Pattie Lovett-Reid: The dangers of relying on low interest rates
Historically-low interest have caused more Canadians to binge on debt, according to a new poll from MNP Debt.
The credit-counselling service says nearly 30 per cent of respondents report they’ve taken on a heavier debt load due to rock-bottom rates, leaving them more exposed if the Bank of Canada begins tightening. Nearly the same proportion of respondents say they would be comfortable further ramping up their borrowing if rates fall.
In spite of this approach to borrowing, one out of every three respondents say they’re concerned a rising rate environment could push them towards personal bankruptcy. The Canadian debt-to-disposable income ratio hit a record 167.3 in the fourth quarter, after moderating slightly in the previous quarter.
“This care-free attitude toward borrowing and spending is worrisome. So many people have become accustomed to using credit to finance lifestyles they can't afford,” Grant Bazian, MNP Debt’s president, said in a statement. “Consumers must start paying down debt now while interest rates are low. It will get more expensive – and for some it will be unaffordable – when interest rates rise.”
Currently, there’s little expectation of an imminent Bank of Canada rate hike, with options markets pricing in less than one in three odds by year’s end. But borrowing costs are not solely dictated by Stephen Poloz, as inflation in the U.S. is slowly pulling short-term treasuries higher, which puts upward pressure on rates on both sides of the border.