Financial Stress at Record Highs

June 16, 2023 by David Christianson

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If you’re feeling stressed about money these days, you are not alone. Money is the number one source of stress for Canadians, according to the sixth annual Financial Stress Index (FSI) survey.

What is the FSI?

The FSI is a survey conducted each year by Leger, the largest Canadian-owned market research and analytics company, on behalf of FP Canada, the group that licenses the CFPR financial planning designation. The goals are to uncover how money and financial matters impact Canadians’ stress levels, explore the primary factors causing that stress and identify behaviours that help reduce that anxiety.

The FSI also examines the effects those stressors are having on peoples’ lives. 

What were the results?

For the sixth year in a row, the survey showed that money was the primary source of stress in the lives of 40% of Canadians, ahead of health (23%), work (16%) and relationships (17%).

This stress is causing negative effects such as anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, with 36% of Canadians saying they experience mental health challenges as a result of the stress. Losing sleep over money worries was cited by 48% of respondents, compared to only 43% last year.

As well, marriage and relationship issues (16%), loss of productivity at work (16%) family disputes (14%) and substance abuse (6%) were also cited. Each of those factors is up 1% or 2% from 2022, not a good trend.

What are the main causes of stress?

As in 2022, high grocery prices were identified by 69% of respondents, while the stress caused by the rising cost of goods and services generally were cited by 63% this year, compared to 55% last year.

Almost half (48%) of respondents say that they feel they have less disposable income than last year, compared to 39% reporting that same feeling last year.

The knock-on effect is leaving Canadians with less money to put toward key things that would help alleviate financial stress, like paying down debts, managing bill payments more easily and saving for retirement.

What’s the good news?

About the only good news in this report is that people who work with a financial planner, like a CFP, R.F.P. or QAFP, report significantly lower levels of stress.

This is consistent with my own experience. When we show clients that their financial situation is still secure after events like a stock market correction, rising interest rates and inflation, or even loss of job, and that we have planned for these contingencies, obviously they will be less stressed.

People who use a financial planner are 10% more likely to pay down debt, set up an emergency fund and to track expenses, all behaviours that survey respondents identified as positive contributors to stress reduction.

There was a common definition of financial well-being, with 69% surveyed described as “feeling like you don’t have to worry about money on a day-to-day basis”. Retiring comfortably was also identified, but only 42% of Canadians considered home ownership to be an important indicator of financial well-being.

If money worries are causing you significant stress that is negatively affecting other parts of your life, seriously consider consulting a financial professional. Even having an initial conversation is likely to help you feel better. Taking action always helps.

Hopefully knowing you’re not alone is also some minor comfort. This too shall pass. 

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Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.

Please consult legal, tax, insurance and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.


David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is recipient of the FP Canada™ Fellow (FCFP) Distinction, and repeatedly named a Top 50 Financial Advisor in Canada.  He is a Senior Wealth Advisor and Portfolio Manager with Christianson Wealth Advisors at National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance

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