Toronto·The Long Listen

Torontonians are feeling broke in a booming city — and social media is part of the problem

The city's economy is strong, so why are so many people who live dealing with financial insecurity? CBC Radio's Metro Morning set out to answer that question this week by talking to people struggling to get by and experts who understand what they're up against.

Plus, experts on the reasons why so many people are struggling despite a strong economy

Toronto's economy and job market is strong these days, but many still feel like they're struggling financially. Metro Morning looked into why. (Daniel Munoz/Reuters)

Toronto's economy is booming, so why do so many people who live here feel broke?

CBC Radio's Metro Morning set out to answer that question this week by talking to people struggling to get by and experts who understand what they're up against.

And, as host Matt Galloway found out, what's happening on social media may be exacerbating the situation.

The series heard a first-hand account from Amanda Terfloth, who shared her story of feeling burnt out and struggling to stay afloat in the city.

"It's incredibly stressful month-to-month," she said, adding she's often focused on just making rent.

You can listen to her interview below, or, if you'd prefer to listen to the entire 35-minute-long series at once, you can use the player at the bottom of this story.

This week, we're asking what's making people feel scarcity in the middle of a strong economy. One woman shares how precarious work and social media pressure to present an unreal view of yourself adds to the struggle to stay afloat. 9:54

After the interview, more Torontonians shared their stories about how expensive it is to live in the city.

This week in our series Broke, we're talking about the struggle to survive financially in the middle of a booming economy. Jobs are up. Unemployment is down. Yet many people are still feeling broke, and anxious about having enough money. Among them is Amanda Terfloth, who we heard from earlier this week. She pays more than half her income in rent -- despite having multiple roommates. After we heard from Amanda, we heard from you, on our vox box. 4:13

Financial planner Shannon Lee Simmons and political economist Ricardo Tranjan said what people like Terfloth are feeling is common in the city. 

Simmons said even people earning a living wage express feelings of being broke, often saying they feel like they can't breathe.

"Life is so expensive for so many families," she said.

Tranjan said the city has plenty of jobs, which is great news, but many are precarious jobs. Those with precarious jobs, he said, are more likely to worry about how to pay for things in the future.

Political economist Ricardo Tranjan of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and financial planner Shannon Lee Simmons explain why many people are feeling broke in spite of a strong economy - precarious jobs and social media pressure contribute to a gnawing unease in the midst of plenty. 10:42

And then, there's social media — a sea of images of people showing off how seemingly well they're doing.

Michelle Pinchev, the founder of Pinch Social, said she's not at all surprised the online world can lead to feelings of financial insecurity.

Unemployment is down, job creation is up... so why do so many people feel like they are just getting by? Social media may be part of the reason people feel broke, and prompting them to spend more than they have. 7:20
Without good wages and stable work, many aren't able to afford things like healthy food. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Kwame McKenzie, the CEO of the Wellesley Institute, said many Torontonians people are struggling — or, as he put it, just keeping their heads above water.

How much does it cost to get by in a healthy way? McKenzie's research suggests the line is $45,000 a year, after tax.

For those making less, McKenzie says there are real physical and mental health risks.

In our series, Broke, we're looking at why so many people are falling behind, in the midst of a booming economy. Today, a conversation about public policies - and how they contribute to growing insecurity and financial instability. 8:03

You can listen to Metro Morning's entire Broke series in the player below:

With files from Metro Morning

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