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BMO Psychology of Debt Report: Stress-Testing Canadians as They Plan to Pay Off Their Debts in Seven Years

- Debt levels and stress impact the young and old

- 35 - 54 year olds hold highest debt levels, but majority don't feel stressed

- Majority of Millennials feel debt-related stress is the source of missed activities, lost sleep and arguments

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Aug. 27, 2014) - BMO released today a report on the psychology of Canadians, revealing how much debt they expect to take on within the next year, how long they expect to carry debt, and how it is affecting their daily life.

Over the next year, Canadians expect to take on an average of $19,534 in debt, with a goal to be debt-free in seven years. The report revealed the different generational profiles for debt levels:

  • Canadians aged 34 - 54 hold the highest debt levels, and expect to take over a year longer than the national average to become debt free
  • Baby Boomers (Canadians aged 55 +) expect to take on more debt than their Millennial (18 - 34 year olds) counterparts, but aim to be debt free 2.7 years earlier
Household Debt by Age
18 - 34 35 - 54 55+ National
Current debt level $ 73,305 $ 92,476 $ 57,307 $ 76,140
Amount of debt expected to be taken on within the next year $ 14,402 $ 25,415 $ 17,935 $ 19,534
Expected time to pay off debt 7.6 years 8.2 years 4.9 years 7 years

"Household debt levels at various ages reflect the financial obligations and milestones at different times in one's life," said Tony Tintinalli, Regional Vice President, BMO Bank of Montreal. "Millennials are more likely to be carrying student loans, saving for or starting mortgage payments on their first home, and entering the beginning stages of careers. Baby Boomers are likely both to hold more assets and be closer to paying off larger debts."

Mr. Tintinalli added that Baby Boomers still face the milestone expenses of helping children with tuition, weddings, and saving for retirement, accounting for their need to continue to take on debt. Canadian's aged 35 - 54 are in the middle of their financial milestones - possibly still carrying student loans and mortgage debts, and facing payments for children's education and retirement.

Stress levels and concern surrounding debt impact each generation differently:

  • While two-thirds of Millennials (66 per cent) feel their debt has caused them to miss out on activities (trips, social gatherings, personal indulgences etc.), only 38 per cent of Baby Boomers feel they have missed out
  • Millennials are the most ashamed of their level of debt (50 per cent), and the majority (59 per cent) feel that their household debt is a major personal problem
  • Those aged 35 - 54 hold the highest debt levels, but only four in ten (39 per cent) feel it is a major personal problem
Debt Stress by Age
Debt has caused me to: 18 - 34 35 - 54 55+ National
Miss out on activities (trips, social gatherings, personal indulgences) 66 % 52 % 38 % 51 %
Think/stress over debt levels multiple times a day 56 % 41 % 24 % 39 %
Lose sleep from stress 50 % 43 % 22 % 38 %
Have arguments with family/significant other/friends 50 % 38 % 16 % 34 %
Borrow money from family/significant other/friends to help manage household debt levels 51 % 33 % 13 % 31 %
Feel ashamed at the level of debt I've accumulated 50 % 39 % 23 % 37 %

"Developing and following a realistic budget that includes both monthly expenses and leisure spending can help reduce stress and identify areas where spending can be scaled back," said Mr. Tintinalli. "Payment and spending obligations change as different life milestones are met. Visiting a financial advisor at least annually helps to ensure your current budget is in line with your priorities."

Results from the BMO Household Debt 2014 survey are from interviews with an online sample of 1,002 Canadians conducted between June 30th and July 3rd, 2014. These results have been compared to the Household Debt 2013 survey, which was conducted with an online sample of 1,005 Canadians between July 12th and 16th, 2013.The margin of error for a probability sample of 1,002 or 1,005 is ± 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified financial services organization based in North America. The bank offers a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers. BMO Financial Group had total assets exceeding $586 billion and approximately 47,000 employees at July 31, 2014.

For further information:
Media Contacts:
Kathleen Savage, Toronto
(416) 867-3996

Ron Monet, Montreal
(514) 877-1873

Twitter: @BMOmedia