Bertrand Marotte | May 22, 2013

One-third of Canadian households over the past year never or almost never had enough money left over after paying essential expenses, says a new report.

A survey conducted for the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada indicates that 29 percent - or three in 10 - households found it difficult to sock away any money once key bills were paid.

The poll also shows that 25 percent of Canadian households said they have never or almost never made savings contributions.

And it found that the household savings rate has plummeted to 3.8 percent at the end of 2012 from a peak of 19.9 percent in the early 1980s.

For those Canadians who are building up a nest egg, 80 percent say they may consume at least part of it in the next three years.

"Many Canadians are missing a golden opportunity to build some financial security for themselves during this time of low-cost borrowing," Rock Lefebvre, vice-president of research and standards at CGA-Canada and co-author of the report, said in a news release Wednesday.

"What people may not fully appreciate is just because you can take up to 25 years to pay off your home, doesn't mean you should or need to. I some ways, it's similar to making only minimum payments on your credit card."

The survey also found that 29 percent of households have no wealth and only three in 10 Canadians believe it's very important to accumulate wealth.

Other findings:

The two most-often cited reasons for not being able to accumulate wealth are current income level and having to honour other financial obligations.

One quarter - 26 percent - of households polled say they don't usually monitor any of the key external factors that could have an effect on their wealth.

Some 28 percent of households holding financial instruments say they monitor the performance of their investments only once a year or more seldom.

One fifth - 21 percent - of mortgage holders increased the amount of mortgage payments or made lump sum contributions to pay off their mortgage faster over the past year.

The proportion of debt in total household assets soared to 20.2 percent at the beginning of 2009 from 16.5 percent at the beginning of 2007; it has hovered at the 20 percent level ever since.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos Reid from Sept. 14 to 21, 2012. The survey sample was drawn from Ipsos Reid's online panel of adults aged 25 or over. A total of 1,805 online interviews were conducted with households in the 10 provinces. With a sampling of this size, a sampling error of plus or minus 2.31 percent is produced at a 95 percent confidence level 19 times out of 20.