Close to two-thirds of survey respondents 40 or older rank saving for retirement as their number one priority.

Half of Canadians under the age of 50 are worried about their current and future financial state, according to a new report.

Global professional services company Towers Watson unveils this finding in the company’s “Global Benefits Attitude Survey,” which examines employees’ attitudes toward their health and retirement benefits. Conducted in 12 countries between July and September 2013, the survey was completed by 22,347 employees, including 1,708 full-time Canadian workers, representing all job levels and major industry sectors. 

“The survey results suggest there are multiple sources contributing to this financial anxiety,” says said Karen Burnett, a senior Towers Watson retirement consultant. “Among them is the lack of confidence in financial support from public benefits. 

“Less than one-third of the survey respondents believe that Old Age Security and the Canada/Quebec Pension Plans will continue to provide the same level of benefits in the future as they do today, and more than 70 percent of respondents believe we will see diminished coverage under provincial health care benefits,” she adds. “Canadian workers also continue to struggle with the corporate cut-backs of the past five years.” 

According to the survey, 76 percent of Canadian workers have endured cuts in salary increases and benefits, or have lived through significant organizational change.

“Employers and employees alike have experienced a significant period of change and we are now living in a new reality,” said Burnett. “While corporate profitability has improved and rising stock prices have boosted retirement accounts, slow economic growth and stagnant wages continue to weigh on public confidence and contribute to a continued fear about a retirement crisis in Canada.”

The survey results show that Canadians are tackling their concerns about financial security by deferring expenditures, paying down debt and living more modest lifestyles. They are also saving more for retirement.

Close to two-thirds of survey respondents 40 or older rank saving for retirement as their No. 1 priority, but many are not saving enough. According to the survey, three-quarters of Canadians are saving below their ideal target and only half of the survey respondents believe they will be able to improve their financial prospects.