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COVID-19 pandemic affecting financial confidence, debt in Saskatchewan: survey

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our daily lives in Saskatchewan, including personal finances.

A recent survey conducted by MNP found people’s economic pain has carried over from last year.

Financial experts say much of the anxiety people are feeling is a result of the pandemic, including lowered interest rates and government-aided funding.

According to the quarterly MNP consumer debt index completed by Ipsos, 42 per cent of Saskatchewan residents feel they won’t be able to cover their living expenses for the next year without gaining more debt.

Roughly the same number feel concerned about their levels of debt or regret debt obtained.

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The report adds that roughly 30 per cent of people have taken on more debt because of the pandemic, including using credit cards or lines of credit to pay bills, in addition to borrowing money from family or friends.

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Saskatoon-based debt specialist Michelle Scheller says people were spending more because of the lowered rates adding to their debt. She says people should be prepared for a sudden increase in those rates.

The pandemic has altered many household incomes. The report says over half (56 per cent) of people feel now is the time to buy items even if they can’t afford them.

“A loss of jobs, wage reductions, situations that are out of their control,” said the MNP licensed insolvency trustee. “Not knowing when they can go back to work. I believe that individuals (need to be) very aware of what is happening.”

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She says it’s important for people to be able to manage their debt levels at all times.

“What happens when the interest rate goes up?” Scheller said. “What does my job situation look like? They have to look at their own unique situation to know what the next step is going to be.”

Scheller says if a person does find themselves in trouble financially, ask for help sooner rather than later.

“People don’t often want to reach out right away,” said Scheller. “But it’s good that individuals know their options, know what their rights are, know what their creditor’s rights are.”

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She adds a visit with a financial consultant is initially free, and they can review debt, savings, income, anything related to a person’s financial situation and make recommendations.

“What debt load is someone feeling comfortable carrying?” said Scheller. “If anyone gets to the point where they are struggling. You need to review your budget.”

The full report can be found here.

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