A look at the financial health of Quebecers
Statistics on the level of financial concern and the state of mind of Quebecers and Canadians.
For the 14th year, the National Payroll Institute (NPI) (formerly the Canadian Payroll Association) surveys employees across the country about their financial situation. These annual reports provide a glimpse of the financial mindset of Quebecers and Canadians and their level of concern about it.
However, with the bad news accumulating over the past few months, it will not come as a surprise to learn that 85% of Canadians (81% in Quebec) are concerned about inflation and rising interest rates.
The NPI has grouped the respondents into 3 categories: The “comfortable”, the “getting by”, and the “stressed”. In one year, the “comfortable” category has lost 10 percentage points, so that each of the 3 categories currently represents about a third of the respondents.
What are the main factors that distinguish people in these 3 groups?
1. Expenditure: When 37% of Canadians (32% of Quebecers) say they spend all or more than their paycheck, it’s clear that this leaves no room for unforeseen and seasonal expenses (e.g. back to school, holiday season, summer vacations, etc.). Preparing a budget and analyzing expenses are key elements for knowing where our money is going and what is our leeway for discretionary expenses, i.e., everything that is pleasant but not necessary. Obviously, in some cases, income barely covers living expenses, but most of the time, tighter control will allow for a surplus each month.
2. Savings: The respondents are saving less than last year. Indeed, those who save only between 1% and 5% of their net pay are increasing and now represent 34% of workers. During the pandemic and the two lockdowns, we saw record savings rates. From an average of 5% before the pandemic, this rose to 35% in spring 2020 and stabilized at 15% during the following year. However, the pendulum swung back subsequently and consumers went on a spending spree like never before. Savings were therefore the first victim of this explosion in spending.
3. Debt: The survey reveals that the number of workers carrying a balance on their credit card has increased from 29% to 42%. Most alarming is that 18% of those surveyed say they needed credit for essential expenses such as food, clothing, or housing.
While minimum payments should not exceed 10% to 15% of the paycheck, it is not uncommon to see budgets where they represent 25% or more of net after-tax income. This is the Achilles’ heel of the vast majority of people who consult us.
Quebec stands out favorably once again
Quebec has the second-lowest consumer credit debt level, just behind Manitoba. It is also here that the lowest rate of payment arrears among all Canadian provinces is noted. Why do we hold such an enviable position? While 17% of Canadian respondents say they are overwhelmed by their debts, this number is only 6% in Quebec. This is something we can be proud of.
Our incomes are not the most important factor!
The other good news from this survey is that it is not the income we earn that is the biggest determinant of the category in which we find ourselves, but rather the way in which we manage our expenses. In this regard, it’s a safe bet that we can all improve at this level.
We have no control over interest rates or inflation, but we can improve our situation with better control over our spending, by preserving our savings or increasing them when possible, and by reducing our debt.
Improve yourself through self-assessment
Better financial health starts with self-assessment and putting a plan in place. The INP has developed a very simple self-assessment tool which is a good starting point. Then, we continue the self-assessment by taking inventory of our debts linked to consumer credit, by developing a budget, and by measuring our level of debt. We finish by checking our credit file.
These steps will allow you to become aware of your financial situation and help you put a plan in place to reduce non-essential expenses, ensure savings and reduce your debt.
Professional help is sometimes required to complete one or both steps. Your financial advisor, your financial institution, an accountant or a personal finance advisor like us, can help you with your efforts, sometimes even free of charge.
For any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at 1-877-Liberté or on JeanFortin.com, personal finance advisors and licensed insolvency trustees.
By: Pierre Fortin, ll.b., cirp, s.a.i.
Note: The survey was carried out on behalf of the National Payroll Institute between June 7 and July 15, 2022 among 3,033 workers (92% of whom were full-time).