Canadians Find Themselves With Less Money Each Month, More Than Half Concerned About Their Ability To Repay Debts

2019-10-28   minute read

Grant Bazian

MNP Consumer Debt Index

Stable interest rates are a cold comfort to those already struggling to make ends meet.

Calgary, AB – October 28, 2019 – Despite the Bank of Canada stating it will keep interest rates stable until next year, more than half (54%) of Canadians say they are more concerned about their ability to repay their debts than they used to be. This could be the result of declining wiggle room in household budgets. After paying all their current bills and debt obligations, Canadians have $557 left at the end of the month on average — a drop of $142 since June and the lowest level since tracking began in February 2016. Nearly half (48%, +4 pts) say they are left with less than $200, including 3 in 10 who say they already don’t make enough money to cover all their bills and debt obligations (+4 pts).

The findings are part of the latest MNP Consumer Debt Index conducted quarterly by Ipsos. Now in its tenth wave, the Index tracks Canadians’ attitudes about their consumer debt and perception of their ability to meet monthly payment obligations.

Average Finances Left at Month-End

“We’re seeing less and less wiggle room in household budgets. Many Canadians don’t have enough to cover all their expenses, let alone put anything away for rainy day savings,” says Grant Bazian, President at MNP LTD, the country’s largest insolvency practice. “This is alarming because it is most often unexpected expenses that force people to take on more debt they can’t afford — and that begins a cycle of increasing servicing costs and eventual default.” 

It’s no surprise that, with less in the bank at month-end, Canadians’ ability to cope with unexpected expenses has shaken. Seven in ten are not confident in their ability to cope with life-changing events — such as a divorce, unexpected auto repairs, loss of employment or the death of a family member — without increasing their debt.

“Unexpected expenses can plague people regardless of age or income, but they're most devastating for people who already have a large amount of debt. Our research shows most households do not have enough cash for inevitable life events like a car repair,” says Bazian, who recommends having at least three to six months of expenses saved in case of emergencies.

Canadians were asked: Thinking about the amount of after-tax income you make each month compared to the amount of your bills and debt obligations each month, how much is left over? In other words, how much wiggle room do you have before you wouldn't be able to pay all your bills and debt payments each month?

Canadians may have fewer dollars left at month-end to buffer them from sudden expenses, but, somewhat surprisingly, they are growing generally more positive about their personal financial situations. According to the index, three in ten (27%) say their debt situation is better than it was a year ago (+3 pts) and around the same number (35%) say it is better than five years ago (+2 pts). In addition to being optimistic about the present, an even greater proportion feel more positive about the future, with 4 in 10 (39%) expecting their debt situation a year from now will be better (+3 pts) and half (50%) believing it will be better five years from now (+3 pts).

“Household debt has eased marginally and the current holding pattern on interest rates may be giving Canadians a sense of optimism about their finances. Still, the fact remains many are drowning in debt and most don’t have a clear path to repayment,” says Bazian, pointing to evidence from the research showing many may intend to take on more credit to make ends meet over the next year.

Just about half (47%) of Canadians say they don’t think they will be able to cover all their living and family expenses for the next 12 months without going further into debt, a 2-point increase since June. Furthermore, just under half (48%) are confident they won’t have any debt in retirement, a three-point drop.

“It seems many have resigned themselves to owing money for life. Interest rates may remain stable for now but that is a cold comfort to those already struggling to make their debt payments at the current rate,” says Bazian.

A large portion of Canadians (47%) are concerned about how rising interest rates will impact their financial situation, down two points since June. Forty-five percent agree if interest rates go up much more, they are afraid they will be in financial trouble (-4 pts). Finally, a third (34%) are still concerned rising interest rates could move them towards bankruptcy (-2 pts).

“Whether you're saddled with credit card debt, line of credit, a mortgage, a car loan or all of the above, now is the time to be paying it down. If you feel like your debt is out of control, get professional help to help design a debt relief strategy. Beyond taking on more debt to deal with debt, the single biggest mistake people make is waiting too long to seek help,” says Bazian.

MNP LTD offers Free Confidential Consultations with Licensed Insolvency Trustees to help individuals understand their debt relief options. Licensed Insolvency Trustees are the only government-regulated debt professionals who offer a full range of debt relief options and can guarantee legal protection from creditors through Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcies.


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 230 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.  

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. Visit to learn more.

The latest data, representing the tenth wave of the MNP Consumer Debt Index, was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between September 4 – 9, 2019. For this survey, a sample of 2,002 Canadians aged 18 years and over was interviewed. The precision of online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the results are accurate to within +2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been 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.

A summary of the provincial data is available by request.

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