Canadians’ concern about debt, ability to pay bills reach all-time high

2023-07-10  3 minute read

Grant Bazian

MNP Consumer Debt Index

  • Proportion that reports being insolvent hits record high with a third indicating they can’t cover their bills and debt payments (35%, +5pts).
  • More than half report that they are $200 away or less from not being able to meet all their financial obligations (52%, +6pts).
  • More than half regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on in life (52%, +9pts), an all-time high.
  • About half are concerned about their current level of debt (48%, +2pts), an all-time high.
  • Two-thirds are more concerned about their ability to pay their debts as interest rates rise (66%, +6pts).
  • Index declines significantly (83, -6pts) as Canadians’ debt anxiety rises amid higher interest rates and cost of living.

Canadian flag with the Canadian Parliament building in the background.

CALGARY, AB – July 10, 2023 – As interest rates move upwards and the cost of living remains a challenge for households, the proportion of Canadians who report being insolvent has reached an all-time high, according to the latest MNP Consumer Debt Index. More than half (52%) of Canadians report that they are $200 away or less from not being able to meet all their financial obligations, increasing six points since last quarter. This includes a third (35%, +5pts) who say they already don’t make enough to cover their bills and debt payments, making them insolvent, the highest recorded proportion since the Index began five years ago. Overall Canadians express a more negative attitude toward their personal finances and debt this quarter, with the Index declining significantly to 83 points (-6pts).

“Battered by inflation and higher interest rates, a record number of Canadians say they can’t pay their bills and debt obligations each month,” says Grant Bazian, president of MNP LTD., the country’s largest insolvency firm. “The escalating burden of household bills and food prices has intensified Canadians’ financial anxiety — and is further compounded by increased debt-servicing costs, particularly for those who are deeply indebted.”

As high borrowing costs persist, Canadians feel more negatively about their debt than ever before. More than half (52%, +9pts) regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on in life and nearly half (48%, +2pts) are concerned about their current level of debt, both reaching all-time highs this quarter. Millennials are the most likely to regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on (61%), increasing six points since last quarter.

“Households are facing a range of financial pressures with the dramatic increase in the cost of living. Without much wiggle room in household budgets, many are at risk of falling into arrears. That’s when bills like credit cards may go past due — which means the late fees kick in and interest accrues quickly — making it even more difficult to catch up,” says Bazian.

Compared to the previous quarter, more Canadians say they’re feeling the effects of interest rate increases (69%, +4pts) and are more concerned about their ability to pay their debts as interest rates rise (66%, +6pts). About three in five (63%) say they’ll be in financial trouble if interest rates go up much further, increasing six points since last quarter. As a result, an overwhelming majority of Canadians (86%, +3pts) say they’ll be careful with how they spend their money. Women (89%) and Canadians aged 35 to 54 (88%) are the most likely to agree they will be more careful with their spending due to rising interest rates.

Despite efforts of some to spend more cautiously, the average Canadian reports their weekly expenditure on essential items has increased by $230. Nearly three-quarters of Canadians (73%) feel their weekly spending on essentials has increased by at least $100 compared to a year ago. A quarter (27%) feel it has increased by between $100 and $200. Notably, Canadians who are already insolvent are just as likely as the total population to say their weekly expenses have increased; they note an increase of about $220 per week on average. Men ($240), those aged 18 to 34 ($272) and those with a household income of $100K or more ($310) reported having the highest weekly expenditures on essentials.

“Even if households are curbing discretionary expenses and spending more cautiously, many households have reached a point where there is nothing left to cut back on. They’ve already switched to the cheapest options at the grocery store and trimmed their entertainment costs — yet they still find themselves struggling with essential financial obligations like their mortgage or rent and putting food on the table,” explains Bazian. “This situation forces individuals to make difficult decisions regarding which bills they can prioritize and which they may have to postpone or forgo altogether.”

Bazian recommends those who anticipate missing payments first contact their lender to see if they can set up a payment plan that fits within their means.

“Falling behind on their payments without first making arrangements with their lenders is a red flag that borrowers are in need of help,” says Bazian. “In addition to reaching out to the lenders directly, individuals should seek professional help from a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. They will conduct a confidential financial review and provide unbiased advice on a range of debt relief options, including budgeting, debt consolidation, and more – depending on the situation.”

Licensed Insolvency Trustees are the only federally regulated debt professionals who can assist with all the debt relief options, including Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcy, which can discharge people from debt. To support those in need of financial assistance, MNP provides free consultations across the country.


MNP LTD, a division of the national accounting firm MNP LLP, is the largest insolvency practice in Canada. For more than 50 years, our experienced team of Licensed Insolvency Trustees and advisors have been working with individuals to help them recover from times of financial distress and regain control of their finances. With more than 240 offices from coast to coast, MNP helps thousands of Canadians each year who are struggling with an overwhelming amount of debt. Visit to contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee or use our free Do it Yourself (DIY) debt assessment tools. For regular, bite-sized insights about debt and personal finances, subscribe to the MNP 3-Minute Debt Break Podcast.

About the MNP Consumer Debt Index

The MNP Consumer Debt Index measures Canadians’ attitudes toward their consumer debt and gauges their ability to pay their bills, endure unexpected expenses, and absorb interest-rate fluctuations without approaching insolvency. Conducted by Ipsos and updated quarterly, the Index is an industry-leading barometer of financial pressure or relief among Canadians.

Now in its twenty-fifth wave, the Index has declined significantly to 83 points, down six points since last quarter. Visit to learn more.

The data was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between June 1 to June 6, 2023. For this survey, a sample of 2,000 Canadians aged 18 years and over was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error.

Provincial data is available upon request.

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