TORONTO -- A majority of Canadians have been saving more during COVID-19, and are in better shape financially than they were before the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean they’re feeling good about it.

There is an unspoken belief that if you have managed to keep your job throughout the pandemic, you are better off financially than you were prior to the pandemic.

And, to be fair, you probably are. Working from home at full salary with reduced costs such as transportation, meals out and childcare expenses are just a few of the money saving opportunities.

The improved financial situation for families was in fact confirmed by the results of the Canadian Payroll Association's 12th Annual Survey of Working Canadians.

In fact, the study found 62% were able to save more than 5% of their paycheque, compared to 59% a year ago. And 6% fewer found themselves living paycheque-to-paycheque, and this is the lowest level in the survey's 12-year history.

Given these numbers, it would be easy to conclude fewer Canadians are stressed about their financial situation. However, that is not the case. The study dissected the findings into three categories: financially stressed, coping and comfortable.

Saving more in all previous studies resulted in improved financial health and typically in the past, the results showed an even distribution across all three clusters. In 2020, it wasn't the case. The results clearly show, despite saving more, people are financially stressed (43%) and only (22% ) are comfortable. The findings are a complete reversal of expectations and the variable is COVID-19.

The pandemic has forced many to stop spending and live below their means, driven in part due to the great uncertainty about what lies ahead. Even if you are financially comfortable, concern is mounting around inflation, the ability to retire, and not surprising, the fear of a recession.

Financial stress is real and 69% of the respondents reported they spent time thinking about personal financial matters at work and this is costing employers an estimated $20.3 billion in lost productivity.

On the home front, financial stress is also impacting relationships with challenges already being faced by families prior to the pandemic, where 76% have opted out of gift-giving or socializing. This isn't likely to change.

Bottom line: You can't control inflation, a recession or with absolute certainty your retirement date. However, it appears Canadians are controlling what they can by saving some money during a challenging period of time, and that allows them to control what they can.