Fewer Canadians have emergency savings on hand: Maru poll


Household outlook index sinks back to record low

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Canadians’ outlook for the economy deteriorated in February, as a greater number of households showed signs of worry about the state of their savings, according to that latest version of an ongoing tracking poll.

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The Maru Household Outlook Index dropped to 85 last month, matching the lowest reading since global research firm Maru Group started keeping track in 2021. The index was 87 in January and 88 in December. The index pretty much has been on a downward slide since July 2021, when it printed its most optimistic result of 107.

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The baseline for the index is 100. A score below 100 indicates negative sentiment, while a score above 100 is considered positive. Maru comes up with its household index by asking a panel of about 1,500 people a series of questions about the economy’s prospects over the next 60 days.

“The key thing is that people are concerned about the amount of savings they have. That’s what’s underlying all the main pieces here,” said John Wright, executive vice-president of Maru Public Opinion. “It doesn’t look like they have a lot on hand.”

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Wright conducted the survey from Feb. 24 to 27. Some 62 per cent of respondents said they thought they had enough money on hand to cover an unexpected expense over the next two months, down from 65 per cent in January. The February result matched that of October 2022, the last time the index was this low. Regionally, the lowest levels of available savings were recorded in Alberta and Manitoba/Saskatchewan where 48 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively, estimated they had enough to cover a surprise expense. By age, 47 per cent of Canadians 18-34 and 45 per cent of middle-aged participants had enough savings, meanwhile, among women, it was 38 per cent.

The key thing is that people are concerned about the amount of savings they have

John Wright, executive vice-president, Maru Public Opinion

Fewer households indicated that they felt their investments and savings would be enough to sustain them in the future; 55 per cent of respondents answered affirmatively, down from 59 per cent in January. February’s result was the second-lowest reading after March 2022’s 54 per cent.

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Negative sentiment far outstripped any positive feelings survey participants could muster regarding the economy and their personal financial situation.

A growing number of Canadians — 66 per cent compared with 64 per cent in January — said they believed the economy was on the “wrong track.” The only other time Canadians held a more pessimistic view of the economy was in October 2022 when 70 per cent said the economy was headed in the wrong direction.

The last time a majority of Canadians believed the economy was moving in the right direction was in November 2022.

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Also, a declining number of Canadians — 31 per cent compared with 35 per cent January — said they thought now was a good time to invest in the stock market with the former result matching similar views held in October 2022.

On the positive side, fewer Canadians said they were worried about losing their jobs. Eleven per cent indicated they feared that outcome over the next 60 days, compared with 15 per cent in January. Those indicating losing their job was very likely fell to three per cent from five per cent. The last time results were similar was in September 2022.

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