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The Transformation of Canadian Women Consumers

MasterCard’s MasterIndex™ of Canadian Women Consumers Tracks How Life Stages Drive Consumer Behaviour

TORONTO, December 5, 2006 – More than 80 years after winning the right to vote and almost 40 years since the women’s liberation movement, Canadian women are a powerful financial force in Canada. How they exercise that economic power is largely determined by which of the five dominant life stages they occupy, according to the MasterCard MasterIndex™ of Canadian Women Consumers, an original research report on women consumers in Canada. To access the full report, please visit

The MasterIndex identifies five key life stages that a Canadian woman may enter, each with unique consumer outlooks, behaviours and spending priorities: Emerging Consumers, New Earners, Moms, The Established, and Silver Spenders. Of these, the life stage transition which causes the most significant consumer changes is becoming a Mom.

“The MasterIndex of Canadian Women Consumers illuminates the paths that women tread as consumers,” said Jennifer Reed, Vice President, Public Affairs, MasterCard Canada. “Canadian women are cast in many roles through the course of their lifetime and those roles shape how they spend, where they shop, and how they feel about their finances. As they move through these roles, women amass ever greater influence on Canadian commerce and spending.”

The Five Life Stages
Canadian women enter the marketplace as Emerging Consumers: young adult women who are not working full-time yet forming spending habits while having limited financial means. How they evolve next is highly influenced by whether they begin to work full-time before having children (if they have children). If they don’t transition to full-time work, their financial situation tends to be much tougher.

If they do work full-time before or without having children, they blossom into active and engaged consumers called New Earners – who have disproportionate impact in certain spending categories like clothing and home décor. These young women spend more because they have more income to spend, and they reach a high level of satisfaction and optimism in their personal financial situation.

Then, many Canadian women hit the turning point. Women who become Moms (with children under the age of 18) transform as consumers. They evolve from self-focussed spenders to the chief purchasing officers of their households; a role they embrace. But Moms’ confidence in their financial situation drops off and their spending is driven by household demands rather than personal enjoyment. Criteria for where and how to shop are driven more by practicalities and the need to make the family budget stretch.

Even after children grow up and move out and as women age, women don’t restore to their younger consumer behaviour. The fourth possible life stage is The Established: women aged 35- 54 with no children under the age of 18 living at home. Facing financial challenges such as older children or saving for retirement, half of this group are not satisfied with their current financial situation and most report significant increases in spending in day-to-day necessities such as transportation, food, and household maintenance.

Older women consumers (55 years plus) – Silver Spenders – have the highest average income and report the highest sense of satisfaction with their personal financial situation, even when at more limited incomes. More than any other group, Silver Spenders like to indulge in magazines and books, as well as vacations and get-away trips, along with typical indulgences like restaurants and new clothes/shoes.

MasterIndex Key Findings of Interest:

  • Spender or saver?: 58 per cent of all Canadian women describe themselves as a “spender” with that descriptor peaking among New Earners (69 per cent). Only 42 per cent of women say they are a “saver.” Women who are married or cohabitating report that their partners are also spenders (56 per cent) rather than savers (44 per cent).
  • Satisfaction with personal financial situation: Canadian women are slightly more likely to be satisfied than dissatisfied with their financial situation. Almost half of all women (45 per cent) say they are ‘somewhat satisfied’ and only nine per cent are ‘very satisfied.’ One third (33 per cent) are ‘not very satisfied’ and 13 per cent are ‘not at all satisfied.’ Silver Spenders (63 per cent) are most likely to report being somewhat or very satisfied, followed closely by New Earners (60 per cent). The Emerging Consumers (60 per cent) are most likely to say they are not very or not at all satisfied.
  • Price vs. brand: across the board, Canadian women say a good price (72 per cent) is more important than paying for a brand (28 per cent). Orientation to a good price is highest among Moms (80 per cent).
  • Indulgences: when asked what one thing they would always spend money on to treat themselves, women were most likely to say a food/restaurant purchase (25 per cent), followed by new clothes or shoes (14 per cent). Among Moms, simple treats like coffee in the morning (nine per cent) or a magazine or book (eight per cent) rise in significance.
  • Control of household spending: most Canadian women are involved in making the day-to-day financial decisions in the household, with over half (55 per cent) as the primary decision maker and more than one third (37 per cent) as the shared decision maker. That influence is even greater for Moms: 96 per cent have responsibility for household financial management; 63 per cent on their own and 33 per cent together with a partner or spouse. Many women embrace the role: 45 per cent report that they enjoy managing the finances and 48 per cent are neutral. Only seven per cent say they dislike the responsibility.

“Canadian women generally embrace their role as important drivers of the consumer economy,” said Jennifer Reed. “It doesn’t mean their economic roles are always easy, but they have clearly taken their place at the financial centre of Canada.”

  • Spending patterns: three quarters (74 per cent) of all women report their personal and household spending has increased or stayed the same over last year. New Earners are most likely to report a year-over-year spending increase (53 per cent) while The Established are most likely to report a spending decrease (29 per cent).
  • Drivers of spending: increased income is the main driver of spending among the Emerging Consumers and New Earners, while Moms report that spending increases are driven by the rising cost of living.
  • Where they’re spending more: the categories where women are most likely to report spending increases are household maintenance costs (53 per cent); transportation, including gas costs (54 per cent); and food (54 per cent).
  • Where they’re spending less: women are most likely to report spending decreases in entertainment (26 per cent); vacations (19 per cent); and clothing (19 per cent).

About the MasterIndex
Launched more than 10 years ago, the MasterCard Worldwide MasterIndex reports are barometers of consumer attitudes and behaviours. Other MasterIndex reports have focused on consumer confidence, retail, travel and women’s advancement and have been produced by MasterCard for the Asia/Pacific, South Asia, Middle East and Africa markets.

The MasterIndex™ of Canadian Women Consumers is the first MasterIndex report for Canada. The research was conducted by Environics Research Group from September 14-19, 2006 via a national online, self-administered survey of 2,088 adult Canadian women aged 18+. A sample of this size produces findings that are accurate to within +/-2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. To see all the MasterIndex reports go to

About MasterCard Worldwide
MasterCard Worldwide advances global commerce by providing a critical economic link among financial institutions, businesses, cardholders and merchants worldwide. As a franchisor, processor and advisor, MasterCard develops and markets payment solutions, processes approximately 14 billion transactions each year, and provides industry-leading analysis and consulting services to financial institution customers and merchants. Through its family of brands, including MasterCard®, Maestro® and Cirrus®, MasterCard Worldwide serves consumers and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. For more information go to


Jennifer Reed, 416-365-6664,
Niya Nikitova, 416-969-2654,