The coronavirus pandemic has tested the limits of Canadians and while no generation has been unaffected by the pandemic, the economic impact was distributed unevenly. Many younger Canadians in Generation Z, or Gen Z, have had their education disrupted, career plans changed, and financial prospects diminished largely because they are overrepresented in the highly affected service sector, according to a new survey by the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA).

The survey was published found that 53% of Gen Z respondents (aged 18-25) felt the pandemic upended their financial security, with that number rising to 73% for those in less stable financial situations. At the same time, 88% of Gen Zers are feeling optimistic about their financial futures, and 98% are actively making plans to strengthen their financial resilience.

Savings mindset

This is the second time that Gen Z has faced an uncertain future caused by disruptive events: the first was the Great Recession of 2008-09 and now the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21. Indeed, these two seismic events in their formative years have shaped a generation’s worldview when it comes to their financial well-being.

The CBA survey found that Gen Z is keen to save. 74% of those surveyed have a savings account and 77% say that they put at least 1% of their income aside as savings, with an overall average of 9% of income saved. While respondents in higher self-reported income groups are more likely to be savers, and save more on average, 68% of those in less secure financial situations also have a savings mindset. When asked what they are saving for, the overall top responses are: an emergency fund and financial independence.

Avid budgeters

Overall, 71% of Gen Z respondents say they are actively budgeting, with 58% saying they do so in a formal manner by:  keeping a written record of expenditures (21%), maintaining financial spreadsheets (20%), or using digital tools (17%). However, 92% of Gen Z survey respondents say they experience barriers with sticking to a budget. The most common barrier is not earning enough money (43%), followed by unexpected expenses (42%) and shopping impulsively (38%).

Emergency benefits kept Gen Z afloat

Almost identical to the proportion of those saying the pandemic upended their financial security, 52% of Gen Zers say that they would have suffered greatly during the pandemic without government income supports. Perhaps not surprisingly, that number rises to 73% for respondents in basic and precarious financial situations.

64% of Gen Zers surveyed received COVID-related emergency government benefits. Again, that number rises to 70% among those in more unstable socio-economic situations. 57% of Gen Zers who received emergency response and recovery benefits saved at least some of this money. And in response to a separate question, 48% say they used government benefits to help lower their debt.

Debt management, responsible use of credit and pandemic-related anxiety

73% of Gen Zers report having some type of debt, with the average reported debt load being $14,100. Among those with debt, the two most common are credit card (49%) and student loans (39%). Interestingly, of those with credit cards, half (49%) of respondents say always pay off their credit cards in full each month, whereas 38% carry a balance. 

True to the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Gen Z, more than half (51%) of respondents say they have experienced anxiety related to debt during the pandemic. Tied to this, 41% have seen their debt level increase because of the pandemic. Again, both proportions increase for those in less stable financial situations, at 81% and 73% respectively.

Banks as trusted advisors

The survey of Gen Z Canadians found that 69% of Gen Zers have sought advice regarding financial planning or debt management, however only 47% say a financial plan is key to a secure financial future. The most cited sources are friends and family (52%), followed closely by financial institutions (30%). The same survey revealed that 80% of Gen Zers trust their bank and 85% say that their bank is meeting their needs. This shows that there is opportunity for banks to further engage with younger Canadians to help them chart a path to financial well-being.


A total of 763 Canadians aged 18-25 were interviewed online in June 2021. The sample was designed to reflect Canada’s population of young adults according to gender, education, income, origin class and region. A comparable probability sample would have a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Source: Cision News Wire