August 5, 2014 1:50 pm

Alberta’s household debt skyrocketing: BMO report

WATCH ABOVE: Household debt in Alberta is tens of thousands above the national average. Kendra Slugoski looks into why that is.

EDMONTON — A BMO report shows household debt in Alberta has exploded over the past year.

According to the report, Alberta’s household debt increased to $124,838 in 2014, up 40 percent from the previous year, and the highest in the country.

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“Albertans are facing serious consequences if they continue to increase their reliance on debt,” said Jeff Schwartz of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

“We have all seen the roller coaster economy in Alberta. A sudden job loss or reduction in income could seriously impact their ability to service their debts.”

The study also shows 50 per cent of Albertans carry credit-card debt; 53 per cent have mortgage debt; and 17 per cent have student loan debt.

“These statistics take into account homeowners and those people who don’t own a home,” said Schwartz. “Also, we must consider that these are just averages. So, that means there are a lot of Albertans who are dealing with a lot more than $125,000 in debt.”

Those nearing retirement age are in particularly danger, he said, because their incomes will soon decline, but debt-servicing costs  will remain the same.

Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada offers several tips:

  • Use automatic payments: Taking the thought process out of paying your bills will allow you to stay on track and avoid missed payments.
  • If you can afford to, increase payments to help pay down debt. It will help get you out of debt faster, and lower overall interest charges.
  • Make a plan to get out of debt by creating a detailed budget. Track every nickel you spend and be frugal. Look for deals and discounts and refuse to purchase items you don’t need. Make budgeting and saving money a hobby and a habit.
  • Change your lifestyle: Downsizing your home, selling your second car or even reducing your cable package will allow you to direct more money towards paying off debts.
  • Avoid acquiring new debt.

Average Household Debt:

Province                                     2013                  2014            % change

Alberta                                      $89,026          $124,838            40.2
British Columbia                      $79,089          $99,834              26.2
Manitoba/Saskatchewan           $82,100          $68,437             -16.6
Ontario                                      $76,970          $67,507             -12.3
Quebec                                      $56,860          $59,805               5.2
Atlantic Canada                        $47,237          $64,120              35.7
National average                       $72,045           $76,140               5.7

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