Dealing with debt

Many of us have no control over increasing our income, but all of us have 100 per cent control over our spending.

In a well-researched piece in the November 26, 2015, edition of the Financial Post, author Barbara Shecter wrote about the dangerous debt load that Canadians are carrying. Specifically she wrote, “…more than a third of us have found ourselves covering expenses by running up credit lines or credit cards, or even selling off investments or hitting up family members for much-needed cash.”

She goes on to describe the even more extreme steps another chunk of the population is taking, including liquidating RRSPs and using payday loans. I urge you to read the entire article.

The point of the matter is that the average Canadian is living beyond their means and the main reason, according to Shecter, is the very high mortgages that Canadians are carrying.

This is particularly scary when you consider that mortgage interest rates are at, or near, record lows. This means that when interest rates move up, and it would be foolish to think that they will not, a lot of Canadians will struggle even more, with a significant number potentially going bankrupt.

But there is time to address this — not much, I fear, but some.

In addressing this problem, Canadians have to focus on one thing and one thing only — our spending. We may not know if and when our next raise is coming, if ever.

I will give you another resource to help you with this need to address your spending. David Chilton is a great writer and wrote The Wealthy Barber in 1989, where he showed methods and philosophies for becoming a great saver. His follow-up book called, strangely enough, The Wealthy Barber Returns, talks about how to be a great spender. Canadians have to focus on becoming great spenders by becoming much more frugal in their ways.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Chilton at a dinner in St. John’s, where he talked about what I call “the Corian effect.” That is, many people are buying Corian® countertops for their kitchens instead of taking that money and putting it into their retirement fund. This Corian® effect is another phrase for conspicuous consumption or “keeping up with the Jones.”

People feel compelled to buy simply to feel they are not falling behind in public displays of wealth. They are borrowing to do so and are, I think unknowingly, doing so at a higher risk than they perceive. Because at the end of the day, when interest rates rise, real estate pieces will fall and the Corian® countertop will not save them. This book will help you learn how to spend reasonably.

Keep the conversation going

What are your concerns about dealing with debt? Post a comment below.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Larry Short, CPA, CGA

Larry was born and raised in Carbonear, Newfoundland and Labrador. He attended Memorial University of Newfoundland and graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. He obtained his accounting designation in 1988 and began working as an investment advisor that same year. Over the years, Larry has achieved numerous professional designations: Certified Financial Planner®, Certified Investment Manager (CIM) and Portfolio Manager. Larry is a published author of In Short: Secrets to Make Your Dollars Grow (Doubleday 1998) and In Short: Successful Investing During Turbulent Times (2012). Larry’s wealth management practice is in its 28th year of business and continues with HollisWealth® in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.