46% of Canadians $200 or less away from financial insolvency: poll

CALGARY — The number of Canadians who are $200 or less away from financial insolvency at month-end has jumped to 46 per cent, up from 40 per cent in the previous quarter, as interest rates rise according to a new poll.

A survey conducted for insolvency firm MNP Ltd. in December also found that 31 per cent of Canadians say they don’t make enough to cover their bills and debt payments, up seven percentage points from the September poll.

The results released Monday also indicated that 51 per cent of respondents say they are feeling the pinch of interest rate increases, up from 45 per cent a quarter ago.

“Many have so little wiggle room that any increase in living costs or interest payments can tip them over the edge,” said MNP’s president Grant Bazian in a statement. “That’s what we are seeing happen right now.”

As well, 45 per cent of those surveyed say they will need to go further into debt to pay their living and family expenses.

Canadians’ finances have come under increased pressure after the Bank of Canada introduced five rate hikes since mid-2017, in response to the stronger economy. Central bank governor Stephen Poloz kept his benchmark interest rate unchanged earlier this month at 1.75 per cent, but has signalled that more rate increases will still be necessary “over time.”

MNP’s latest survey also showed that half of Canadians surveyed said they believe they could be in financial trouble if rates continue to rise, up five percentage points from the previous poll.

“Higher interest rates combined with household expenses that outweigh income mean that some are unable to make any kind of meaningful reduction in their debt and, in fact, continue to take on more especially if they encounter unexpected expenses,” Bazian said.

Insolvency concerns rose across the country, with the exception of Atlantic Canadians, said MNP.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents were the most likely to be near insolvency, at 56 per cent, up eight percentage points from the previous poll, MNP said. Alberta residents were second at 48 per cent, up eight points. Ontario and Quebec followed at 46 per cent each, up six and five percentage points, respectively. Among residents surveyed in Atlantic Canada, 45 per cent said they were $200 or less away from the financial brink, but that marked a decrease of four percentage points from the September survey.

Ipsos, which conducts the quarterly poll for MNP, surveyed 2,154 Canadians online from Dec. 7 to Dec. 12.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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