A recent study done by human resources services company Morneau Shepell suggests Manitobans are struggling when it comes to their financial well-being.

“I think, quite unfortunately, we have been traumatized as a result of the pandemic and a lot of people are feeling compromised and uncertain around their income," says Paula Allen, a lead researcher for the company.

Allen says the onset of COVID-19 has caused a dip in financial well-being across all Canadian provinces when compared to 2019; and Manitoba is doing worse than average. Job losses, budget cuts, and business shutdowns have all resulted because of the virus and Allen says those disruptions clearly show. She defines financial well-being not as wealth, but as the healthy comprehension of one’s monetary state that leads to stable saving and spending habits.

To properly gauge the recent digression, Allen says her company set the general financial well-being of Canadians in 2019 as the 'zero' marker. With that base in mind, she says the average Canadian province is scoring a -2.8 on the financial well-being index. Manitoba meanwhile, is sitting down at -3.8, worse than Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Ontario. Interestingly, Allen says the same study showed that our province has the highest level of financial literacy in the country having only lost 0.9 points when compared to 2019 (the Maritimes are the worst at -4.1).

“So you are top of the Canadian rank in that respect, but what pulls down the score for Manitobans is their actual transformation of that knowledge into behaviour.”

A chart showing the provincial financial wellbeing index has Manitoba in the middle of the pack with a -3.4 rating.(Morneau Sheppell)

As a whole, Allen adds, Canadian females have a considerably lower financial perception of their situation than their male counterparts, and that is just as true in Manitoba as it is anywhere else. Because women still typically make less in the workplace than men do, Allen says they have a more pessimistic outlook on their earnings. While the value of one’s paycheck does not necessarily determine their financial well-being, she says more often than not it does have a role to play. Morneau Shepell’s data also noted that women tend to lean on their male partners when it comes to fiscal matters which can decrease their personal sense of stability.

Another factor impacting financial security in our province is the gig economy. Allen indicates that 8.5% of Manitobans have both full-time jobs and part-time gigs. She says it is very common for individuals who are dual-wielding professions like that to feel constant anxieties and pressures when it comes to their bank account.

“Our feeling is that if people had better knowledge and managed their money in the best possible way, they might not feel that need to have that supplementary income and that could take a bit of strain off of them.”

Of Manitoba's current situation, Allen offers this simple diagnosis: “People might think it is harder to actually take action than it actually is.” According to the data her team has collected, Manitobans know how to responsibly save and spend and view their money, but they often opt not to. To move above average and even progress into the positives, Allen urges Manitobans first to understand what money they have and whether or not that makes them vulnerable, and second to have a contingency plan so they can remain confident even if their circumstances fluctuate.