Consolidated Credit sees increase in Albertans seeking help
(TORONTO, ON) — While many Albertans are busy spring-cleaning their homes, there are plenty of them who wish they could also give their finances a scrub.
Heavily-indebted Albertans are feeling the crunch of years of prosperity followed by an oil shock that saw the province lose 14,000 jobs in January, resulting in the highest jobless rate since 2011.
This leaves financial experts wondering how Albertans will service their hefty debt loads. Here’s a look at Alberta’s Rocky-Mountain-sized debt portions, by the numbers:
- $124,838 – The average household debt in Alberta, according to BMO’s annual debt report, This figure is almost equal to the combined average debt levels of Quebec and Ontario ($59,805 and $67,507, respectively).
- $28,263 – The average amount of non-mortgage debt held by Calgarians – the highest in Canada according to Equifax.
- $26,305 – The amount of average non-mortgage debt held by Edmontonians, which Equifax says is the second-highest level in Canada.
- 58% – The spike in the amount of consumer proposals filed by Albertans between December 2013 and December 2014.
Jeff Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, worries about the toll this may be taking on Albertans. In February 2015, his debt counselling organization saw an increase of 38 per cent in new clients from Alberta, compared to the same month last year.
“Albertans are used to boom-and-bust environments, and maybe they are able to make it work,” says Schwartz. “But they’re carrying around colossal debt loads and reading about job losses at the same time – the financial stress must be tremendous.”
Schwartz points out that financial stress can have a negative impact on quality of life, causing lack of sleep, irritability, depression and more.
“Sometimes we need to think beyond our bank accounts and look at what our money problems are doing to our day-to-day lives,” notes Schwartz. “Debt can cast a shadow over anyone near it.”
Consolidated Credit offers the following tips to Albertans looking to ease their minds and weather the storm of low oil prices and job losses:
- Make an emergency fund. While you are working, stop worrying and start saving. Automatically direct 5 per cent of your income into a savings account. Build up an “emergency fund” equaling three to six months of living expenses so that you won’t need to worry about a sudden loss of income.
- Pay more than you have to. If you can afford to, start making increased payments to help pay down your debt. Directing extra money you have towards your debts will help get you out of debt faster, and lower the overall interest charges you will pay (try out our credit card debt calculator and see for yourself). Seeing a declining credit balance will relieve a lot of stress.
- Get real. If your finances are stressing you out, you should make an effort to find out exactly why they are causing concern. Write out a detailed budget – know exactly how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and where it’s going. Download our budget worksheet or free Budget Tool app so that you can identify areas where you can cut back or get similar products and services at a lower cost.
- Change your lifestyle. If your current lifestyle has forced you to accumulate tens of thousands dollars of debt, it’s time for a change. Stop buying “toys” and think about downsizing your home, selling your second car or even reducing your cable package. Freeing up money will allow you to direct more towards paying off your debts and becoming debt-free!
- Seek help. If the cause of your financial stress feels like it is out of your control, seek the reassuring voice of a financial professional. A non-profit credit counsellor or a financial advisor can help guide you toward taking the necessary steps to get back on your feet.
About Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc.:
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada is a national non-profit credit counselling organization that teaches consumers about personal finance.
For more information or to request an interview with Jeffrey Schwartz, please contact: