Ottawa woman's debt delays retirement

A 60-year-old Ottawa woman is living paycheque to paycheque after a messy divorce, which has her delaying retirement like many other workers her age.

Interest rate stays at 1%, but retirement plans on hold for many baby boomers

Seniors face debt issues

11 years ago
Duration 3:36
Aging boomers are putting off retirement as debt looms large.

The Bank of Canada has kept its benchmark interest rate at one per cent but baby boomers that carry some form of debt remain in limbo as they put their retirements on hold.

WATCH |  Judy Trinh has more on CBC News at 5. 

About two-thirds of retirees do not have adequate retirement income and one-third say debt is an issue for them, including some with no savings at all.

Angela Sutcliffe, 60, is one of those with debt. The Ottawa woman owned a cleaning company called Mrs. Mop between 1985 and 1998.

She is now a business consultant who was named the businesswoman of the year in 2010 by the Nepean Chamber of Commerce.

Business consultant had to sell home

But a messy divorce forced Sutcliffe to sell her home and now she rents an apartment filled with donated furnishings. She said she never imagined living paycheque to paycheque at 60.

Key figures from 2011 StatsCan poll:

  • One-third of Canadians 55 and older have debt.
  • Of that group, 43 per cent have more than $25,000 in debt.
  • Two-thirds of people 55 and older who aren't retired have debt.


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"Never mind that I've been a good money manager, and I planned well, and I thought I had it all together," she told the CBC's Judy Trinh.

"Just one small mistake, one divorce, and it's gone."

The divorce in 2010 wiped out $100,000 in savings, she said.

Sutcliffe now hopes she can retire by the time she turns 70 years old, but that means earning about $5,000 per month.

Unable to makes ends meet

But interest rates play a large part in that plan. A hike would be devastating, according to experts.

"We estimate that for one-third of seniors debt is an issue and their ability to make ends meet on retirement income is limited," said Barry Thornsteinson from the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation.

'Just one small mistake, one divorce, and it's gone." —Angela Sutcliffe, 60

"We are just hoping interest rates don't become a factor and make their lives worse."

Sutcliffe is an exception, but planning early is often the way to escape debt worries in the golden years, adds Thornsteinson.

"I can only advise young Canadian workers they have to start planning now, this government isn't looking out for them," he said.

"There is a significant amount of seniors living in poverty."

The governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, is going to set the bank's interest rate this morning.