As Canadians, we live in a country where certain rights and freedoms are expected, hoped for and, some might say, taken for granted. The freedom to retire early is one many of us begin grappling with as we approach middle age. Ironically, many Canadians won’t be ready to retire until they are significantly older.
The reason? Debt.
Unfortunately, too many retired people – 34% — over 55 years old still carry consumer debt, according to Statistics Canada. In fact, a recent Equifax Canada report found that the debt load of seniors is outpacing that of their younger counterparts.
It’s not as though Canadians have always carried a heavy debt burden. In 2012, 42.5% of people over 65 still had debt, a jump of 55% when compared to seniors in 1999.
A number of economic, social and cultural factors are to blame, say experts. They point to divorce, illness and large mortgages as some of the culprits. Experts also explain that children, grandchildren and other family members may also be at fault, as they often look to their parents and grandparents to lend them hand. In fact, a 2015 survey showed that 18% of first-time home buyers are gifted their down payments thanks to relatives, typically parents.
But, children can’t shoulder all of the blame.
Low interest rates have made debt much more attractive. Further, cottages, pricey vacations, fancy cars and other expensive toys may be out of reach for the average pensioner. Paring down and cutting back in your sixties may not seem fair. After all, you’ve worked decades, aren’t you entitled to a little luxury? Your fixed retirement income simply may not support your lifestyle any more. Perhaps it’s time to downsize and sell your 3,000 square-foot home?
If selling isn’t an option, many house-rich, cash-poor seniors can look to their houses for equity. Often by the time a person retires, he or she has either paid off their mortgage or is only owing a small amount. Because house values have increased in recent years, in some markets quite significantly, tapping into a home’s equity may be something to consider.
Still, as a borrower, you need to be aware of how you are intending to pay back the loan. Is it possible to make monthly payments or would you prefer to have your estate pay off the loan after you die?
No matter how the money is borrowed, the process should be well planned out. Know what you need it for. Have a repayment plan in place. Don’t borrow more than you need – that often leads to trouble.
Executive Financial Consultant
Investors Group Financial Services Inc.
Rettinger & Associates Private Wealth Management
This is a general source of information only. It is not intended to provide personalized tax, legal or investment advice, and is not intended as a solicitation to purchase securities. Dwayne Rettinger is solely responsible for its content. For more information on this topic or any other financial matter, please contact an Investors Group Consultant.