Growing wealth versus paying debt: how Canadians ranked financial priorities

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The poll, of 1,515 respondents, was conducted by Maru/Blue via an online survey from Dec. 6 to Dec. 7.

CIBC did not provide full polling data to the media, but a spokesperson said the bank has run this poll for several years.

Respondents were asked to select their top priority or goal from a list.

In the 2021 survey, more than one in eight (13%) said they do not have or are not making financial goals for 2022, while 15% said their top priority is keeping up with bills or getting by.

One in five (20%) respondents selected debt repayment as their top priority; another 16%, growing investments or wealth.

Among Canadians who said they took on more debt in 2021, 37% said it was because their expenses exceeded their monthly incomes. Only 27% of respondents expected their financial situations to improve next year.

Fewer than one in 10 (8%) selected saving for retirement as their top priority, and only one in 25 (4%) said establishing or building an emergency fund was their top priority.

Common secondary goals for Canadians in 2022 consisted of saving as much as possible and growing an emergency fund (28%), not taking on more debt (26%), saving for a vacation or travel experience (17%), reducing discretionary spending (17%), and saving for retirement (16%), CIBC said.

Further, 80% of respondents expected their financial goals will stay the same, even when the pandemic is over.

Almost half of overall respondents (47%) described financial wellness as “living without financial stress.” For 28% of respondents, “living without financial stress” was the top description for overall wellness.

The poll also found 41% of respondents think financial wellness is rooted in being able to afford what they need in life, such as housing, food or transportation. Half of respondents said they wished they were better at saving and, similarly, 49% said they needed to get a better grasp of their finances in 2022.

Of note, 70% of overall respondents did not have a planning session with their financial advisors in the past year.

Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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