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

2019-10-28   minute read

David Gowling

MNP Consumer Debt Index

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

Toronto, ON – October 28, 2019 – Despite the Bank of Canada stating it will keep interest rates stable until next year, more than half (55%) of Ontarians 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, Ontarians have $645 left at the end of the month on average — a drop of $61 since June. Four in ten (43%, -1 pt) say they are left with less than $200, including three in ten (26%) who say they already don’t make enough money to cover all their bills and debt obligations (+2 pts).

Toronto skyline at sunset with reflection of skyscrapers in the water

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 

“It is alarming to see the number of people who say they have no money or less than $200 at the end of each month, because that means they very vulnerable to any kind of unexpected expense,” says David Gowling, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD, the country’s largest personal insolvency practice. “It is most often unexpected expenses that force people to take on more debt they can’t afford.”

It’s no surprise that, with less in the bank at month-end, Ontarians’ ability to cope with unexpected expenses has shaken. Seven in ten (68%) 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.

“Those who are severely indebted are unable to make any kind of meaningful reduction in their principal debt and, in fact, continue to take on more; especially if they encounter unexpected expenses,” says Gowling who recommends having at least three to six months of expenses saved in case of emergencies.

Ontarians 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?

Ontarians 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, nearly 3 in 10 (27%) say their debt situation is better than it was a year ago (+4 pts) and nearly 4 in 10 (37%) say it is better than 5 years ago (+6 pts). In addition to being optimistic about the present, an even greater proportion feel more positive about the future, with 4 in 10 (40%) expecting their debt situation will be better a year from now (+5 pts), and half (52%) believing it will be better 5 years from now (+7 pts).

“Steady interest rates may be giving Ontarians a sense of optimism about their finances. Still, the fact remains most don’t have a clear path to debt repayment,” says Gowling pointing to evidence from the research showing many may intend to take on more credit over the next year.

Just about half (45%) of Ontarians say they don’t think that they will be able to cover all their living and family expenses for the next 12 months without going further into debt, unchanged since June. Furthermore, just under half (48%) are confident they won’t have any debt in retirement, a one-point drop.

“For many in the province, debt has become a financial survival tool. Even with stable interest rates, taking on more debt means they’ll have to spend more to service their debts — and that means even less money to make ends meet. And, so begins the vicious cycle of debt,” says Gowling.

Fewer Ontarians (47%) say they are concerned about how rising interest rates will impact their financial situation, down seven points since June. Forty-four percent agree if interest rates go up much more, they are afraid they will be in financial trouble (-5 pts). Finally, a third (33%) are still concerned rising interest rates could move them towards bankruptcy (-3 pts).

“Even if you feel helpless with mounting credit card debt, a line of credit, mortgage, car loan — or all of the above ­— there are many options to help individuals regain financial stability. It is important to ask for help from a licensed professional to help determine the best option to deal with debt responsibly,” says Gowling.

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 MNPdebt.ca 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 www.MNPdebt.ca/CDI 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 and September 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.

Consultation icon