Almost half of Ontarians 'embarrassed' to get financial help

A new survey suggests almost half of Ontarians feel embarrassed when seeking out help with debt.

Sudbury credit counsellor says ‘stigma’ exists in the world of finances

A new survey states almost half of Ontarians feel embarrassed when seeking out help with debt.

This week, MNP LTD, an insolvency practice, released the report. It was conducted by Ipsos, a market research company, on behalf of MNP.

It states that 45 per cent of Ontarians "would be embarrassed to get help" if their financial situation was bad enough to cause them to think about bankruptcy. One third of people who responded, or 32 per cent, say the "stigma surrounding bankruptcy" prevents them from getting help.

It also says 60 per cent of Ontarians rate their personal debt situation as "bad."

The figures are no surprise to credit counsellor John Cockburn. He works at Credit Counselling Sudbury.

He says many families don't talk about budgets or finances at home.

"People for the most part don't understand that money is something that should be talked about," he said.

"When they come to see us, they're kind of embarrassed that they've let themselves get into this situation and now they need help getting out of it."

Cockburn says no client has ever come in, expecting to be in debt. He says money problems usually start happening for two reasons: either a major event such as an illness or job loss, or gradually over time.

"There's kind of a stigma in the world about your finances," he said. "You're supposed to be doing well. You're supposed to have lots of money. You're supposed to be saving for retirement and for the most part, people don't. They're embarrassed about that."

John Cockburn is a credit counsellor with Credit Counselling Sudbury. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

Cockburn says there's no one particular type of client he helps.

"We see everybody from people living on a fixed income and they're retired or they're living on Ontario Works or a disability pension — all the way up to people working at the mine, doctors, lawyers, nurses, dentists — it doesn't matter," he said. 

"Everybody seems at some point or another to run into financial difficulty."

He says there are signs to look out for that may indicate you need financial help. Those include only making minimum payments on your credit cards, frequently relying on an overdraft to pay your bills or using payday loans more often.

Cockburn says there can be negative consequences if you don't get financial help when you need it.

"When things get out of hand, you start paying more in interest on your debts," he said.

"You start to hurt your credit rating as you're missing payments … and it can be a lot more difficult to fix the situation if you wait too long."

According to MNP, the data was compiled between June 14 and 17, 2019. A sample of 2,111 people aged 18 years and older were interviewed. The company says the poll is accurate within 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


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