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Canadian investors optimistic despite housing market jitters, Manulife survey finds

Canadians are feeling confident about their financial futures and planning to sock away extra money in their TFSAs this year, according to the results of a poll released Monday by Manulife.
More Canadians said they expect to be better off in two years time than thought they'd be worse off, according to a new poll from Manulife. (Canadian Press)

Canadians are feeling confident about their financial futures and planning to sock away extra money in their TFSAs this year, according to the results of a poll released Monday by Manulife.

Almost a quarter of people surveyed said they planned to put more money into their TFSAs this year. That makes the tax-free investment vehicles a more popular choice than putting excess cash into their homes (cited by less than one-fifth of respondents) or putting it into an RRSP, which was the plan for less than one-sixth of those polled.

In the poll, 2001 Canadians aged 25 or older from across the country were surveyed online by Environics between Dec.16 and 28th of last year. Manulife has commissioned the survey twice a year since 1999, but the margin of error cannot be calculated for online polls such as this one. 

Broadly, the results paint a picture of people who are generally more optimistic about their financial futures, and who are planning to invest in them over the next 12 months.

And the findings jive with recent Statistics Canada data showing that RRSPs have become far less popular since the government introduced TFSAs in 2009.

According to Manulife, the proportion of people reporting they are 'ahead of plan' for their financial future hit an all-time high this year. All in all, 51 per cent of those polled said they were either on track or ahead of their financial plans.

"Canadians continue to be optimistic about their future, but continue to take a conservative and responsible stance on their saving and investing," Manulife said.

Some 31 per cent of people polled said they were better off today than they were two years ago. Just 24 per cent said they are worse off.

Looking forward, people are even more optimistic — 41 per cent of respondents say they expect to be in better financial shape two years from now than they are today. Just 13 per cent said the opposite.

And generally speaking, young people were the most optimistic about their financial futures, with 54 per cent of those between the ages of 25 and 34 say they expect a brighter future.

If there was one area of concern, it was in the housing market. In the poll, almost as many people perceived it to be a bad time to buy a house as thought it was an ideal time to buy in.

That view wasn't even across the country, however, as those in B.C. were generally more wary of buying, while those in Alberta were most in favour.

"While home ownership remains a priority, Canadians are not necessarily willing to buy at any cost," Manulife's senior investment strategist Kevin Headland said. 

"They are increasingly aware of affordability, whether it is the down payment amount or monthly payment and interest costs."