June 21st, 2024

Many Canadians still feeling squeezed even as debt worries ease: insolvency firm

By The Canadian Press on April 8, 2024.

Insolvency firm MNP Ltd. says some Canadians are feeling a little more optimistic about their debt with the prospect of interest rate cuts on the horizon. Credit cards are shown on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Some Canadians are feeling a little more optimistic about their debt with the prospect of interest rate cuts on the horizon, said MNP Ltd.

The insolvency firm’s Consumer Debt Index metric showed a significant rebound in the first quarter of 2024 after 12 months of low scores, according to its latest report.

More than a quarter of Canadians say they perceive their current debt situation as better than a year ago.

Fewer Canadian households than last quarter, at 41 per cent, say they are concerned about their current level of debt.

“Things are not as bad as they were: that’s the main theme of the latest report,” MNP president Grant Bazian said in the release.

But despite the uptick in consumer sentiment, Canadian households are still feeling the squeeze, he added, as more mortgage renewals loom and the cost of living continues to rise.

Half of respondents said they are concerned with what MNP calls a “social squeeze,” meaning they’re worried about spending money on their lifestyle or on social obligations.

“Overwhelmed and discouraged by how expensive it is to attend or participate in social events – be it birthdays, weddings, graduations or family celebrations – some may be sinking further into hardship because they simply can’t afford to participate,” said Bazian.

Fewer Canadians than before reported being concerned about their ability to repay their debts, but nearly half of respondents said they are $200 or less away from failing to meet all of their financial obligations, a number that didn’t shift from the latest report.

The Bank of Canada looks set to start cutting its key interest rate this year as inflation has significantly moderated from its highs.

The central bank’s steep rate-hiking campaign brought rates higher than they have been in years. As Canadians’ mortgages have come up for renewal, they have faced significantly higher monthly payments on their homes, while rental costs have also climbed.

Four years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a third of Canadians said they are in a worse financial state compared with before the pandemic, especially among people with lower incomes and those aged 35-54, MNP said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2024.

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