stressed senior couple calculating budget at home

Canadians don’t understand retirement income sources, according to a report by the Retirement and Savings Institute at HEC Montreal.

Survey respondents aged 35 to 54 achieved an average score of only 36.5% on their knowledge of Canada’s retirement income system, according to the report. Survey questions were based on topics of general financial knowledge, tax-sheltered saving, employer pension plans, CPP or QPP, OAS and GIS.

The low result is concerning, because making enlightened decisions about saving and retirement is “pointedly difficult” when Canadians don’t know what makes up the system, the institute said in its report.

Limited knowledge of the system could put those relying on private savings at a disadvantage, similar to the disadvantage of lower-earning individuals, who might be more likely to depend on public programs, the report said.

Employer plans, and OAS and GIS were the least understood topics. Canadians were also unsure about the difference between TFSAs and RRSPs.

Older, more educated and higher-earning Canadians received only slightly better scores. For example, those 50 to 54 receiving an average score of about 40%; those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 45%.

For more details, read the full report.

For the survey, 3,000 Canadians aged 35 to 54 were interviewed in December 2018. Respondents were in all 10 provinces were allocated proportionally to each province’s population weight. An index was developed to portray the proportion of correct answers to 29 questions about financial knowledge and retirement sources.