June 14, 2011

Young Canadians racking up debt faster

CANADA - Young Canadians are racking up debt faster than any other age groups, according to an extensive study released today.

The annual study by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada also found that household debt in Canada has hit a record high of $1.5 trillion. Divided evenly, a family with 2 children has an estimated $176,461 in debt, possibly including their mortgage.

"Despite the recession and very sensitive recovery, total household debt has continued to increase," says Rock Lefebvre, co-author and vice-president of research and standards for CGA-Canada.

49% of lower income respondents, those with incomes under $35,000, reported their debt increasing, compared to 33% of higher income respondents, the study found.

40% of respondents ages 35 or younger also said their debt increased.

Also more seniors, ages 55 or over, are carrying debt into retirement, according to the study. 33% of seniors are retiring with an average debt of $60,000.

“Seniors don’t have time to make it up and young people can get into such a debt spiral that it takes a lifetime to get out of it,” Lefebvre said. “It’s not only a financial matter. It’s a societal issue.”

59% of Canadians say day-to-day living expenses are the main cause of their increasing debt.

Canadian homeowners now owe an average of 66% of the value of their homes, up from 57% in 2009.

“People find comfort in the fact that at least a mortgage is backed by a major asset, but we actually hold less equity in our homes than we used to,” Lefebvre said. “We may be lulling ourselves into a sense of comfort that really isn’t there.”

Other Tidbits:

Debt-to-income ratio reached a new record high of 146.9% in the first quarter of 2011, up from 144% in late 2009.

Personal lines of credit of chartered banks grew by 2.6% over 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 – more than 6-fold the rate registered in 2008 and 2009.

25% of Canadians do not save at all, not even for retirement.

20% of Canadians would not be able to handle a sudden expense of $5,000. 10% would have trouble dealing with an unexpected expense of $500.

All it would take is a sudden economic downturn and many Canadians would be either homeless or paying their rent with credit cards.

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