Financial toll of COVID-19 pandemic weighing heavily on Albertans: survey


New data shows the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a significant financial toll on some Albertans.

The fourth-annual BDO Affordability Index released on Monday indicates rising inflation and housing costs have prevented Albertans from being able to save for their retirement and is impacting their standard of living compared to what they enjoyed pre-pandemic.

The index is produced by BDO Debt Solutions and data gleaned from an online survey conducted by the Angus Reid Group.

Jordan Day, senior BDO vice president and licensed insolvency trustee, told CTV News Edmonton how various demographics are being impacted in different ways, with families whose household income is less than $50,000 a year feeling the pinch most drastically.

In Alberta, 46 per cent of people say they put less of their paycheque into savings while only 22 per cent indicated they were able to save more during the pandemic.

“What we are seeing in Alberta is there is a real erosion in terms of where families are able to spend their money,” Day said.

Of those saving less, 63 per cent attribute it to increased spending on essentials, higher than the national average of 57 per cent.

According to Day, the top three concerns identified by Albertans were retirement savings, groceries and the cost of housing.

“We are seeing Albertans struggling in those areas,” he said. “Given what we’ve been through over the past 18 months, Canadians are having a hard time from a financial perspective.

“While many Albertans have some funds put away for retirement, most of them recognize that it’s nowhere near what they will need when that day comes.”

About one-in-four respondents indicated that putting food on the table for themselves and their family is a struggle.

“(That could be) inflation, in terms of cost of delivery,” Day added. “We are really feeling it.”

Additionally, two-in-five Albertans believe they will not be able to restore the standard of living they enjoyed before the pandemic due to incurred debts.

Roughly half of Albertans indicated housing was a major challenge to their budgets, including the sheer cost of renting. Seventy per cent of respondents said they would not be able to save enough money to make a down payment on a future home.

“Many are saying there’s just no way, in the next few years, that they will be able to save the money and purchase a home.”

For Day, much of this financial hardship shows that many people lived paycheque to paycheque. He hopes the pandemic taught people the hard lesson that having an emergency reserve fund for worst-case scenarios is necessary.

Unfortunately, Day forecasts that concerns like rising housing costs and soaring inflation will not be going away any time soon.

“(It appears) natural gas prices could be going up and that’s going to affect all of us when it comes to our heating bills this winter,” he added. “We see it at the pumps right now, fuel prices are getting higher.

“All of our goods are going to be shipped by truck or rail, and (those fuel prices) will affect their cost.”

The Angus Reid Group survey was conducted between Sept. 1 and 7, with a randomized sample of 2,015 Canadians taking part and a margin of error of +/- 2.2 per cent (19 times out of 20). 

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