TORONTO – It seems like Canadians may be heeding the repeated warnings about loading on debt — unless they’re a senior.
A study released Wednesday by TD Bank found that although last year Canadian household debt levels grew at their slowest pace since 2003, debt accumulation by those aged 65 and over is markedly up.
Using statistics from Ipsos Reid’s Canadian Financial Monitor, which surveyed about 12,000 households, the report found that seniors on average gained more than $6,000 in new debt, or 15 per cent more in 2012 than the previous year.
Most of this came from consumer spending, even though the overall assets of those 65 and over changed little.
Although seniors on average still had the lowest levels of debt compared to other age groups at $47,549, the report warned against gaining so much debt so quickly.
“The updated figures add credence to the recent theme that Canadians are entering retirement more indebted than ever,” it said.
TD says seniors living in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec had the highest rates of debt accumulation in 2012, compared with their counterparts in the Atlantic region, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, who paid down debt.
It also found that on average, those aged 45 to 64 were most likely to pay down all types of debt for the first time since the survey began in 2002.
The average debt for this age group was $92,819, which decreased by $2,731 or 2.9 per cent compared with 2011.
Debt among 25 to 44 year olds also slowed, with those in this age bracket seemingly cutting back on credit card spending and taking on new personal lines of credit but still opting for mortgage debt.
The average debt for this group was $137,259, up $1,654 or 1.2 per cent in 2012.
Meanwhile, those between 18 to 24 had an average debt load of $71,628, up $3,030 or 4.4 per cent.
TD cautioned that although debt levels among seniors remain relatively low compared to other ages, the amounts may still have the potential to impact their futures if they cannot afford to take on the additional financial burden.
“Older Canadians, on average, still hold relatively little debt and many have significant assets to fall back on,” said the report.
“Debt growth among older Canadians, however, is a concern because it still raises questions as to whether higher debt burdens will affect their standard of living in retirement.”