Jan 21: Best from the blogosphere

January 21, 2019

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Level of debt restricting Canadians’ ability to save

Canadians, who have for decades enjoyed the low cost of borrowing, are about to face a big problem – rising interest rates.

According to an article in Maclean’s, the Bank of Canada recently raised its interest rate to 1.75 per cent, but has “mused about bringing interest rates back to normal levels, between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent,” the article notes.

The rates had been held “artificially low” by the Bank of Canada to “keep economic forces at bay” in the wake of the 2008 credit crunch. So during that period of super-low interest rates, Canadians had a debt party, the article notes. “Citizens were busy amassing debt for home renovations, new vehicles and eating out. In 2016, Canadians owed more than $142 billion in lines of credit, up from just over $35 billion in 1999—an increase of more than 400 per cent. Credit card debt and vehicle loans doubled over the same period. The total debt load of all Canadian households sits at over $2 trillion, an amount roughly equal to the country’s entire economic output,” the article notes.

What’s worse, the article notes, is that this is not a case of a few overspenders making things rough for the rest of us. “Approximately 70 per cent of Canadian households have debt, with the average indebtedness at 170 per cent of disposable income—meaning that for every dollar households earn after taxes, Canadians owe $1.70. The situation for some Canadians is even bleaker: approximately one in 10 Canadian households have debt levels of 350 per cent,” warns Maclean’s.

“It’s time for Canadians to recognize that the good times of cheap credit are coming to a close. It’s already begun—Canadian spending on renovations is down seven per cent, its lowest level in five years of explosive growth—but in 2019, Canadians are going to have to change their personal spending habits to reflect the trend toward fiscal conservatism, or risk feeling the inevitable financial burn,” advises Maclean’s.

We used to save more, years ago, when interest rates were much higher and levels of personal debts were lower. However, the twin realities of historically low interest rates – great for borrowing but less great for earning interest – and high debt levels are throttling our ability to save. According to an article in Bloomberg, Canadians’ savings rates are the lowest they have been in more than 10 years.

Canadians, on average, are saving just 1.4 per cent of their household income, Bloomberg notes, citing Statistics Canada figures. That’s the lowest rate we’ve seen since 2005, the article notes.

“It’s concerning that Canadians aren’t building up buffers and prepping for retirement like they used to,” states TD Bank’s Brian DePratto in the article.

As we begin 2019, we should definitely start getting serious about managing our debts – but we shouldn’t completely overlook saving for retirement. Are you putting away 1.4 per cent of your disposable income towards long-term saving? If not, maybe it’s time to start. Even a small start like that can add up over time, and a wonderful destination for those retirement savings dollars is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22
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