Today's economy

Has the financial crisis made us smarter?

By Kevin Press, BrighterLife.ca

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It might be short-lived, but a lot of Canadians say they’re saving more, spending less and paying down more debt than they did pre-2008.

Has the financial crisis made us smarter?One of the first questions I posed to Today’s economy readers — almost six years ago — was how our attitudes about money would change as a result of the financial crisis. I’ve taken a pretty cynical view on the subject. I didn’t buy into the idea of an emerging new frugality. And you will never convince me that we’ve undergone the kind of “emotional, social, economic reset” that Jeff Immelt, chief executive officer at General Electric, predicted in 2008.

So I was surprised to see a set of findings in this year’s Sun Life Canadian Unretirement™ Index that suggest respondents are making better personal financial decisions than they did before the financial crisis.

One quarter or more of Canadians told us they are saving more, paying down more debt, spending less and doing more to plan for their financial future than they were pre-2008.

Financial decision making (graph)

The news is not all good, of course. At the same time that 25% are saving more, 23% are doing the opposite. And 29% are investing less than they did before the crisis, which is to say that they have missed out on a solid global market recovery.

But on the whole, I think there is reason for optimism in these numbers. This is what deleveraging looks like. A lot of Canadians say they are consuming less and paying down their debt. And while that will contribute to low levels of economic growth in the short term, it may well prevent greater pain down the road.

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