Canadians’ average consumer debt climbed to $29,312 in 2017, with the country’s youngest generations leading the way in piling on more debt, according to a new report released Thursday.
The debt load for a typical Canadian rose by 4.3 per cent last year, but borrowing by millennials and Generation Z increased by 12.6 per cent and 22.9 per cent, respectively, said the report by credit monitoring agency TransUnion.
“As consumer debt continues to increase, it’s clear that the youngest generations are playing a critical role in the consumer credit market,” said Matt Fabian, TransUnion Canada’s director of research and industry analysis, in a press release.
Individuals born between 1980 and 1994 are considered millennials, while those born 1995 or later are part of Gen Z.
Canadians who are part of Gen Z were the only generation to see a rise in delinquency rates – a 39-basis-point increase – bucking a 23-basis-drop in delinquencies among all Canadians, TransUnion found.
Gen Z may be struggling because of inexperience in managing credit obligations and a less disciplined approach to making debt payments regularly, Fabian said
The TransUnion report said that millennials’ debt may have grown significantly, in part because of costs associated with their current life stage.
“Millennials are taking on additional balances as they reach significant life events that put pressure on their overall wallet – many of them are now supporting children, purchasing homes and acquiring additional vehicles,” Fabian said. “These costs may be financed through additional borrowing, so this growth in debt is not surprising.”
Canadian household debt levels have marched steadily higher in recent years amid historically low interest rates. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said in December that consumer debt is a primary concern for him, listing it as one of four things keeping him up at night.
"We expect that high levels of debt will make the economy as a whole more sensitive to higher interest rates today than in the past," Poloz said in a speech on Dec. 14.