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46% of Canadians $200 or less away from not being able to pay their bills

46% of Canadians $200 or less away from not being able to pay their bills
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A new poll says 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.

A survey conducted for insolvency firm MNP Ltd. in December also found that 31 per cent of Canadians say they don’t make enough money to cover their bills and debt payments, up seven per cent 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 president Grant Bazian says many Canadians have so little wiggle room that any rise in living costs or interest payments can tip them over the edge.

“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 per cent 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 per cent and five per cent, 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 per cent from the September survey.

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

The results are more positive than in May 2017, when MNP said more than half of Canadians were living within $200 per month of not being able to pay all their bills, and 31 per cent of respondents said they already didn’t make enough to meet all their financial obligations.

Ipsos said respondents who showed a low level of confidence about their understanding of their personal finances were significantly more likely to feel anxious about their debt.

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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