Nearly half of Quebecers doubtful they can cover living expenses this year without going further into debt (46%, up 9 points)

  • One-quarter say the pandemic has worsened their debt (25%) or created a larger debt burden for themselves or their family (27%).
  • Half (49%) say they are more concerned about their ability to repay their debts than they used to be.
  • Three in 10 (30%) Quebec homeowners report being house poor.

Montreal skyline during a fall sunset

MONTREAL, QC – July 19, 2021 – The latest MNP Consumer Debt Index finds the number of Quebecers who are concerned they can’t make ends meet without going further into debt has jumped nine points since March. The quarterly poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD finds almost half (46%) of households in the province are not confident they’ll be able to cover all living and family expenses in the next 12 months without spending on credit. Half (49%, unchanged) say they are more concerned about their ability to repay their debts than they used to be.

Despite the concern, fewer Quebec residents (23%, -7pts) report being insolvent or unable to pay their monthly bills and debts, and nearly three in 10 (28%) say they plan to spend more than normal on things such as travel, dining, and entertainment as they re-engage with the economy.

“Many in the province appear to be returning to shopping malls, restaurants, and airplanes to celebrate the pandemic wind down,” says Frederic Lachance, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD in Montreal. “For others, the financial damage will likely linger for years — even as they regain employment and try to cope with new debts they’ve accumulated.”

He points to survey results showing a quarter of Quebecers feel the pandemic worsened their debt (25%) or created a larger debt burden for either themselves or their family (27%). Part of the reason may be that nearly six in 10 (56%, -1pt) took advantage of low interest rates for purchases that wouldn’t normally fit within their budget.

While the majority (64%) say they reduced their spending during the pandemic, it remains to be seen how much of this was by choice and how much was by necessity. Even those who didn’t lose a job may have made cautionary adjustments to their household budgets or changed their spending habits.

Still, Quebecers are finding themselves with more money at month-end after paying their bills, even as consumer spending flows back into previously closed sectors of the economy. Households report having $775 left over, which is $243 more than they did in March and the most since the Index was created in 2017. This may explain why Quebecers are the most likely (55%) to feel their debt situation is better now than it was before the pandemic started — and say they’re more relaxed about carrying debt than usual (56%, -4pts).

“After months of lockdown savings, it is important households not erase hard-won gains. It’s understandable many are indulging a bit. But if you went into lockdown already deeply indebted and then experienced prolonged financial disruption, don’t rush to return to pre-pandemic spending habits,” says Lachance.

With lingering pandemic-related uncertainty and the potential for interest rate increases in the future, four in 10 (42%, -1pt) are concerned they’ll find themselves in financial trouble if interest rates rise much beyond their current position. A third (35%, +2pts) would even go so far as to say that they’re concerned rising interest rates could drive them towards Bankruptcy.

“For those feeling hopeless about their debt, seeking professional advice is the first step to getting their finances back on track,” says Lachance. “Everyone’s situation is different, which is why it is important for anyone struggling financially to get customized, unbiased advice from a federally-regulated Licensed Insolvency Trustee.”

Homeowners with an outstanding mortgage may be at particular risk. Three in 10 (30%) Quebecers say they are house poor, meaning they don’t have much left over after paying bills related to owning their home. All told, approximately one million Quebec homeowners are susceptible to financial disruptions such as an interest rate increase or change to their job situation. Perhaps it is not surprising nearly two in 10 (16%) homeowners say they regret the amount of debt they took on to buy their home.

“As life slowly gets back to normal, the money management behaviours adopted during the pandemic can help households positively reshape their financial futures. My advice: spend less, save more, and make emergency funds a priority. If you are struggling with debt, don’t wait to get help. The earlier you seek help, the more options you will have,” adds Lachance.

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.