Nearly half of Canadians doubtful they can cover living expenses this year without going into further debt, highest level in three years

  • Three in 10 (30%) say the pandemic worsened their debt or increased the debt burden on either themselves or their family (35%).
  • A third (32%) of Canadians report being house poor.
  • Number of Canadians who report being insolvent sits at the highest level since 2017 (30%).

CALGARY, AB – July 19, 2021 – The latest MNP Consumer Debt Index finds the number of Canadians who are concerned they cannot make ends meet without going into further debt has reached the highest level in three years. The quarterly poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD, finds almost half of households (45%, +6) are not confident they’ll be able to cover all living and family expenses in the next 12 months without taking on more debt. In fact, the proportion of Canadians who report being insolvent and unable to pay their monthly bills and debt repayments remains at the highest level recorded since the Index was created in 2017 (30%, unchanged). Half (51%, unchanged) say they are more concerned about their ability to repay their debts than they used to be.

Despite the concern, a third (32%) of Canadians say they plan to spend more than they normally would as they re-engage with the economy on things such as travel, dining, and entertainment.

“A significant proportion of Canadians appear to be ready to emerge from their bubbles and go straight into shopping malls, restaurants and airplanes to celebrate the pandemic wind down,” says Grant Bazian, president of MNP LTD. “For many, the financial damage will likely linger for years even as they regain employment and try to cope with any new debts they’ve accumulated.”

Bazian points to the survey results showing that three in 10 (30%) Canadians feel the pandemic worsened their debt or created a larger debt burden for either themselves or their family (35%). As to the reason: six in 10 (57%, -2) say they’ve taken advantage of low interest rates during the pandemic to make purchases that normally wouldn’t fit within their budget.

While the majority (65%) report they reduced their spending during the pandemic, how much of this was by choice and how much was by necessity isn’t clear. Even those who didn’t lose a job may have made cautionary adjustments to their household budgets or changed their spending habits.

Still, as consumer spending flows back into previously closed sectors of the economy, Canadians are finding themselves with more money at the end of the month after paying their bills, and households report having more money left over than they did in March ($731, +$106). This may explain why about half (49%) feel their debt situation is better now than it was prior to the pandemic and are more relaxed about carrying debt than usual (45%, -4).

“After months of lockdown savings, I caution Canadians not to erase hard-earned gains. Many are understandably seeking post-pandemic indulgences or wanting to make home upgrades, but the ability to do so is by no means universal. Those who went into lockdown already deeply indebted and then experienced prolonged financial disruption are vulnerable right now. They should not rush to return to pre-pandemic spending habits,” says Bazian.

With lingering pandemic-related uncertainty and the potential for interest rate increases in the future, four in 10 (43%, -1) Canadians are concerned they will be in financial trouble if interest rates go up much more. A third (34%, -1) would even go so far as to say that they are concerned that rising interest rates could drive them towards Bankruptcy.

Homeowners with an outstanding mortgage may be at particular risk. A third (32%) of Canadians who own a home say they are house poor, meaning that they don’t have much left over after paying bills related to their home. All told, approximately 5.5 million homeowners are susceptible to financial disruptions such as an interest rate increase or change to their job situation. Perhaps it is therefore not surprising that two in 10 (20%) homeowners say they regret the amount of debt they took on to buy their home.

“Those feeling overwhelmed by their bills should seek professional debt advice as the first step to getting their finances back on track,” says Bazian.

“As life slowly gets back to normal, the money management behaviours adopted during the pandemic can help all Canadians positively reshape their financial futures. Spend less, save more, and make emergency funds a priority.” 

After a seven-point increase last wave, the MNP Consumer Debt Index has marginally improved on these gains to sit at 97 points (+1). Although this relative stability is an encouraging sign of the country’s overall economic recovery, the pandemic continues to affect Canadians differently.

The poll found households with higher incomes are more likely to say that their debt situation is better than before the pandemic, whereas those in households with lower incomes are more likely to say that their current debt situation is worse. Furthermore, younger Canadians are more likely to say both that their debt situation is worse than it was pre-pandemic and that the pandemic created a larger debt burden for themselves.

“Everyone’s situation is different, which why it is important for anyone struggling financially to get customized, unbiased advice from a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. They are the only debt-relief professionals who can offer the full range of debt-relief options available to Canadians,” adds Bazian.

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 each year who are struggling with an overwhelming amount of debt. 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 seventeenth wave, the Index currently stands at 97 points, up one point compared to the last wave conducted in March 2021. Visit MNPdebt.ca/CDI to learn more.

The latest data, representing the seventeenth wave of the MNP Consumer Debt Index, was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between June 14-17, 2021. For this survey, a sample of 2,002 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.