More Canadians living debt free, save mortgages

A new poll suggests more Canadians are living debt free this year compared to 2011.

TORONTO — A new poll suggests more Canadians are living debt free this year compared to 2011.

The annual RBC survey found that 26 per cent of respondents had no personal debt — excluding mortgage debt — in 2012, up from 22 per cent last year.

However, the poll found that on average Canadians are carrying $13,141 in non-mortgage debt, up $84 from last year.

Ontario residents were carrying the heaviest load at $15,361 while Quebecers had the least at $10,171.

Some 40 per cent of those polled said they were comfortable with their current debt level, down from 45 per cent last year.

And one-in-three respondents said their debt levels are a source of anxiety — up slightly from 2011.

Richard Goyder, vice-president of personal lending at RBC, says it’s “encouraging that the results show more Canadians have become debt-free over the past year.”

The poll also found a majority of respondents — 51 per cent — said it’s more important right now to pay down debt rather than save and invest for the future.

And 76 per cent said they’re in better financial shape than their neighbours.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney have repeatedly warned Canadians about borrowing too much and identified household debt as a key risk to the economy.

The International Monetary Fund also raised concerns in a report this week about the amount of borrowing in Canada and how it could affect the economy.

Canadian average household debt, which includes mortgage debt, in relation to disposable income rose to a record 152 per cent at the end of 2011.

The online poll of 2,041 Canadian adults was conducted from July 27 to August 2.

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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