Peace of mind through financial confidence

AFS Insights

2019 Canadian Debt Survey

Debt – it used to be a nasty word. Today it is certainly more commonplace. In fact, we Canadians have been embracing debt. Refinancing our homes, lines of credit, car loans, credit cards etc. etc. At Arbutus Financial, we believe debt, when used wisely, can be very useful in one’s financial plan. However, it can also have very negative implications if debt gets away on you. Your debt picture must be looked at through the lens of your comprehensive financial planning. How stable is your job and your income? What financial cushion do you have if things change unexpectedly? How much debt do you have? What ratio is your debt to your total net worth? How do you feel about debt?

Manulife Bank recently conducted a summer debt survey. Read below to learn more about five key takeaways from the survey.


Manulife Bank
July 25, 2019

Think you’re alone with your debt? Think again.

We surveyed Canadians to see how Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers manage their money and debt, and the results show we have much more in common than you might think.

Imagine this. You’ve settled into bed and your brain starts to wind down, and then it hits you. Piercing and sudden. Dread, regret, and confusion rush together and lurch through your body as the word lands in your mind: debt.


We’ve all been there. But as challenging as dealing with debt can be, knowledge is power. That’s where the Manulife Bank summer debt survey comes in. We surveyed thousands of Canadians to see how they’re dealing with debt, and there’s a lot to be learned from our findings.

So strap in. We’re dropping knowledge bombs.

Here are 5 key takeaways from our summer debt survey

  1. 1. You aren’t alone

Dealing with debt can feel isolating, but you’re definitely not alone. Nearly 40% of Canadians living with debt say it was because they lived beyond their means, and a quarter say they’re making poor progress paying it down. Nine per cent don’t have a clue how much they spend on average every month. Clearly, this is affecting lots of us.

Key takeaway: if feeling like you’re alone or worse off than others is stopping you from taking action, reconsider. You’re part of a big group of Canadians, so tell shame to take a hike. Check out these tips on keeping your health in check while managing your finances.

  1. 2. Get hungry for change

There are lots of simple ways you can make a real dent in your debt, and it feels great to do. Consider making dinner; sure, you could order with Skip The Dishes or Uber Eats. Or, like 53% of Canadians, you could make your meals at home instead. It’s no big surprise that millennials are more likely to drop the habit of ordering food than other generations, but it’s great to see that 36% of Canadians say slaying their debt makes them feel better. Clearly, the perfect pairing to home-cooked meal is dealing with debt.

Key takeaway: making food at home is a great way to reduce debt – and reducing debt really does feel good! Check out these other budgeting tips to help you make those small changes.

Dealing with debt can feel isolating, but you’re definitely not alone. Nearly 40% of Canadians living with debt say it was because they lived beyond their means, and a quarter say they’re making poor progress paying it down.”

  1. 3. Generational differences

In case you haven’t discussed debt with relatives lately, the Debt Survey tells us what we already knew – different generations approach debt differently. Today, millennials are having more trouble handling their current debt situation on their own, and boomers generally feel less affected by debt. That being said, boomers are more likely to significantly reduce expenses like going out with family and friends, while more millennials see those costs fueling their debt.

Key takeaway: every generation has something to learn and something to teach. Be willing to learn, but remember that we’re coming from different places. Check out the infographic below for more generational nuances.

  1. 4. It’s getting expensive in here

Millennials (like yours truly) are now purchasing houses and starting families – two areas where we’re seeing expenses grow. Housing affordability remains at near-historic highs across the country and child-care costs have risen faster than inflation for Canadians.

Key takeaway: it’s a different world now, and it’s important to remember that when making plans (and taking advice from Great-Uncle Pete who bought his house for $20K in 1963). Check out this practical guide to shopping deliberately.

  1. 5. Tech and tools make a difference

Tackling your debt can be scary, but it’s never been so easy to do. Expense tracking software, mobile alerts, and even automatic savings sweeps can be helpful. More and more Canadians say they use these kind of tools – and they’re helping.

Key Takeaway: find the tools that work for you. After setting things up, you’d be amazed at how much you can know about your finances and your goals at-a-glance.


If you’d like to discuss this topic in greater detail or have any questions, please reach out to a member of your Arbutus Financial Team.

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