19% of respondents didn't save a dime in 2014, BMO survey suggests

A BMO survey raises fresh concerns about Canadians’ savings habits, with 19 per cent of respondents saying they didn’t save a penny last year.

A third had less than $10,000 saved, but millennials show glimmer of hope

Atif Mian, co-author of House of Debt, on why household savings have shrunk since 2009 7:49

A BMO survey raises fresh concerns about Canadians' savings habits, with 19 per cent of respondents saying they didn't save a penny last year.

Another 40 per cent of respondents to the online survey worried they were not saving enough.

The survey found that one-third of respondents had less than $10,000 put by, and 12 per cent had less than $1,000.

Statistics Canada has found the household savings rate hit a five-year low of 3.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

In the 1990s, Canada's household savings rate averaged about 7.9 per cent, but in the past 10 years it has been stuck in the four per cent range.

However, the BMO study found that millennials — the generation born from 1982 to 1998 — are beginning to experiment with better savings habits.

About 40 per cent of respondents aged 18-34 reported having a fixed plan to put away money on a regular basis, compared with 33 per cent in 2014.

Overall, about 31 per cent of respondents said they had a fixed savings plan.

Pollara conducted the study for BMO between March 13 and March 16 with an online sample of 1,002 Canadians. The sample was weighted by region, gender, and age, based on the most recent census figures. Online surveys are not assigned a margin of error.

Competition for your savings

Atif Mian, co-author of House of Debt, believes North America is caught in a negative economic cycle that is leading to a high debt burden on consumers and little savings.

"If they are overburdened by the debt they took on a year or two years ago, they cut back on spending and take the rest of the economy down with them," he said in an interview with CBC's The Exchange with Amanda Lang.

Mian said consumers have been struggling to get ahead since the 2009 financial crisis.

BMO's survey was released at a time when there is competition for consumer savings accounts among the banks.

Banks are starting to offer new savings accounts with bonuses in an effort to attract consumer savings, according to Rita Trichur, a business reporter with the Wall Street Journal.

Banks are particularly interested in attracting young professionals, who may be lured away by online alternatives to banking.

"Banks are under pressure from regulators to maintain capital cushions as a safety measure and consumer deposits are really a cheap source of funds for the banks," she told CBC News.

With files from the Canadian Press

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