Canadians are heading into the new year with a familiar resolution: getting out of debt.

According to a poll released Monday by CIBC, 21 per cent of Canadians put debt repayment as their top financial priority — the 10th straight year that has led the rankings  — followed by keeping up with bills (18 per cent) and growing their wealth (13 per cent). The poll found saving for retirement is the lowest priority for Canadians heading into 2020, with only eight per cent of respondents selecting that it as their top focus.  

As interest rates remained unchanged in 2019, more than one-quarter of Canadians (28 per cent) said they borrowed more over the last year, mostly to cover daily expenses. 

"Debt repayment doesn't need to be worrisome; it needs to be managed. But, it shouldn't come at the expense of savings,” said Jamie Golombek, CIBC's managing director of Financial Planning and Advice, in a release. “A strong financial plan incorporates debt management strategies, savings for financial goals, and a balanced portfolio with investments designed to make money in all market conditions.”

However, most Canadians surveyed (78 per cent) believe it’s better to pay down debt than build savings, while 33 per cent worry they are putting too much focus on debt repayments.

With interest rates expected to remain at historic lows in 2020, Canadians’ biggest worries heading into the new year include the cost of household goods (71 per cent) the weak loonie (30 per cent), low wages (29 per cent) and household debt (26 per cent). More than half of respondents (55 per cent) are also concerned about a potential recession.

"Whether it's daily household items or unexpected events, expenses can fluctuate for reasons that are often outside of our control,” Golombek said. “The best way to buffer against uncertainties is to have a financial plan."

CIBC surveyed 1,515 randomly-selected Canadian adults online between Dec. 6 to Dec. 8. A probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.