businessman in depression with hand on forehead

Only one-third of Canadian employees over aged 50 say they have a strategy for managing and spending their retirement savings, according a survey conducted by Mercer, a subsidiary of global professional services firm Marsh & McLennan Companies.

The statistic becomes even more alarming when considering Canadians with lower levels of financial wellness — only 6% of Canadians in this category are preparing for retirement, the study finds.

Mercer released a report on its Inside Employees’ Minds Financial Wellness survey on Wednesday.

Although many Canadians aren’t preparing for retirement, it doesn’t mean that they’re any less stressed about the issue. In fact, stress about retirement is the biggest financial worry among Canadians (27%), double the second largest concern of paying monthly expenses and credit card debt (14%).

Surprisingly, financial stress has little correlation with much money earned. Many Canadians in households making more than $100,00 per year were just as stressed about retirement savings as those making far less money, the report says.

The likely reason is that the more money Canadians make, the higher their costs needed to maintain that standard of living. Regardless of a higher income, the report says, these Canadians are still struggling to pay for recurring expenses, reduce their debt and save for retirement.

That said, women are often in a greater bind when it comes to retirement savings than men. Due to pay differentiation from men, “women in Canada essentially work 14 weeks each year for free,” the report says. Smaller paycheques mean women are saving less for retirement and paying less into pensions.

Furthermore, women live an average of 4.5 years longer than men, the report says, meaning their retirement savings will have to be stretched longer.

The study concludes that employer retirement readiness programs are not sufficient alone to prepare Canadians for retirement. “Employees can’t save for retirement — or even think of saving,” the report says, “if they’re not financially well on a day-to-day basis.”

Mercer research suggests advisors and clients consider the following four questions when determining whether clients have achieved financial wellness:

  • Do clients feel they have control over their day-to-day and month-to-month finances? Are they comfortable with the amount of money that’s coming in and going out?
  • Do clients have the ability absorb a financial shock? If they had to come up with $500 right away, could they do it?
  • Are they making real progress in achieving their financial goals? Not just saving for retirement, but meeting more immediate goals such as upgrading a home or saving for a vacation?
  • Do clients have the financial freedom to make choices that allow them to enjoy life? For example, can they afford to travel?