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25% of British Columbians can't cover their monthly bills: debt poll

More of us are on the financial brink than ever, Ipsos survey finds—although unaffordable B.C. somehow came out ahead of other Canadians.

More of us may have to dig into our collection of defunct pennies as debts rise

Michael De Leon / Getty Images

More of us may have to dig into our collection of defunct pennies as debts rise

Forty-one per cent of British Columbians find themselves just $200 away from being broke at the end of the month, according to an opinion poll released Monday.

And the Ipsos survey found things look even more dire for the 25 per cent in the province who say they simply can't pay their monthly bills and debt repayments at all.

"That's the definition of 'insolvent,'" explained Ipsos Public Affairs vice president Sean Simpson in a phone interview, "and if the situation persists you may in fact be on the brink of bankruptcy."

The respected national pollster, commissioned by insolvency trustee MNP Ltd., is tracking public attitudes to debt; the newest poll is the third dataset, and found that Canada-wide, it is worsening.

"We wanted to see how close people are to the brink — who's feeling the pinch," Simpson said, "and understand some of their concerns on a personal level.

"It's getting harder for people. More are feeling the pinch and are on the brink of insolvency. It's not a good news story."

Meanwhile, British Columbians' disposible income dropped 17 per cent since last June alone, meaning they have more than $100 less a month for unforeseen costs.

The poll interviewed 2,001 Canadian adults — 301 in B.C. — online between Dec. 8-13; nationally, it's considered accurate within 2.5 per cent.

While rising household debt is a long-observed problem in Canada, MNP Ltd. stated the past year's increases are exacerbated by rising federal interest rates, which Ottawa has hinted will continue to rise after years-long lows.

"Since interest rates first rose in July, households across the province have noticed their budgets tightening," the company wrote on its website, "as they struggle to keep up with expenses and manage other rising costs … If things don't change drastically, thousands of British Columbians could be on the verge of a significant crisis over the coming year ahead."

According to Simpson, the results "are a wake-up call."

"For anyone in their 20s, all they've ever known in their adult lives is rock-bottom interest rates," he said. "… There's going to be a steep learning curve as we learn to adjust."

Most worrying of all, Ipsos found, is how many in B.C. predict they'll carry debt into retirement: six in ten.

But B.C. did slightly better than the rest of Canada, where 48 per cent were $200 from insolvency and one-third had no money left each month. "B.C. is doing a little better," Simpson said. "But do those numbers feel great? No."

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