Concerning Trends Continue for Third Consecutive Consumer Debt Report
Canadians becoming more anxious and less confident in their financial situation.

NEW WESTMINSTER, BC – February 13, 2024

The age-groups hit hardest by inflationary pressures, Gen Z and Younger Millennials, have a reputation for being ‘soft’ and ‘entitled.’ But according to findings of the 2024 Consumer Debt Report by the Credit Counselling Society (CCS), among members of the Angus Reid Forum, these so-called ‘snowflakes’ are also the most likely of any age group surveyed to have taken action to remain financially stable during these volatile economic times.

  • Fifty percent of Canadians aged 18-54 report having either sold personal items or believe there is a significant possibility that they will need to in the near future.
  • One-in-five (19%) of 18 to 34-year-olds say they had to move back in with parents or relatives because of interest rate hikes and inflationary pressures. Another 21 percent report that there is a significant chance this could happen to them.
  • Due to elevated living costs, 20 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds have already taken on a second job or started a side gig. Another 42 percent believe there is a significant possibility that they may need to do the same.
  • However, with little relief in sight, 54 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds have taken on more debt to keep their finances afloat.

Compared to one year ago, half of those (49%) who saw an improvement in their financial situation cited spending less on non-essential items. And among Canadians who report being worse off financially now compared to one year ago, a whopping 85 percent list spending more on essentials as a leading cause, 47 percent cite an increase in debt, and 38 percent mention emergency expenses contributing to this

“For the third year in a row we’ve seen a decrease in how confident Canadians feel about their current financial situation,” states Peta Wales, President & CEO of the Credit Counselling Society. “These are challenging times for a lot of folks. Taking on more debt, or eroding your savings to get by, will spell even more hardship in the future.”

Over the past year, Canadians have supplemented their income by dipping into savings (56%) and/or borrowing from credit cards as nearly half (44%) took on more debt.

“This is a concerning pattern we’ve started seeing a lot more often, especially with younger clients, and it’s simply not sustainable,” explains Wales. “Savings can only last so long and depleting it robs you of future financial security. This is exacerbated by the need to take on more debt just to pay for living costs, at a time when no one knows when interest rates will reduce enough to provide relief to household budgets. The stress this causes will eventually affect every aspect of someone’s life.”

More than one-in-three (36%) Canadians feel anxious about their current financial situation, a third consecutive increase since the 27 percent reported in 2020. Surveyed on their financial health and perceptions of financial assistance, and how they were managing their savings, debt and other financial issues, Canadians reported that their personal finances have not improved over the past two years.

The stigma around debt hasn’t changed, and negative perceptions around asking for help have remained steady. Where 70 percent of low-income Canadians report that they are frustrated with their non-mortgage debt, half of 18 to 34-year-olds with non-mortgage debt claim it leaves them feeling embarrassed and hopeless. Among these same young adults (18-34) with non-mortgage debt, eight-in-ten (79%) report that reaching out for help would make them feel embarrassed (50%) and out of options (39%). However, nothing could be further from the truth.

“People are always surprised when they meet with one of our credit counsellors,” explains Mason Cox, Director of Counselling at CCS. “From budgeting tips and tricks to make life easier, to strategies to manage debt better, people usually have more options than they realize, especially if they seek help sooner.”

Of all those surveyed with non-mortgage debt, when asked where they have sought financial relief in the past year, nearly one half (48%) report turning to credit cards in 2023, up 14 percent from one-third (34%) in 2022.

“There really are better options available, and if you’re not ready to meet with a counsellor, attend one of our free, interactive webinars,” remarks Anne Arbour, Director of Partnerships and Education at CCS. “We’re also seeing more and more companies and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) providers proactively reach out to us on behalf of their employees and members to provide financial education in the
workplace to bolster their workforce with financial knowledge.”

Going into 2024, one-in-three (34%) of those surveyed who reported feeling neutral about their financial situation were still cutting back on their spending. Two-in-three (67%) cited increases in the cost of essentials as their most significant financial concern. “Ultimately, Canadians feel worried and anxious about their finances,” reflects Wales. “But don’t let fear paralyze you, or worse, cause your overall mental health to suffer. Be proactive and get help, you’ll feel better for taking action and can look forward to a more stable financial future.”

About The Credit Counselling Society (CCS): The Credit Counselling Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers manage their money and debt better. CCS provides free, confidential credit counselling, debt repayment options, budgeting assistance and financial education.

About Angus Reid Forum surveys: The precision of Angus Reid Forum online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 2.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

SOURCE Credit Counselling Society

For further information: Media Inquiries: The Credit Counselling Society has spokespeople from across Canada available for interviews to discuss this topic as well as any other relevant financial topics. Please feel free to reach out to the number below:

John Lock, Director of Marketing
Direct: 604.636.0277