Canadians increasingly worried about debt, survey finds
From paying for a dream wedding to buying their first home, many millennials are struggling to afford their growing expenses as household debt levels in Canada sit at record highs.
Victoria Marck, a Toronto-based production assistant at YES TV and former BNN Bloomberg employee, says that one of the major challenges with debt among her peers is the impact social media has on stigmas.
“I have all this debt and I don’t really know how I’m going to pay for it,” Marck said in an interview. “A lot of people, especially because of social media, want to pretend that everything is fine: ‘Yeah it’s all great I had a baby, I bought a house, I got married, I went on a honeymoon, I deserve everything, and it’s all peaches and cream.’”
“But in reality, most people my age are swimming in debt.”
Below, the 33-year-old discusses the different kinds of debt she’s dealing with, and the advice she’d give to others who find themselves in a similar situation.
Some answers have been edited and condensed for the sake of brevity.
Q: Roughly how much debt do you currently have?
A: If you consider mortgage debt, then around $330,000. Also add on an extra $20,000 from the special assessment we had on our home in June.
Q: How did you accumulate your debt?
A: The special assessment with my condo. Our condo is 30 years old and it’s an engineering nightmare. Everything was built only with a 25- to-30-year lifespan. Our condo board wasn’t taking enough from condo fees for the last 15 years and now everyone is being impacted. One of my neighbours lost their home because of it. So we’ve had to put that all on our line of credit since we don’t have $20,000 lying around.
We are also still paying off everything from our January 2018 wedding. I lost my job right before the wedding, and we were paying for it ourselves with practically no help. So when you’re unemployed and have a wedding to pay for, things just have to go on credit.
Q: Did low interest rates play a role in how much debt you felt comfortable taking on?
A: When it comes to credit in general, neither my husband nor I will pay for things at a low interest rate and go ‘Yeah that’s great,’ because ultimately it’s not free money.
Q: What are some of the ways you’ve been managing your debt?
A: We still haven’t taken a honeymoon because we can’t justify paying for one. Why would we buy something when we are in debt and that thing would put us in more debt? Why would we pay for something so frivolous, when we could put that money towards paying off debt?
We usually just watch what we spend. We don’t do a lot of things, we don’t do a lot of crazy stuff. We tend to have quieter nights because we just can’t afford not to.
Q: If you could go back in time, would you have done anything differently?
A: Yes and no. I wanted the whole wedding thing. I wanted the ceremony and the party, but it was expensive. It was a lot of money. I can’t really control the fact that I lost my job.
Then there was the special assessment with our house on top of that which was thrown at us. Unfortunately, rent prices are more expensive than our mortgage, and commuting from further away would add to that so it’s not like we can sell our house and avoid that additional $20,000. We’re just hoping that we can get rid of some of that debt, and eventually sell our current house to buy our forever home. But that’s a little bit far away.
Q: Any tips for dealing with debt that have worked for you that you’d like to share with others?
A: I never just pay the minimum on my credit card, I always pay way more. I pay what I can. I also don’t make purchases unless I know I can pay for them. So even though I want that shirt, I have to think: Do I need it or do I just want it? I’ve always been like that. I paid off my student debt in five years working a minimum-wage job while I was living at home.
This is the first instalment in BNN Bloomberg's series looking at how Canadians across generations are dealing with debt.