MNP Consumer Debt Index hits record low amid growing concern about debt and rising interest rates among Canadians

  • More than half say they’re beginning to feel the effects of interest rate increases (52%, +5pts).
  • Nearly six in 10 say they’re more concerned about their ability to pay their debts (57%, +3pts).
  • Four in 10 say rising interest rates could drive them closer to Bankruptcy (39%, +4pts).
  • Two in 10 say they‘re not financially prepared to deal with increasing interest rates (22%, +2pts).
  • Nearly half are concerned they won’t be able to cover all living / family expenses in the coming year without going further into debt (46%, +2pts).

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ALGARY, AB – April 18, 2022 – The enduring financial impacts of COVID-19 coupled with the pressures of rising interest rates and a higher cost of living are weighing down Canadians’ confidence in their personal finances, according to the MNP Consumer Debt Index which is conducted quarterly by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD. 

Now in its twentieth wave, the Index tracks Canadians’ attitudes about their debt situation and their ability to meet their monthly payment obligations. It remains at an all-time low since its inception in June 2017, dropping one point in the first quarter of this year. 

Interest rate hikes have more people worried than last quarter, with four in 10 (39%) Canadians saying rising rates could drive them closer to Bankruptcy — a notable four-point increase since December. Six in 10 (57%, +3pts) say they’re more concerned about their ability to pay their debts.

“The affordability crisis is increasing the financial pressure on Canadian households,” says Grant Bazian, President of MNP LTD, the country’s largest insolvency firm. 

“Many are likely to rack up more debt to keep up with the cost of living and rising interest rates — but as interest rates rise, so will the cost of servicing some of those debts, making it more difficult to pay them down. It’s extremely hard to break free of that cycle once it begins.”

More than half of Canadians say they’re already feeling the effects of interest rate increases (52%, +5pts). Looking ahead, six in 10 (57%, +4pts) say they’re concerned about the impact of rising interest rates on their financial situation, and two in 10 (22%, +2pts) say they’re not financially prepared to deal with a rate increase of one percentage point. 

“Those who own a home or who plan to renew their mortgage are at a higher risk when it comes to being unable to absorb higher interest rates. They’ll be facing monthly payments that are potentially hundreds of dollars higher than they’d initially planned for. With the increasing costs of food, gas, and groceries, it’s a perfect storm for some households that are already stretched to the max,” says Bazian. 

Five percent, or nearly two million Canadians, say they will be renewing their mortgage in the next 12 months. Concerned about how they could be affected by rising rates, this group is more likely to say they are being more be careful with how they spend their money compared to the general population (91% vs. 81%).

“While mortgage holders can be particularly vulnerable to interest rate changes, their acute awareness of this vulnerability will hopefully help them prepare for the potential impact of future rate hikes,” says Bazian.

Those who rent their homes are not free from worry, however. Renters are most likely to be in a more precarious financial position in general — and to have their own concerns about the impact of higher interest rates. Renters are more likely to say they’re more concerned about their ability to repay their debts than they used to be compared to the general population (65% vs. 57%), and that they’ll be in financial trouble if interest rates go up much more (62% vs. 51%). They’re also more likely to say rising interest rates could move them towards Bankruptcy (50% vs. 39%).

“The past two years have depleted many people’s rainy-day savings funds, and those who don’t own a home haven’t benefited from rising real estate values,” explains Bazian. 

“We’re seeing household budgets contracting across the country to the point where it will eventually become impossible for many people to cover their monthly expenses — especially those who are already living in the red. When that happens, those people will be technically insolvent.”  

Many households could find themselves becoming insolvent within the next 12 months; nearly half (49%, +3) report they are $200 away or less from not being able to meet all their financial obligations — including 31 percent who say they already don’t make enough to cover their bills and debt payments. In addition, the average amount Canadians have left over at the end of the month has marginally decreased to $728, down $15 from December.

Almost half (46%, +2pts) are concerned they won’t be able to cover all living / family expenses in the coming year without going further into debt. About two in five Canadians say they’re concerned about their current level of debt (41%, -2pts) and regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on in life (44%, -1pt).

“People often feel a great deal of shame and regret about their debt situation. The stress and anxiety brought on by excessive debt can lead many to convince themselves of things that simply aren’t true: they’ve failed, they’re alone, they’re beyond help, or they can never get out of debt,” explains Bazian. 

“We’ve all been through a lot over the last two years, including a financially devastating pandemic and associated job loss. My advice to anyone struggling is go easy on yourself and seek professional debt advice right away.”  

Licensed Insolvency Trustees are the only professionals that can offer deeply indebted individuals with debt-relief options, including Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcy. 

While many people fear they will lose their house or car in a Bankruptcy, Bazian notes there are alternative options that can still provide a clear path out of debt. In a Consumer Proposal, for example, an individual can hold onto their assets and repay unsecured debts via interest free and budget friendly monthly payments. 

Both Bankruptcy and Consumer Proposals also offer legal protections to stop wage garnishments and end harassing phone calls from creditors.

“If you’ve reached a point where you’re covering your bills with credit cards and other debt, or are about to reach that point, that’s the time to speak with a government licensed professional who can give you unbiased advice about your debt-relief options,” says Bazian.

Other survey highlights include:

  • Women and those aged 35 to 54 are the most likely to be feeling the effects of interest rate increases, are more concerned about being able to repay debts, and will be more cautious with their spending.
  • Across the country, British Columbians experienced the largest decrease in disposable income, with $269 less at month-end, now down to $734. This is a surprising reversal from last quarter when they had the most disposable income amongst the provinces, indicating the rising cost of living is having a significant impact on the province. Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents, who currently have the least amount of disposable income amongst the other provinces ($467), experienced a similar decline, with $224 less leftover at month-end.
  • Across the country, most Canadians (81%, unchanged) agree they will be more careful about how they spend their money with interest rates rising.

About MNP LTD

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 who are struggling with an overwhelming amount of debt each year. Visit MNPdebt.ca 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 twentieth wave, the Index has dropped one point since last quarter to 87 points, remaining at an all-time low since its inception in June 2017. Visit MNPdebt.ca/CDI to learn more.

The data was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between March 9 and March 15, 2022. 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.

A summary of some of the provincial data is available by request.