Many working Canadians feel overwhelmed by debt and more than half of them say they would have difficulty if they missed a paycheque.

They also are losing confidence in the economy, with only 33 per cent of respondents to a survey saying they expect things to get better next year.

That sense of slipping behind comes from a survey of 3,605 working Canadians who completed a poll given to them by members of the Canadian Payroll Association with whom they work. The survey was administered between June 29 and Aug. 7 and designed by Framework Partners using a sample adjusted geographically to mirror a representative sample of working Canadians.

It has been performed annually by the CPA for the past seven years. The CPA says a definitive margin of error cannot be expressed.

Across the country, 48 per cent responded that it would be somewhat difficult or very difficult to meet their financial obligations if a paycheque was delayed by a single week.

Just 24 per cent thought they could come up with $2,000 to cover an emergency, such as critical home or car repairs.

Overwhelmed with debt

About 16 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed they were overwhelmed with debt. The average debt balance for a Canadian consumer, excluding mortgages, was $21,028 in the second quarter of 2015, according to credit monitoring agency TransUnion.

Consumer debt includes car loans, credit cards and lines of credit. In the CPA survey, 19 per cent admitted they had credit card debt and 16 per cent said they have debt on a line of credit.

The money worries are playing havoc with their savings.  

About 47 per cent of those surveyed said they save less than five per cent of their pay.

Retirement savings

The working people surveyed had good intentions to save. More said they were trying to save this year than in previous years. But intentions weren't enough and a lower number said they were able to save.

When they look ahead at retirement, some anticipated moving back the retirement date to put enough by to live on. More than half estimated they would have to save more than $1 million to retire.

The Canada Pension Plan is not considered enough to live on for most people and just 40 per cent of workers are covered by an employer pension.

Three quarters of respondents said they have saved a quarter of their retirement nest egg goal or less. Among respondents aged 50 or over, about 48 per cent said they were less than a quarter way to their retirement goal.

"Canadians are saying they are having a difficult time making ends meet and they are not putting enough aside to reach their retirement goals," said CPA president Patrick Culhane.