Albertans racking up debt faster than rest of Canada

Albertans are piling on non-mortgage debt faster than people in the rest of Canada, according to a new report.

Report shows non-mortgage debt up by 7.46% on average in Alberta

Albertans are piling on non-mortgage debt faster than people in the rest of Canada, according to a new report.

The analysis done by credit reporting agency TransUnion showed consumer debt –- excluding mortgages — increased by 7.46 per cent in Alberta over last year.

The average increase among all Canadians was 2.19 per cent compared to last year.

"Realistically, people are at the point where they can't make their credit card payments or where they are just making the minimum payments at this point," said credit counsellor Mark Kalinowski.

"People are very optimistic about what might happen in the future so far as their incomes or jobs go, but right now they're living beyond what they're making."

The report found Canadians are carrying an average debt load of $27,355 in the third quarter of 2013 — up by $225 from the previous quarter.

In Alberta that figure is $36,200 — second only to British Columbia’s average of $38,682.

"We see some people that make extraordinarily high incomes — $200,000 to $250,000 a year — and every penny is spent," said Kalinowski. "If they're working up in the oil fields, if they should shut down for even six weeks they don't have money to pay the bills." 

Calgarian's average debt: $37,920

Calgarians are carrying an average debt load of $37,920. That’s up $495 from last year at this time.

"Calgary is in a special place with relatively low unemployment and good job prospects for high incomes," said Kalinowski. "Calgarians seem more willing to increase their debt load. The one thing we'd like to suggest is that people maybe focus more on savings and not rely on those high incomes or not bet that those high incomes are coming so soon." 

Edmonton was the only major city to see a rise in debt greater than the national average, with an increase of 4.6 per cent over last year.

People living in Canada’s largest cities appear to be scaling back their debt spending, the TransUnion report found.

Toronto and Vancouver saw quarterly and yearly declines in average consumer debt, and Montreal saw only small increases on both a quarterly and yearly basis.

"While we saw a rise in total debt on both a quarterly and yearly basis for the nation, it is a positive sign that Canada's largest metropolitan areas appear to be getting a better handle on their total debt picture," said TransUnion vice president Thomas Higgins.

Line of credit debt has declined nationally for three consecutive quarters, which Higgins said was an important trend.

"This is important because lines of credit make up about 40 per cent of all consumer debt, when excluding mortgages,” he said.

With files from Tara Weber


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