Canadians steadily paying off debt quicker, borrowing less: Equifax study

TORONTO – Fewer Canadians are letting their debt repayments lapse for more than three months compared with a year ago, according to a report out today by credit monitoring firm Equifax Canada.

The study found that the percentage of unpaid non-mortgage debt classified as going into 90-day delinquency settled at a moderate 1.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year, a slight increase from 1.19 per cent from the fourth quarter.

But Nadim Abdo, Equifax’s vice-president of consulting solutions, says this rate was markedly lower compared with 1.39 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.

Equifax said Canadian non-mortgage debt totalled $500.8 billion during the period.

That was up from $497 billion in the same period in 2012.

In the past, Equifax studies have shown that consumers tend to take out more loans, and do not pay them back as quickly, during a volatile economy or periods of high unemployment.

“There seems to be more financial control by the consumers and by the banking and financial institutions,” said Abdo.

“This is a very positive story. It shows a lot of financial control. People are not kind of going crazy spending when they shouldn’t be spending, which is the general idea of what it should be.”

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney have warned repeatedly about the dangers of high household debt and the consequences when interest rates eventually start to rise.

Economists have suggested that high household debt and a cooling housing market will hold back the Canadian economy.