Sun Life Financial study finds Canadians have tightened purse strings in 2009

    
    However, Unretirement(TM) Index finds economy hasn't put a damper on
    Canadians' retirement spirits
    

TORONTO, Oct. 22 /CNW/ - Canadians are facing the economic downturn with resolve and have changed their spending habits as a result, according to the second edition of the Sun Life Financial Canadian Unretirement(TM) Index. Sixty per cent of Canadian workers have reduced their debt, with almost the same number (59 per cent) saying they have spent less since January.

"In December 2008 we saw that many Canadian workers were conflicted about their retirement prospects, but now, almost a year later, there's an increased confidence in their ability to save enough for certain things like basic living and medical expenses," said Dean Connor, President, Sun Life Financial Canada. "According to our survey, paying housing expenses is the number one financial priority of Canadian workers until about age 51, when retirement saving takes over as the top priority."

Thinking about their retirement prospects, Canadians are feeling more confident, with more respondents anticipating that they will not be working longer than they originally intended and more Canadians believing their retirement will be as comfortable as they had hoped, compared to December 2008 - the last time the Index was conducted.

According to the study, 55 per cent of Canadians now believe they will be retired at age 66, up from 51 per cent in December 2008, while 45 per cent believe they will be working either full-time or part-time. Canadians had mostly positive reasons for intending to work past the traditional age of retirement, such as remaining mentally active and enjoyment of career.

The survey also found that Canadians who use a financial advisor are more confident in their futures:

    
    -   Eighty-six per cent feel they are making better decisions about their
        finances
    -   Only 37 per cent of those with an advisor said they now expect to
        work longer than originally expected, compared to 48 per cent without
        an advisor
    

"These findings are in line with the feedback we have received from clients," said Connor. "Unfortunately, half of those surveyed don't work with an advisor, and they're really missing out on some valuable guidance and peace of mind."

Measuring Canadians' overall retirement confidence

The Sun Life Canadian Unretirement(TM) Index measures the confidence that Canadian workers have towards issues that influence retirement. The lower the index number, the more negative or pessimistic the outlook is on issues that influence retirement.

This second of multiple studies yielded an overall index score of 51 on a scale of 0 to 100, compared to a score of 50 in December 2008. This compares to the American Unretirement(SM) Index score of 44.

Confidence levels were significantly higher for Canadians who worked with a financial advisor. The overall index score was 51 for all working Canadians. Those who did not have an advisor scored 48, while Canadians who have worked with an advisor for a year or more were much more confident, scoring 54.

The Index is a blend of confidence scores in five sub-indices: Macroeconomics (score equals 40), Government Benefits (score equals 47), Personal Finance (score equals 49), Employer Benefits (score equals 47), and Health (score equals 70).

    
    Regional tables

    Information from the survey also varied by region:

    Thinking about the future, which of these describes what you think you
    will be doing at age 66, shortly after the normal retirement age?

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Total Alberta B.C. Man/Sask Atlantic Ontario Quebec
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Working full-time     16%    14%   16%    15%       13%     18%     15%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Working part-time     29%    26%   33%    23%       26%     31%     26%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Fully retired;
     not working
     for money            55%    60%   50%    61%       60%     50%     59%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    My retirement will not be as nice as I had hoped.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Total Alberta B.C. Man/Sask Atlantic Ontario Quebec
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Agree                 38%    44%   38%    32%       39%     37%     38%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Disagree              55%    54%   54%    57%       54%     57%     52%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unsure                 7%     2%    8%    11%        7%      5%     11%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I now expect to work longer than I originally expected.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Total Alberta B.C. Man/Sask Atlantic Ontario Quebec
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Agree                 42%    44%   45%    37%       41%     42%     39%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Disagree              53%    51%   50%    58%       54%     53%     55%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unsure                 5%     4%    6%     5%        5%      5%      7%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Have you actually done any of the following since the beginning of 2009
    as a result of the current economic environment?

    Started saving or investing more
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Total Alberta B.C. Man/Sask Atlantic Ontario Quebec
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Yes                   37%    37%   32%    36%       25%     40%     42%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    No                    63%    63%   68%    64%       75%     60%     58%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Reduced your debt
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Total Alberta B.C. Man/Sask Atlantic Ontario Quebec
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Yes                   60%    61%   55%    62%       63%     63%     53%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    No                    40%    39%   45%    38%       37%     37%     47%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Reduced your spending
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Total Alberta B.C. Man/Sask Atlantic Ontario Quebec
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Yes                   59%    62%   57%    53%       60%     62%     55%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    No                    41%    38%   43%    47%       40%     38%     45%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    

Methodology

The study was conducted by Fleishman Hillard from August 17, 2009, to September 9, 2009. Telephone interviews were conducted by Interviewing Service of America using a random-digit dial (RDD) sampling method. Quotas and weights were applied to gather a sample of 1,202 people working either full- or part-time, which was representative of the Canadian working population between the ages of 30 and 65. The sample was also representative in terms of gender and region census break. Analysis and construction of indexes involved the application of factor analysis. Final indexes are based on summated averages across the attributes which make up an index.

Age groups were divided by workers in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60+ and by three ranges of total assets, not including the net worth of the person's place of residence (less than $100K, between $100K and $500K, and greater than $500K). This sample has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent at the 95 per cent confidence interval.

For more information about Sun Life Financial's Canadian Unretirement(TM) Index, visit www.sunlife.ca/unretirementindex.

About Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. As of June 30, 2009, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of CDN$397 billion.

Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under ticker symbol SLF.

For more information on Sun Life Financial, visit www.sunlife.ca.

SOURCE Sun Life Financial Inc.

For further information: For further information: Nadine Ricketts, Senior Communications Specialist, Media & Public Relations, Sun Life Financial Canada, (416) 979-6273, nadine.ricketts@sunlife.com


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