Risky Financial Behaviours Keeping Ontarians In Debt

2020-03-02   minute read

David Gowling

MNP Consumer Debt Index

One in 5 (21%) say they will never be debt free; require more than 6 years to be debt free on average.

Toronto, ON, March 2, 2020 — A survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD helps to identify some of Ontarians’ costly money mistakes which could be contributing to the mounting consumer debt challenges across the province. From making only minimum payments to borrowing money they can’t afford to repay, the survey found more than half of Ontarians (53%) admit to engaging in what debt experts consider risky financial behaviours over the past year.

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"Paying only the minimum, making impulse purchases or taking on debt you can’t afford to pay back are financially risky behaviours because they can trap individuals in an endless cycle of debt. Once that happens, many people find it nearly impossible to dig themselves out,” says David Gowling, a debt expert with MNP LTD, the country’s largest insolvency firm.

Paying only the minimum on debts was the most common risky behaviour among Ontarians last year. Nearly one in five (18%) said they made only the minimum payment on their credit card. Thirteen percent of Ontarians said they paid only the minimum balance on a line of credit last year.

“While some may be making these decisions recklessly or impulsively, there are others who simply feel backed into a corner and are making financial decisions out of desperation. They are just trying to make ends meet,” says Gowling.

Cash-strapped, already saddled with debt and struggling to navigate, about 1 in 10 (12%) admitted to borrowing money they know they can’t afford to pay back.

Being lured in by deals and special offers (14%) and spending money they shouldn’t have in order to 'keep up with the Joneses' (14%) tied for the second most common financial mistake among Ontarians. About 1 in 10 said they made a major purchase on credit without paying it off right away (11%) or bought something on credit that requires no payments for a while (9%).

“It’s clear one of the key contributing factors to these behaviours is an appetite for fast money. The problem is they may not be considering the long-term consequences of borrowing,” says Gowling. “Some who are overspending are in denial about their financial situation; others want to climb out of debt but just don’t have the resources and know-how to do so on their own.”

About one in three (35%) Ontarians are fortunate to say they are currently living without debt obligations, currently the highest proportion compared to the other provinces. Yet, one in five (21%) Ontarians are suffering the consequences of their money mistakes and have lost hope; they say that they will never be debt free. Although those in the Atlantic provinces were most likely to have this pessimistic view of their finances (25%), Ontarians come in second place.

“We often see people who wait too long before seeking help because they feel hopeless or embarrassed. They allow their debts to snowball out of control and, in the end, have fewer options for dealing with it,” explains Gowling.

While some Ontarians believe they can be debt free one day, they will be struggling for years to come. Of the remaining 44 percent who aren’t debt free or haven’t lost hope of becoming debt free, they estimate it will take approximately six years and eight months to pay off their debts.

“Becoming debt free is not impossible, even if you are heavily burdened with debt. Enlisting the help of a Licenced Insolvency Trustees can empower you to make more informed choices about your finances and get you back on your feet,” says Gowling.  

MNP LTD has an experienced team of Licensed Insolvency Trustees who provide federally regulated debt-relief options, such as Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcies. They offer free consultations in more than 230 offices across the county.  


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 Survey

This survey was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between December 4 and December 9, 2019. A sample of 2,000 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 national data is available by request.

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