Increased debt a heavy burden on Albertans

Survey shows 38% of Albertans say they spend all of or more than their net pay

Mario Toneguzzi: Increased debt a heavy burden on AlbertansAn increased level of debt is placing a heavy burden on Albertans.

A survey released on Wednesday by the Canadian Payroll Association says 44 per cent of Albertans are living paycheque to paycheque and 43 per cent say they are overwhelmed by debt.

It also said 60 per cent of Albertans expect their local economy to improve.

“We would have hoped to see in the survey results that Canadians would do more to alleviate their debt and take control of their financial situation in strong economic times,” says Peter Tzanetakis, president of the Canadian Payroll Association. “Now is the time to pay down debt, contribute to retirement savings and take control of your financial future. Many Canadians seem to be complacent and are still not focused on the big picture.”

The survey was released during National Payroll Week.

It found that Albertans, and Canadians, do not save enough for retirement and are at severe risk in the event of economic changes.

The key survey results include:

  • Albertans have the strongest levels of economic confidence nationally; 60 per cent think their local economy will improve in the next year;
  • 18 per cent of working Albertans say they could not come up with just $2,000 within a month for an emergency expense;
  • 38 per cent of Albertans say they spend all of or more than their net pay;
  • while 71 per cent of those in Alberta who are trying to save more responded that they have been able to do so, still 64 per cent of Albertans said they save 10 per cent or less of their earnings, well below recommended savings levels;
  • 37 per cent of Alberta employees report increases in the amount of debt over the past year;
  • Albertans report that the primary reason for increased debt is that their spending has increased (19 per cent versus 16 per cent nationally);
  • 94 per cent of national respondents carry debt (95 per cent in Alberta), with the most common debt being from mortgages (28 per cent nationally and 31 per cent in Alberta), credit cards (18 per cent nationally and in Alberta), and car loans (18 per cent versus 17 per cent in Alberta);
  • one in five respondents carry debt through a line of credit. Nationally, mortgage debt on principal residences remains the most difficult debt to pay down, with 30 per cent (31 per cent in Alberta) of respondents selecting this option, followed by credit card debt (25 per cent nationally and in Alberta).

The survey said 72 per cent in Alberta concede they have only saved a quarter or less of what they feel they will need to retire and the target retirement age (61) has not changed from 2017. Sixty two per cent of Albertans think they will need more than $1 million to retire, the highest in Canada, and 37 per cent of Albertans indicate that they will have to work longer than they planned.

“Ultimately, the results illustrate that in the event of higher interest rates, a market downturn or other economic factors beyond their control, working Canadians would struggle to recover and could face severe implications. Employers should take note: currently 46 per cent of employees say financial stress is impacting their workplace performance; this figure could get much worse,” said the report.

Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald, including 12 years as a senior business writer.

Increased debt a heavy burden on Albertans

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