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More than a third of people in Canada feel financial shame, but no one is talking about it

Coast Capital study finds that people are stuck in a cycle of shame, silence and isolation when it comes to their finances

Vancouver, B.C. (December 7, 2023) – Canada’s largest federal financial cooperative, Coast Capital, has released a new study exploring financial shame and its impacts on people’s ability to address the factors keeping them from improving their financial reality.

 The study, Breaking the Cycle of Financial Shame, commissioned by the credit union and hosted on the Angus Reid Forum, found that more than a third of Canadians (36 per cent) say they feel shame when it comes to their financial situation and that three out of four Canadians (74 per cent) think about their financial situation far more often than they speak about it.

 And it isn’t just people’s financial wellbeing that shame is impacting. Half of Canadians (51 per cent) indicated that money is impacting their mental and emotional wellbeing, with the vast majority feeling either anxious (38%) or stressed (38%) about their financial situations. 

“Many of us in Canada – across different income levels – are struggling to keep up with inflation, rising costs of living and record debt levels,” says Aimee Chow, Director of Retail and Investments, Coast Capital. “This study illuminates that the shame we feel around our finances is also holding us back. The silence that shame imposes is preventing us from having important conversations and actively taking steps within our control that can unlock financial opportunities and improve our situation.”

Breaking the Cycle of Financial Shame: Key Insights

The data illuminated two trends when it comes to the power of financial shame and its impact on our behaviour and relationships: 

We’re not alone, but we think we are We’re avoiding important conversations

●       Over half of Canadians (56 per cent) say financial shame is impacting relationships with friends and peers.

●       73 per cent of respondents believe that other people can afford things that they can’t.

●       68 per cent believe that they don’t make as much money as others.

●       Nearly half (43 per cent) of respondents believe that they’re financially worse off than their friends.

●       Over a third (42 per cent) of people admit to using some sort of strategy to make their financial situation appear better than it is.

●       Only 38 per cent of millennials say that they are completely honest about their financial situations. Compared to 48 per cent of boomers.

●       67 per cent of Canadians indicate that financial wellbeing is closely tied to their happiness



●       Almost two-thirds of Canadians (63 per cent) take some sort of measure to avoid dealing with their finances. Including:

●       25 per cent postponing financial goals

●       24 per cent avoiding discussing finances with family and (25 per cent) friends

●       23 per cent avoiding situations that involve a purchase decision

●       People feel the most anxiety around purchases related to:

●       Home repairs and maintenance (65 per cent)

●       Travel and vacations (65 per cent)

●       Holiday gift shopping (59 per cent)

●       Spending on holiday activities (56 per cent)

●       Grocery purchases (53 per cent),

●       Childcare (50 per cent)


The leading Canadian expert in financial recovery and psychological and behavioural factors driving our relationship with money, Chantel Chapman, who supported the development of the study, adds: “While the findings are very telling about the current economic reality in the country, I am not surprised by the insights. In my work, I see financial shame as a common significant barrier to financial recovery and empowerment. Financial shame isolates us and can lead to avoidance patterns, making financial literacy, support, and pathways to action inaccessible. These avoidant behaviours often lead to worse financial outcomes and the cycle of shame continues.”

Chapman goes on to say, “to alleviate the burden of financial shame and break out of feelings of isolation, we need to feel connection and belonging. Naming this experience is a starting intervention to overcoming shame, and with this survey, we can see ourselves in the data and know that we are not alone.”

As a social purpose financial cooperative and Certified B Corporation®, Coast Capital is sparking a conversation on a growing but silent epidemic in a first step towards breaking the stigma and, ultimately, the financial shame cycle to help more people in Canada build a better financial future.

Learn more about the report, the warning signs of the shame cycle and advice on how to take back your financial power through our Breaking the Cycle of Financial Shame fact sheet.


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About this survey

The findings are based on a survey conducted between November 1 to 4, 2023 among a representative sample of 1,512 Canadian adults, plus an additional 154 Millennials in BC, all of whom are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey was conducted in English and French. The precision of Angus Reid Forum online polls is measured using a credibility interval. For comparison purposes only, the sample plan would carry a margin of error +/- 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About the Angus Reid Forum

The Angus Reid Forum is Canada’s most well-known and trusted online public opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to all Canadians.

About Coast Capital

At Coast Capital, we’re not dreaming about a better future, we’re building one. We’re a member-owned financial cooperative with an 80-year legacy of unlocking financial opportunities that positively impact people and communities. We believe that every Canadian deserves a financial partner who actually cares how things turn out. Driven by our social purpose, we look at everything we do through the lens of how we can help our 600,000 members, our employees and communities. Ranked in the platinum category of the 2022 Corporate Knight’s Social Purpose Ranking and a proud Certified B Corporation®, we’re part of a global movement building a more inclusive, equitable and regenerative economic system. Each year, we continue to build on our strong commitment to community investment, with more than $95 million reinvested in our communities over the past two decades. We’re deeply committed to making our financial cooperative a great place to work as demonstrated by some of our accolades. Coast Capital is a platinum member of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures, and a BC Top Employer. To learn more, visit us online at                                                                                                                                                        

Media Contact

Cristina Melo

Senior Account Manager, Citizen Relations (on behalf of Coast Capital)


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