Canadians want to pay down debt but history suggests otherwise

CIBC poll reveals financial resolutions may not be achieved

Canadians want to pay down debt but history suggests otherwise
Steve Randall
Every New Year starts with good intentions; eating healthy, better work-life balance, paying down debt… the reality is often very different.

A new poll by CIBC shows that, once again many Canadians are committed to cutting their debts in 2018, with 25% citing that as their top financial priority for the year ahead.

It’s the eighth consecutive year that it has topped the bank’s survey and easily beats ‘growing wealth’ (13%) and ‘saving for retirement’ (7%) in the financial resolution stakes.

Unfortunately, last year’s results show that the positive vibes in January don’t last with just 16% achieving their top financial goal and moving on to another one in 2017.

More than a quarter said that they took on more debt last year and two thirds want to get a better handle on their finances in 2018.

Men more focused on wealth growth
The poll reveals that men significantly outweigh women for setting wealth growth as their top financial goal for 2018. While 17% of men said that, just 9% of women did. Men are almost twice as likely to prioritize retirement savings too (9% vs. 5%).

"While debt repayment is still the number one priority, Canadians recognize that it's just as important to focus on building savings and growing your nest egg," says Jennifer Hubbard, Managing Director, Financial Planning and Advice, CIBC. "With inflation outpacing average earnings and the risk of outliving our assets, it's essential to set out your short- and long-term financial goals in a comprehensive financial plan that strikes the right balance between paying down debt and growing savings." 

More than half of the respondents to CIBC’s poll said they wish they had paid down debt while interest rates were lower.

Goal setting tips from the experts
While many of us set goals at this time of year, only some achieve them. That’s because those goals are often too vague.

Clients who want to be successful with the financial resolutions need a detailed plan.

“If you’ve been reintroducing the same resolutions every year for the past couple of years and have made little progress, it’s time to take a critical look at your goal-setting approach,” Dr Jerabek of Montreal-based explains.

He says that the detailed plan needs to focus on key questions such as:
  • What exactly do you want to accomplish?
  • Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
  • What steps do you need to take to get the ball rolling?
  • What will you do to keep yourself motivated?
  • How will you reward yourself?
“Goal-achievers are like marathon runners: They realize that while it’s important to have an end goal, it’s the process of getting there that really matters,” Dr Jerabek says.