canadians don’t feel prepared for retirement, including 64% of women and 49% of men. As women report having lower savings than men, they’re also less likely to have enough money coming in to save (36% of women compared to 48% of men), and much more likely to be concerned about the cost of daily life (76% vs. 65%) and their income keeping up with inflation (69% vs. 57%).

Affording the day-to-day is the top financial priority for women (57%, compared to 49% of men), while men focus more on saving for retirement (51%, vs. 46% of women). Even so, all Canadians continue to feel concerned about affording daily life (70%) amidst a challenging economy.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen Canadians struggle to keep up, first with inflation and now with interest rates and the cost of living,” said David Coletto, CEO, Abacus Data. “But a small cut in interest rates won’t provide enough relief for Canadians, who told us they expect rates to continue to impact their ability to save even if they decrease slightly in the short-term.”

As they manage these mounting financial pressures, many Canadians find themselves facing a different future than they may have anticipated, with some removing retirement from their plans entirely. One in ten (13%) unretired Canadians don’t think they’ll ever retire and one in four (26%) plan to continue to work in retirement in order to support themselves.

Finances negatively impacting Canadians’ mental health, especially women

The strain on Canadians’ finances is also affecting their overall wellbeing, with women much more likely to be affected. Significantly more women feel anxious (51% of women compared to 39% of men), fearful (50% vs. 37%), frustrated (50% vs. 42%) and sad (46% vs. 36%) about their financial situation.

At the same time, women are more likely than men to be concerned about:

  • housing affordability (66% of women, compared to 51% of men)
  • having enough money in retirement (63% vs. 52%)
  • their mental health (49% vs. 35%)

These pressures have left many women in an untenable position as they get closer to retirement age, as more than one in three (36%) aged 55-64 have no savings at all, compared to one in five (22%) men in the same age group. In fact, women in this age group are by far the most likely to have nothing saved, followed by 30% of women aged 35-54 (compared to 20% of men in the same age group).

Almost half (49%) of unretired adults have saved nothing for retirement in the last year, as all Canadians continue to worry about having enough money in retirement (58%). Even as they navigate a challenging economic environment, the vast majority (70%) of Canadians continue to agree they would trade some of their salary for a pension (or a better pension).

The findings provide a compelling explanation for why this is: almost half (49%) of unretired women with a pension feel prepared for retirement, compared to just 29% of those without a pension. For unretired men, this increases to 66% of those with a pension and 40% without.

Canadians also recognize the important role good workplace pensions play in Canada’s economy. Seventy-seven per cent agree that without good pensions in place, the economy will suffer, while three-quarters (75%) believe that if workers aren’t able to access good workplace pensions and contribute during their working lives, they will become a burden on taxpayers.

“By improving access to good workplace pensions we can help prevent these challenges from further eroding Canadian women’s retirement security,” said Zanardo. “At the end of the day, women and all Canadians deserve to feel confident in their financial future.”

These findings are based on a survey conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from April 12 to 16, 2024. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.19%, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error will be larger for data that is based on sub-groups of the total sample. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment and region. Individuals who identified their gender as something other than "male" or "female" were weighted out of the gendered analysis due to their small sample size (N=9). Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

About the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan

HOOPP serves Ontario’s hospital and community-based healthcare sector, with more than 670 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 460,000 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.


Jackie Emick, Media Relations Advisor