The amount of debt accumulated by Canadian households has skyrocketed to $2.16 trillion in 2018. And while borrowing has cooled due to the new mortgage rules, many Canadians live beyond their means and have credit history problems as a result of this.
Canadians Live Beyond Their Means
A survey conducted by the Canadian Payroll Association reveals that around 48 percent of Canadians live paycheck to paycheck. This is a troubling fact which shows that many people are financially vulnerable. Cheap credit partly explains why half of the respondents do not have an emergency fund for a rainy day. Yet, the fact that many Canadians spend their entire earnings and borrow on top means that they live beyond their means. A recent survey by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce confirms this. The survey shows that 50 percent of respondents are unwilling to downgrade and trim unnecessary and non-essential spending. This is a worrisome finding in light of the fact that essential expenses such as rent and groceries already eat up a large percentage of households’ disposable income.
People who live paycheck to paycheck often carry a balance and only pay the minimum. Many have multiple credit cards and other debt such as personal loans and mortgages. They never set a monthly budget and short – and long – term financial goals. The problem with living large is that many people are unable to save at least 5 percent of their disposable income. This puts them in a vulnerable position when faced with a major crisis such as loss of income or employment, divorce, or prolonged illness. Then many are forced to resort to high-interest rate loans to pay bills and make ends meet.
Using Payday Loans
A survey by the Financial Consumer Agency shows that 4.3 percent of Canadians resorted to payday loans in 2014, up from 1.9 percent in 2009. The majority of respondents or 45 percent borrowed to pay emergency expenses such as car or household repairs while 41 percent used the money to pay expenses such as electricity, water, and heating bills. And while 70 percent of respondents used their paycheck to pay off the balance, 7 percent of people admit that they took a new loan. Others used their credit card, sold something of value, used an overdraft, or borrowed from family or friends. One of the main problems is that many people are not aware of the fact that payday loans come with very high interest rates. Some 43 percent of respondents admitted that they were not aware of this. The majority of respondents or 88 percent reported that they were unable to access a line of credit. Poor credit rating and history are major obstacles for many borrowers who are forced to resort to costly alternatives.
Accumulating Too Much Credit Card Debt
According to an Ipsos poll, Canadians owe over $8,530 in consumer debt on average, and 14 percent of respondents carry balances between $10,000 and $24,999. It is obvious that Canadians tend to accumulate excessive card debt, and data by Bankruptcy Canada confirms this. Some 75 percent of people carry a balance on a monthly basis while 25 percent pay it in full. The problem with credit cards is that many opt for products with high interest rates just to take advantage of complimentary bonuses, discounts, and rewards points. Many are also tempted to make card purchases just to collect points.
Credit History Problems
A good score is one in the range of 660 – 700 but data by Refresh Financial reveals that some 20 percent of Canadians have scores that are below 600. Data by Equifax Canada shows that close to 3 percent of borrowers have a very low score below 520, which puts them in a high-risk category. At the same time, this is not surprising given that 65 percent of Canadians check their score once a year or have never bothered to check it. What is more, people of working age hold 2.2 credit cards on average. Card debt also makes for about 5 percent of the total debt carried in Canada. The problem is that it accounts for 15 percent of all monthly payments and increases to 88 percent if borrowers were to pay off the balance in full.
Poor credit rating is a serious problem for many Canadians because it leaves them with few options for accessing new credit. Brick-and-mortar financial institutions are often unwilling to approve customers with financial problems as they are viewed as less trustworthy. In times of financial hardship, life crisis, or emergency, borrowers with poor credit are forced to resort to payday lenders and pawnbrokers. And the problem is that this often leads to a spiral of debt.
Making Poor Financial and Investment Decisions
Bad financial decisions are usually the result of poor money management skills and lack of financial literacy. People who are financially literate have good knowledge of basic concepts such as net income, annual percentage rate, amortization, compound interest, certificates of deposit, etc. People with poor money management skills lack basic knowledge and make bad purchasing decisions. They tend to splurge and buy non-essential items such as alcohol, tobacco, and candy even when they are short on cash. Many people cannot prioritize and tell the difference between non-essential and essential spending. Examples of essential expenses include things such as baby items, laundry, health-related expenses, rent, and utility bills. The list of non-essential expenses, on the other hand, includes items such as video games, haircuts, lottery tickets, dry cleaning, vacations, etc. These are things that people normally can live without. Many people make poor purchasing decisions like buying on credit and buying items they don’t really need. They also tend to make impulse purchases that they cannot really afford. Some people also buy expensive things just to show off, whether it is a new phone or laptop, vacation abroad, or a luxury vehicle. Outdoing family, friends, or colleagues is a poor idea, especially for people who live from paycheck to paycheck and buy expensive items on credit.
Many people also make poor investment decisions, and the main reasons are that they set the wrong investment goals and have a lower risk tolerance than they think of. Persons who have low risk tolerance and basic knowledge are usually advised to invest in products such as municipal bonds, certificates of deposit, and savings accounts. Those with extensive experience and high risk tolerance often benefit from investing in products such as hedge funds, penny stocks, and futures and options. Other products that help savvy investors to make good profits include leveraged ETFs, junk bonds, spread betting, venture capital trusts, and unregulated collective investment schemes. While high-risk products offer high returns, they are a good choice for people with knowledge of advanced concepts such as contingent deferred sales charge, capital gains reinvest NAV, dollar cost averaging, and Lipper ratings. Finally, savvy people know the difference between short-term and long-term investments. Short-term products include municipal bonds, short-term bond funds, and certificates of deposit. Long-term products are real estate, long-term bonds, real estate crowdfunding, and real estate investment trusts.