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A cheque cashing establishment at the corner of East Hastings Street and Main Street, a lower income area in downtown Vancouver has a steady flow of customers needing advances on their paycheques.JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

A new survey suggests fewer Canadians are living from paycheque to paycheque, and more are putting money aside for a rainy day or retirement.

But there are still a large number that would face difficulties after one week of not receiving their cheques, and savings rates remain low, the results show.

The survey by the Canadian Payroll Association found 47 per cent saying they would be in financial dire straits if their pay was delayed as little as a week.

That is a worrying number, said the group, but significantly lower than the 57 per cent that reported such a thin margin of financial security last year.

Also, 66 per cent of the 3,500 employees from across Canada that participated in the survey said they are trying to save more, up from 40 per cent in last year's results.

CPA vice-chairman Caroline Bernard said this year's results are encouraging, but Canadians still face considerable financial challenges.

"More Canadian employees are now able to save more," she said. "However, only 13 per cent have saved half or more of their retirement funds goal."

In fact, the survey shows Canadians realize that in these difficult economic times and low rates of return, they will have to sock away more money than in the past for retirement.

Only 34 per cent of Canadians now believe that savings of between $500,000 and $1-million will be sufficient to support a comfortable retirement, while 38 per cent believe a nest egg of between $1 and $3-million will be required.

Although more Canadians say they are saving, they are not saving enough. Almost half said they are putting away 5 per cent or less of their pay, about half what financial planners recommend.

According to the survey, 73 per cent of employees say they have saved less than a quarter of what they want to accumulate, and among those 50 and older who are contemplating retirement, 45 per cent say they are only a quarter of the way to their savings goal.

As well, 41 per cent said they expect to work longer, by five years and more on average, than they had planned to in 2007.

The survey was conducted by Framework Partners market research firm between mid-June and mid-August, and is considered accurate plus or minus 1.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The results are in the same vein as the Bank of Montreal's second annual "rainy day survey" released Wednesday. It found that 66 per cent of Canadians believe they would be able to weather a financial emergency this year, compared to 40 per cent in 2011.

But it noted that for a significant minority – 25 per cent – their rainy day funds would run out after three months.

The Bank of Canada has long urged Canadians to save more, warning that many households would face financial hardship in a new economic shock or if interest rates rise. The latest data show household debt hit a record 152 per cent of disposable income in the first quarter of this year.

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