Paying down debt remains top financial priority of Canadians: CIBC poll

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TORONTO – Paying down debt remains the top financial priority of Canadians, although a new poll says slightly fewer have made it their top pick compared with the previous two years.

The poll, conducted for CIBC (TSX:CM) by Harris/Decima, found that overall 16 per cent of respondents said lowering debt was their No. 1 priority for 2014.

That was down one percentage point from 17 per cent in 2013 and in 2012.

However, it was five percentage points better than the 11 per cent who said they would focus on building savings, up slightly from 10 per cent over the last several years.

Next in order of importance were managing day-to-day spending and getting current bills paid, both selected by eight per cent of respondents.

Retirement planning was the top focus of seven per cent of those surveyed, the same as last year but down from 11 per cent in 2012.

“For the fourth year in a row, Canadians have told us their top financial priority is paying down their debt as we enter a new year,” said Christina Kramer, executive vice-president, retail distribution and channel strategy at CIBC.

“While the intent to reduce debt is clear, we also know that some Canadians are not yet making the progress they want to on reducing their overall debt levels, which speaks to the importance of having a clear action plan in place to reach your goals in 2014,” Kramer said.

Among other findings, the poll revealed that less than half (47 per cent) of Canadians surveyed said they had met with a financial adviser in the last year.

And, of those surveyed, only six per cent identified debt management as a topic of a conversation they would have with an adviser.

“Despite being top of mind for 2014, many Canadians don’t think about sitting down with an adviser and having a conversation about how to reduce their debt,”Kramer said.

Although a do-it-yourself approach can work for some people, “most Canadians would benefit from taking a broader view of their finances with an adviser, including looking at their debt and then working out a realistic plan to start repaying that debt over time,” she said.

Meanwhile, although debt reductions was uppermost in the minds of most respondents, the poll disclosed wide discrepancies on a regional basis.

For example, debt reduction was the priority for 20 per cent of Albertans and for 19 per cent of Ontarians, but that fell to 14 per cent in Atlantic Canada and to 12 per cent in both Quebec and British Columbia, the only province where it was not the top pick. In British Columbia, 14 per cent of respondents said building savings was their main goal.

In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, debt reduction was selected as the most important goal by 16 per cent of respondents, matching the national average.

Harris/Decima said the results were gathered from a sample of 2,060 Canadians conducted between Oct. 25 and Nov. 4. It claimed a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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