Canadian investors optimistic about the future

Manulife Investor Sentiment Index reveals priorities for 2013 


    --  Nearly eight in ten Canadians are confident about achieving
        financial goals
    --  Investor confidence softens slightly
    --  Debt reduction is top finance-related New Year's resolution for
        2013
    --  Key regional findings included

TSX/NYSE/PSE: 
MFC SEHK:945

WATERLOO, ON, Jan. 17, 2013 /CNW/ - As we begin a new year, results from the 
latest Manulife Financial Investor Sentiment Index released today indicate 
that, while Canadian investors appear to have ongoing concerns about the 
economic environment, they are taking deliberate steps to achieve their 
financial goals and they remain optimistic about their future financial 
position.

"The good news is that Canadians remain optimistic about their financial 
future and they are taking some very simple, but concrete steps to continue 
making progress on their financial goals," said Paul Lorentz, Executive 
Vice-President, Investment and Insurance Solutions. "Canadians continue to be 
cautious about investing and with global economic challenges continuing to 
dominate our headlines, this is a trend we've been seeing for several 
quarters."

Overall, the Manulife Financial Investor Sentiment Index, which measures 
Canadians' perceptions about whether or not this is a good time to invest in a 
variety of savings and investment vehicles, showed that investor sentiment in 
Canada softened slightly through the second half of 2012. Results from the 
second half of the year show the Index now sitting at +20, down four points 
from July 2012 (+24) and down six points from December 2011 (+26).

"Canadians are now more focused on paying down debt which may be causing them 
to be more cautious about investing," added Mr. Lorentz. "The slight decline 
returns the Index to the December 2010 level, however it is positive to see 
that investor sentiment continues to remain significantly stronger than during 
the height of the economic downturn in 2008-2009."

Canadians optimistic about the future

Interest in investment and savings vehicles remains flat indicating a 
continued cautious outlook toward investing, however, Canadians say they are 
optimistic about their financial future. Currently almost eight in ten 
Canadians feel their financial position is either the same (43 per cent) or 
better (35 per cent) than it was two years ago. Optimism for the future is 
higher with more than 90 per cent of Canadians indicating that two years from 
now their financial position will be either the same (39 per cent) or better 
(53 per cent) than today.

Consistent with this optimistic view, 77 per cent of Canadians say they are 
either on track when it comes to their current financial goals (40 per cent), 
or they are behind but are likely to catch up (37 per cent).

Taking a conservative approach

The index reveals that, overall, Canadians are heeding the advice of the 
Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Bank of Canada to reduce consumer 
debt and they are taking a more conservative approach to help achieve their 
financial goals. Nearly 50 per cent of Canadians indicate they have taken 
steps to reduce their spending, with 31 per cent saying they are saving money 
on a regular basis.

Other ways that Canadians are taking greater control of their personal 
finances include: talking to a professional financial advisor for advice (22 
per cent), working more or increasing their income (19 per cent), calculating 
how much they need to achieve their financial goal (17 per cent), and saving 
'found' money like bonuses and tax refunds (14 per cent).

"It appears that Canadians are taking to heart the importance of having a 
balanced financial plan in place that includes a healthy focus on debt 
reduction and saving," added Mr. Lorentz. "Trimming household budgets, paying 
down debt and saving for a rainy day are all important steps that will put 
Canadians in a better financial situation for their future."

Top Financial New Year's Resolution for 2013, by a huge margin

Nearly four in ten Canadians say "trimming the household budget" is their top 
2013 financial New Year's resolution. Next on the list were "creating a will 
or estate plan" and "creating an emergency fund," both garnering 13 percent of 
responses.

Canadians say their top financial priority for 2013 is paying down debt or 
maintaining their current lifestyle. Paying down debt is the top financial 
priority for 31 per cent of respondents. Twenty-two per cent indicate that 
maintaining their current lifestyle is their financial priority for the year.

Key Regional Findings from the Manulife Financial Investor Sentiment Index:
    --  Quebec residents (44%) are more likely to feel that they are
        'on track' when it comes to their current financial goals,
        compared to BC (35%) and Ontario (38%).
    --  Ontario residents (33 %) are more likely to select "pay down
        debt" as their top financial goal compared to Quebec (28%).
    --  Atlantic residents (16%) are more likely to select 'creating an
        emergency fund' as their New Year's resolution compared to all
        regions of the country except for BC and Alberta.
    --  Residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan are more likely to agree
        that it is a good time to invest in stocks compared to the rest
        of Canada except for BC and Alberta. They are also more likely
        to agree, along with Ontarians, that it is a good time to
        invest in Mutual Funds compared to BC and Quebec.
    --  Quebec residents are least likely to say it is a good time to
        invest in their home.
    --  Residents of Alberta and the Atlantic region are more likely to
        agree it is a good time to invest in property compared to BC,
        Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec.
    --  Atlantic Canadians and Albertans are more likely to agree it is
        a good time to invest in cash compared to all other provinces.
    --  Residents from Alberta are more likely to agree it is a good
        time to invest in TFSA's compared to Ontario, Quebec and the
        Atlantic region.
    --  Residents from BC and Quebec are less likely to agree it is a
        good time to invest in RRSP's compared to the rest of Canada.

About the Manulife Financial Investor Sentiment Index

The Manulife Financial Investor Sentiment Index is a semi-annual measure of 
investors' views on a range of asset classes and savings and investment 
vehicles, as well as their confidence in these areas.The index is based on 
an online survey of 2,126 Canadians aged 25+ that was conducted between 
November 30 and December 11, 2012 by Research House, an Environics Company. 
The data was weighted according to the 2011 Canadian Census. A national 
probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of +/-2.1%, 19 
times out of 20.

In 2012, some changes were made to the survey timing and methodology. The 
survey moved from a quarterly survey to a semi-annual survey. The survey 
methodology was changed to an online panel; prior surveys were conducted by 
telephone. Additionally, the survey's sample size was increased from 1,000 
participants to 2,126 in order to determine if any regional differences 
existed. The sample for the December 2012 survey included Canadians aged 25+; 
prior survey results were based on a sample of Canadians aged 18+.Historical 
comparison may be influenced by these changes.

About Manulife Financial
Manulife Financial is a leading Canada-based financial services group with 
principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States. Clients look to 
Manulife for strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for 
their most significant financial decisions.

Our international network of employees, agents and distribution partners 
offers financial protection and wealth management products and services to 
millions of clients. We also provide asset management services to 
institutional customers. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its 
subsidiaries were C$515 billion (US$523 billion) as at September 30, 2012. The 
Company operates as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia and primarily as 
John Hancock in the United States.

Manulife Financial Corporation trades as 'MFC' on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and 
under '945' on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at 
manulife.com.

Media contact: Jana Miller Director, Public Relations 519.594.4597 
jana_miller@manulife.com

Image with caption: "Canadian investors optimistic about the future (CNW 
Group/Manulife Financial Corporation)". Image available at:  
http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130117_C6644_PHOTO_EN_22658.jpg

SOURCE: Manulife Financial Corporation

To view this news release in HTML formatting, please use the following URL: 
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CO: Manulife Financial Corporation
ST: Ontario
NI: INS FIN ECOSURV 

-0- Jan/17/2013 15:00 GMT