'Pandemic fatigue' has nearly half in B.C. worried about their finances: Poll

A new poll shows 46 per cent in B.C. aren't confident they can cover their living expenses in the coming year — up 10 points from the last quarter

Joseph Ruttle 4 minute read January 18, 2022

Pandemic fatigue and uncertainty are being blamed for plummeting confidence among British Columbians in their personal finances and ability to manage debt in the year ahead.

A new Ipsos poll conducted for MNP, an insolvency firm, shows 46 per cent in B.C. aren’t confident they can cover their living expenses in the coming year — up 10 points from the last quarterly survey.

A similar number, 45 per cent, said they are $200 or less away from not being able to meet their financial obligations, while 42 per cent are worried about their current debt.

Barely more than a quarter in B.C., 26 per cent, are confident in their ability to cope with unexpected events without adding to their debt, and 21 per cent feel that their debt situation is worse than it was a year ago.

“As we near two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbians are becoming increasingly worried about their household debt,” said Linda Paul, an insolvency trustee with MNP in the Lower Mainland.

“Financial optimism does typically take a hit as the holiday bills arrive, but it’s the added pressure from the Omicron variant and resulting pandemic fatigue, as well as rising inflation and the potential of interest rate increases around the corner that have likely led to British Columbians feeling more insecure about their finances.”

Paul said the long shadow of COVID-19 is making it hard for people to see the financial “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“For households in B.C. whose budgets have been stretched thin during the pandemic, it’s getting harder and harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As we weather another wave of business closures, reduced working hours or job loss, and health concerns related to COVID, many could find themselves vulnerable to any change to their budget,” said Paul.

“Unexpected expenses are one of the biggest catalysts of financial turmoil.”

Higher food costs and other expenses are forcing many in B.C. to reach for their credit cards too often.

“The rising cost of living may cause people to resort to credit to make ends meet and afford basic necessities, particularly for the increasing number of British Columbians who say they are either close to or already unable to keep up with their debt obligations,” said Paul.

Some 22 per cent in B.C. are resorting to the bad financial habit of paying only the minimum balance on their cards, while 12 per cent are borrowing money they can’t afford to pay back quickly, both up slightly from the last survey.

Nearly half, 47 per cent, said they regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on, and their outlook for the future isn’t rosy, either. Nearly one in five in B.C. (18 per cent) said they expect their financial situation to worsen five years down the road, a jump of seven per cent.

A solid majority, 57 per cent, bought things during 2021 because of persistently low interest rates, said Paul.

“We saw British Columbians taking advantage of those rock-bottom rates to make purchases that may not normally have been within their budget,” said Paul. “Now there is talk of potential interest rate hikes in the near future, which could make those purchases increasingly unaffordable.”

The general outlook across Canada is also poor, with MNP’s consumer debt index registering 88 points, the lowest it has been since the survey was first done in 2017.

— The MNP consumer debt index is a quarterly survey of 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and older. It was conducted from Dec. 1 to 7, 2021, and is considered accurate to within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


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