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CIBC Poll: For eighth straight year, Canadians say paying down debt is their top financial priority in the coming year

Vast majority of Canadians admit they're not achieving their financial goals, underscoring need for expert advice

TORONTO, Dec. 28, 2017 /CNW/ - With interest rates expected to rise in the coming year and household debt in Canada still climbing, a new CIBC (CM:TSX) (CM:NYSE) poll finds paying down debt remains the top financial priority for Canadians in 2018, the eighth consecutive year it has topped the list in the annual survey. The poll results also show that investing and building wealth is increasing in importance, compared to more immediate financial concerns.

"While debt repayment is still the number one priority, Canadians recognize that it's just as important to focus on building savings and growing your nest egg," says Jennifer Hubbard, Managing Director, Financial Planning and Advice, CIBC in a new video report. "With inflation outpacing average earnings and the risk of outliving our assets, it's essential to set out your short- and long-term financial goals in a comprehensive financial plan that strikes the right balance between paying down debt and growing savings."

Key poll findings:

  • 25 per cent of Canadians say paying down debt is their top financial priority for 2018
  • One in five Canadians say growing wealth (13 per cent), or saving for retirement (7 per cent) are their top focus for the year ahead
    • Men are nearly twice as likely than women to prioritize growing wealth (17 per cent versus 9 per cent, respectively) and retirement savings (9 per cent versus 5 per cent, respectively)
  • Two-thirds (67 per cent) admit they need to get a better handle on their finances in the new year
  • Only 16 per cent actually achieved their top financial goal in 2017 and moved on to another one
  • Just over a quarter (26 per cent) say they took on new debt this past year, with the need to manage day-to-day expenses (32 per cent) or deal with an unexpected financial emergency (22 per cent) as the top reasons cited for the debt accumulation
  • Half of Canadians (51 per cent) regret not paying down more debt while interest rates were so low


"We all know how hard it is to keep New Year's resolutions. That's why when it comes to your finances you want to set smart goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, time-bound, and most importantly, realistic," says Ms. Hubbard. "Saving and managing your debt are both essential to your overall financial health." 

What works, what doesn't

To meet last year's financial goals, about half of Canadians (46 per cent) said they reduced their spending on non-essential items, and almost a third (31 per cent) set a household budget. Yet, only 16 per cent achieved their financial priority.

Heading into 2018, more than half (55 per cent) plan to trim their non-essential spending, and more than a third (36 per cent) will create a budget. Encouragingly, twice as many Canadians in this year's survey say they will establish an emergency fund, and prioritize savings by setting up automatic transfers into a savings or investment account; 27 per cent and 23 per cent respectively, compared to 13 per cent and 12 per cent last year.

"Regular contributions to an emergency fund is not only a smart way to curb dependency on debt, but also to build up savings that can then be applied to other financial goals in a year or two, or even further down the road," says Ms. Hubbard.  

A recent CIBC poll revealed that Canadians admit they need to save more money and could save an average of $360 more each month, but most (64 per cent) lack the discipline to save.  

"While it's critical to pay down high-interest debt first, what's going to be important in the year ahead is how quickly Canadians can prioritize savings and set up regular and automatic transfers towards their goals – whether that's to accelerate debt repayment or save for retirement," says Ms. Hubbard.

As outlined in an earlier CIBC report, for many, the decision comes down to whether the emotional appeal of being debt-free is putting their retirement at risk.

"The fact is, with interest rates still as low as they are, having a solid investment plan in place can help you choose to invest in a way that makes the most of your money and builds your overall net worth," she adds.

Five ways to meet your financial priorities:

  1. Write down your income and expenses. Having a clear picture of your financial situation can reveal some surprises and get you in the right frame of mind.
  2. Get a handle on high-interest debt. Pay off any high-interest debt and/or consolidate your debts into one loan at a lower interest rate. Once debt is paid, roll over that monthly payment into savings instead.
  3. Think twice about spending. Understand your needs and wants. Start with your essential expenses: housing, food, transportation, clothing, education, and health care. Then, turn your attention to ways of meeting (or paring back) your discretionary expenses, such as entertainment, travel or dining out.
  4. Start saving now – and automate it. Commit to saving even a small amount and "pay yourself first" by setting up an automated transfer on the day your paycheque is deposited. For an added boost, direct those funds into a TFSA, RESP or RRSP to take advantage of any government grants and tax savings.
  5. Get an expert opinion. Speak to a CIBC advisor to build a budget, and financial plan that maps out your short- and long-term goals like paying off debt, or saving for a dream vacation, or retirement. This can help you put realistic steps in place so you can make real progress against your goals.



Top financial goal for Canadians, by year:





Paying down or eliminating debt

25 %

28 %

26 %

Keeping up with bills/getting by

15 %

16 %

18 %

Growing my wealth/investments

13 %

11 %

7 %

Saving for a vacation/travel

8 %

8 %

8 %

Saving for retirement

7 %

6 %

8 %

Buying or saving for a house or renovation

6 %

6 %

6 %

Buying or saving for a vehicle or other large purchase

4 %

4 %

4 %

Building emergency savings

4 %

3 %

4 %

Other/ I don't know


6 %

6 %

I don't have or am not making goals this year


10 %

11 %


About the 2018 Financial Priorities poll:

From December 11th to December 12th 2017 an online survey was conducted among 1,524 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panellists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.5%, 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 11 million personal banking, business, public sector and institutional clients. Across Personal and Small Business Banking, Commercial Banking and Wealth Management, and Capital Markets businesses, CIBC offers a full range of advice, solutions and services through its leading digital banking network, and locations across Canada,  in the United States and around the world. Ongoing news releases and more information about CIBC can be found at or by following on LinkedIn (, Twitter @CIBC, Facebook ( and Instagram @CIBCNow.

SOURCE CIBC - Consumer Research and Advice

For further information: Caroline Van Hasselt, Public Relations, 416-784-6699 or