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In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a large majority of retail investors are focused on their saving and spending behaviour, suggests a new survey from the Ontario Securities Commission’s (OSC) Investor Office.

The regulator published the results Monday of an online survey of 2,000 investors carried out by Ipsos in September and October 2020. The poll found that almost one-third (32%) said their financial situation was worse due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, compared with 16% who said that their finances had improved.

Almost 10% of investors said they’d incurred significant (at least $5,000) unanticipated expenses due to the pandemic.

Among those who sold investments since the pandemic hit, 29% did so to finance their expenses, compared with just 17% who sold to crystallize profits, the OSC reported.

The study found that 60% of sellers had sold mutual funds specifically; of those, almost half (47%) reported that they’d paid no fee on the transactions, 18% said their fees were waived, and 12% weren’t sure. Just over one-quarter (27%) said they had paid a fee to sell their funds.

Among those who continued buying investments during the pandemic, almost one-third (30%) said they did so as they make contributions on a regular basis, and another 28% said they bought because assets were undervalued.

Looking ahead, 73% of respondents said that, in the wake of the pandemic, they’d like to start saving for future emergencies. Additionally, 73% said they’d focus on reducing on debt, and 70% said that watching their spending would become a priority.

“We continue to see the uneven impact that this crisis is having on retail investors,” said Tyler Fleming, director of the OSC’s Investor Office, in a release.

“Understanding how the pandemic is affecting different segments of the population is essential for supporting retail investors during this difficult time,” he said.

Another key concern since the onset of the pandemic has been the emergence of investment scams, including companies claiming to be able to profit from the crisis with purported cures for Covid-19 or other products that would benefit from the public health emergency.

While the survey found that only about 6% said they’d been approached about a pandemic-related investment opportunity that promised high returns for low risk, it also reported that a remarkable 39% bought into the scheme. Another 24% responded to the approach and decided not to invest; 13% responded but decided it was a scam; and 12% never responded, thinking that the pitch was a scam from the outset.