Nearly half of Ontarians doubtful they can cover living expenses this year without going further into debt, highest since December 2019

  • A third (33%) say the pandemic worsened their debt or created a larger debt burden for either themselves or their family (38%).
  • Three in 10 (31%) Ontario homeowners report being house poor.
  • Number of Ontarians who report being insolvent reaches the highest level since 2017 (40%, +8pts since March).

Toronto skyline at sunset with reflection of skyscrapers in the water

TORONTO, ON – July 19, 2021 – The latest MNP Consumer Debt Index finds the number of Ontarians who are concerned they can’t make ends meet without going further into debt has reached the highest level since December 2019. The quarterly poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD finds almost half (46%, +6pts since March) are not confident they’ll be able to cover all living and family expenses in the next 12 months without spending on credit. The number of Ontarians who report being insolvent jumped an incredible eight points since March, reaching the highest level since the Index was created in 2017 (40%, +8pts). Ontarians are the most likely to say they’re unable to pay their monthly bills and debt obligations compared to the other provinces. Half (51%, -4pts) say they’re more concerned about their ability to repay their debts than they used to be.

Despite the concern, a third (34%) say they plan to spend more than normal on things such as travel, dining, and entertainment as they re-engage with the economy.

“Many appear to be returning to shopping malls, restaurants and airplanes to celebrate the pandemic wind down,” says Caryl Newbery-Mitchell, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD in Toronto. “Others will try to cope with new debts they accumulated during the pandemic. Even as Ontarians regain employment, the financial damage may linger for years.”  

She points to survey results showing that about a third of Ontarians feel the pandemic has worsened their debt (33%) or created a larger debt burden for either themselves or their family (38%). Part of the reason may be that six in 10 (58%, +2pts) say they’ve taken advantage of low interest rates during the pandemic to make purchases that wouldn’t normally fit within their budget.

“It is understandable many are seeking post-pandemic indulgences, 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 Newbery-Mitchell.

Homeowners with an outstanding mortgage may be at particular risk. Three in 10 (31%) Ontarians who own a home say they are house poor, meaning they don’t have much left over after paying bills related to their home. All told, approximately two million homeowners in Ontario are susceptible to financial disruptions such as an interest rate increase or change to their job situation. Perhaps it is therefore not surprising two in 10 (18%) homeowners say they regret the amount of debt they took on to buy their home.

Those with variable rate mortgages or variable rate debts in general may be most at risk in the months ahead as the conversation around interest rate increases starts to pick up steam. Four in 10 (45%, -1pt) Ontarians are concerned they will be in financial trouble if interest rates go up much more. A third (36%, +2pts) would even go so far as to say they are concerned rising interest rates could drive them towards Bankruptcy.

“With lingering pandemic-related uncertainty and the potential for interest rate increases in the future, some households are bracing themselves for a crash landing. But there is help available, and the earlier you seek help, the more relief options you will have,” says Newbery-Mitchell.

For those who are struggling with debt, Newbery-Mitchell notes Bankruptcy is not the first, nor is it always the best option. Licensed Insolvency Trustees take a customized approach and provide an unbiased opinion to help severely indebted individuals understand their rights and determine the best path forward. They are the only federally regulated debt professionals empowered to provide a full range of debt-relief options, including Consumer Proposals, informal debt settlements and Bankruptcies.

As consumer spending flows back into previously closed sectors of the economy, Ontarians are finding themselves with less money at month-end after paying their bills than they did in March ($660, -$32). Still, not everyone in the province is emerging post-pandemic feeling the squeeze. The survey found about half (49%) of Ontarians still feel their debt situation is better now than it was before the pandemic started, and four in 10 (41%, -5pts) are more relaxed about carrying debt than they usually are.

While the majority (67%) of Ontarians report they reduced their spending during the pandemic, how much of this was by choice and how much was by necessity is yet unclear. Even those who didn’t lose a job due to COVID may have made cautionary adjustments to their household budgets or changed their spending habits.

“As life slowly gets back to normal, the money management behaviours influenced by the pandemic can help households positively reshape their financial futures. Spend less, save more, and make emergency funds a priority,” Newberry says.

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.