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Majority of Canadians say they are comfortable with their debt: CIBC Poll

Most can manage their debt, with only a third saying they have reached their limit

TORONTO, June 19, 2015 /CNW/ - Despite household debt in Canada remaining near record highs, a recent CIBC (TSX: CM) (NYSE: CM) poll finds that two-thirds of Canadians are comfortable with the amount of debt they have.

The poll also found that nearly a third (31 per cent) of those with debt have gone deeper in debt in the past year, citing a mix of necessary and discretionary purchases, which included buying a new car, going on vacation, and repairing or renovating their homes.

Highlights of the poll include:

  • 66 per cent of Canadians say they are comfortable with their debt level, comprised of:
    • 25 per cent who say they are very comfortable and could take on more debt if needed
    • 41 per cent who say they are fairly comfortable but would prefer not to take on any more debt
  • 34 per cent of Canadians say they are uncomfortable with their debt level, comprised of:
    • 23 per cent who say they are somewhat uncomfortable - they are making it work but any change to their current situation would present a problem;
    • 10 per cent who say they are very uncomfortable - they have more debt than they can handle and are feeling financially squeezed

"It's clear that some Canadians feel they are on top of their debt while others are reaching their limit," says Christina Kramer, Executive Vice-President, Retail and Business Banking, CIBC. "With household debt levels still hovering at record highs, it's important for Canadians to stay on top of their debt. Managing debt isn't just about keeping up with your payments, it's about working towards longer-term goals, such as building savings for retirement, and that's where seeking financial advice can help."

A CIBC poll conducted earlier this year found that more than half of all Canadians have struggled with financial decisions and two-thirds agreed that they would benefit from additional advice on financial matters.

Canadians 65 and over more comfortable with debt

The comfort level with debt increases with age, with 81 per cent of Canadians with debt who are 65-plus saying they are comfortable compared to 62 percent of 18-to-24 year olds.

Those 65 years and over were less likely to hold a mortgage (16 per cent) than other age groups and were more likely to be debt free (56 per cent).  Among younger Canadians 18-to-24 years just starting out and with generally lower salaries, the most common type of debt was student loans (37 per cent) and credit card debt (20 per cent).

Some Canadians say debt should be avoided altogether

The poll also looked at how Canadians view debt in general, finding that 67 per cent of Canadians think debt is okay if it is managed carefully, while 28 per cent say debt should be avoided at all costs. Another five per cent think debt is a tool to help them get the things they want.

"If your level of debt is causing you to lose sleep at night, it's a sign you really need  to talk to an expert to ensure you are managing your debt as efficiently as possible," says Ms. Kramer. "For most Canadians, debt can be used to fund major purchases such as a home or a car and still fit within a long-term financial plan to retire debt free and maximize your cash flow."

Tips to Take Charge of Your Debt

Paying down debt can be daunting if you don't have a financial plan in place. Here are some tips on how to manage and pay off your debt successfully:

  1. Talk to an Advisor - Work with your financial advisor to create a budget and ask about what  you can do to reduce your interest costs and accelerate your debt repayment.
  2. Refine your debt payment strategy - Pay off higher interest debt first to reduce interest costs, or apply for a debt consolidation loan or a line of credit, which can lower your interest rate. You can pay your debt off faster if you pay less interest as more of your money will go towards your principal.
  3. Use free budgeting tools to help you stay on track CIBC CreditSmart, available to CIBC credit card holders, allows you to set customized budgets and receive spend alerts if you exceed your planned budget for the month, helping you stay on top of your everyday budgeting and spending.
  4. Stick to your plan - Once you have a financial plan in place, stick to it. If you fall off track, get back to your plan as soon as possible and keep making progress towards your goal.


Percentage of Canadians who feel comfortable or uncomfortable with the amount of debt they have:
(* indicates sample size too low to report individually)  

  All 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Comfortable (net) 66% 62% 65% 55% 64% 71% 81%
Very comfortable - I could manage more debt if needed 25% * 23% 17% 23% 29% 41%
Fairly comfortable - but I would prefer not to take on any
more debt
41% 45% 42% 39% 41% 43% 40%
Somewhat uncomfortable - I'm making it work but any
change to my current situation could be a problem
23% * 23% 27% 27% 21% 13%
Very uncomfortable - I have more debt than I can handle
and I'm feeling financially squeezed
10% * 12% 17% 9% * *
Uncomfortable (Net) 34% 38% 35% 45% 36% 29% 19%


Percentage of Canadians who have taken on more debt in the last 12 months:
(* indicates sample size too low to report individually)  

  All 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Yes 31% 47% 35% 36% 28% 30% 24%
No 67% 51% 61% 63% 71% 70% 75%
I don't know * * * * * * *


Why Canadians have taken on debt in the last 12 months:  

New vehicle 26%
Home repair, renovation 21%
Unexpected financial emergency 19%
Luxury items
Education 15%
Bought a home 9%
Medical expenses 9%
Loss of job 8%
Other 22%


Canadians who agree most with each of the following statements when thinking of debt (loans, mortgages, lines of credit, credit cards), by age:
(* indicates sample size too low to report individually)

  All 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Debt should be avoided at all cost 28% 40% 32% 33% 26% 25% 20%
Debt is OK if it is managed carefully 67% 57% 62% 63% 69% 68% 75%
Debt is a tool to help me get the things I want 5% * * * * * *


On June 5 and June 8, 2015, an online survey was conducted among 3,013 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error - which measures sampling variability - is +/- 2.08 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About CIBC
CIBC is a leading Canadian-based global financial institution with nearly 11 million personal banking and business clients. Through our three major business units - Retail and Business Banking, Wealth Management and Wholesale Banking - CIBC offers a full range of products and services through its comprehensive electronic banking network, branches and offices across Canada with offices in the United States and around the world. You can find other news releases and information about CIBC in our Media Centre on our corporate website at  




For further information:

Caroline Van Hasselt, Director, External Communications, 416-784-6699 or