Financial Resilience Institute
Nov 24 · 5 mins
New study shows 73% of lower-income Canadians now ‘financially vulnerable’ or ‘extremely vulnerable’
VANCOUVER, B.C. Nov 24 2022 – A new study conducted by the non-profit Financial Resilience Institute and commissioned by charity Prosper Canada shows that 49 per cent of Canadian households overall are ‘extremely vulnerable’ or ‘financially vulnerable’1 but this proportion is 73 per cent for households with lower incomes2 (up from 65 per cent just one year prior). This represents approximately 4.7 million adults.
The snapshot study, Financial Vulnerability of Low-Income Canadians: A Rising Tide, is based on the Seymour Financial Resilience Index TM and a June 2022 survey of 1,516 Canadians with lower incomes and 5,061 Canadians overall.
Despite rising rates of financial vulnerability, 13 per cent of lower-income households (almost 800,000 households) could not access financial help programs or services, versus 7 per cent of households overall. A further 9 per cent of households with lower incomes could not access help to file their taxes and obtain benefits they were eligible for, and 9 per cent could not access help in managing their debt.
Lower-income households that were able to access financial help programs and services had significantly higher mean financial resilience scores (39.06) than those that couldn’t (24.12), underscoring the importance and impact of community financial help programs.
“Our Index shows that many lower-income families are now less financially resilient than they were a year ago when receiving COVID-19 government relief, indicating the need for more targeted support from policymakers, financial institutions and community non-profit organizations,” said Financial Resilience Institute Founder and CEO, Eloise Duncan. “It’s also critical that we continue to actively monitor and address the financial pressures on lower-income and other vulnerable Canadians, given the ongoing cost of living crisis and challenging macro-economic environment.”
“These findings underline an urgent and growing need to broaden access to quality financial help services for lower income Canadians and for parallel action to strengthen our social safety net,” said Prosper Canada CEO, Elizabeth Mulholland. “Without action on both fronts by all levels of government, we can only expect deeper and more widespread hardship, at a growing cost to families and communities.”
Additional study highlights
While the Index showed that 78 per cent of households in Canada are not financially resilient (defined as the ability to get through financial hardship, stressors, and shocks as a result of unplanned life events), this proportion rises to 91 per cent for households with incomes between $25,000 and $50,000, and 95 per cent for households with incomes under $25,000 (up from 85 per cent and 91 per cent respectively in June 2021). Among lower-income households surveyed:
- 68% reported facing barriers impacting their ability to work to earn money
- 67% reported housing affordability was a problem for them personally
- 66% had a negative or zero household savings rate
- 64% reported their household was facing significant financial hardship
- 32% said their debt level felt somewhat or very unmanageable
- 28% were unable to get or afford the food they needed.
46 per cent of lower-income households indicated they could only cover expenses at their current spending level for 3 weeks or less without borrowing or drawing on retirement savings, compared to 28 per cent for Canadians overall. More Canadians with lower incomes also reported that financial stress negatively impacted their well-being compared to one year ago, including: 80 per cent their mental health; 65 per cent their physical health, and 56 per cent their productivity or performance at work. Financial stress also caused 71 per cent of low-income households to feel isolated, caused fights with their partner for 46 per cent, and emotional stress for 82 per cent of lower-income households.
Findings are based on the Seymour Financial Resilience Index™, a proprietary Index that measures the financial resilience of households annually or bi-annually building on over six years of longitudinal data with a sample size of 3,000 to 5,000 adult Canadians. Financial resilience is measured at the national, provincial, segment and individual household levels across nine behavioural, resilience and sentiment indicators. The Index, peer-reviewed by Statistics Canada, has a pre-pandemic baseline of February 2020. This study was supported by boost samples of low-income Canadians and targeted analysis of the Financial Resilience Institute’s June 2022, June 2021 and June 2018 Index and Financial Well-Being studies.
Prosper Canada is a national charity dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for Canadians living in poverty through program and policy innovation. Prosper Canada works with government, business, and community partners to develop and promote financial policies, programs and resources that remove barriers and help more Canadians to prosper. Learn more at www.prospercanada.org.
About Financial Resilience Institute
Financial Resilience Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the financial resilience and well-being of Canadians and global citizens. It is the leading independent authority on financial resilience and financial well-being in Canada.
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1 ‘Extremely Vulnerable’ households have a financial resilience score of 0 to 30 and ‘Financially Vulnerable’ households have a financial resilience score of 30.01 to 50 based on the Seymour Financial Resilience Index TM. ‘Approaching Resilience’ households have a score of 50.01 to 70 and ‘Financially Resilient’ a score of 70.01 to 100.
2 Lower-income households are defined in this study as households with a total household income under $25,000 (including single-person households) and households with more than one person with total household incomes between $25,000 and $49,999.
Seymour Financial Resilience Index® is a registered trademark used under license by the Financial Resilience Society.