Paying down debt No. 1 financial goal of Canadians for 2021: Poll

TORONTO — Paying down debt is the No. 1 financial priority of Canadians heading into the new year, according to a new survey that found many people took on more debt this year to cover day-to-day expenses and make up for lost income.

The annual CIBC online poll said tackling debt has remained unchanged as the top financial priority for the past 11 years, despite many Canadians grappling this year with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

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About 43 per cent of those surveyed said their personal finances have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, and half of those say it will take more than 12 months to get back on track.

The survey found the second financial priority of Canadians for 2021 is simply "keeping up with bills and getting by."

Meanwhile, the biggest financial concerns of Canadians for the next 12 months include inflation, the rising costs of goods and slow economic growth, CIBC said.

The bank said optimism for the year ahead has declined compared with previous years, with 24 per cent of Canadians believing their financial situation will improve in 2021, down from 32 per cent in 2019.

Carissa Lucreziano, vice-president of CIBC Financial and Investment Advice, said it's understandable Canadians are concerned about the economy given the difficulties many people faced in 2020.

"Canadians have faced so many challenges this year," she said in a statement. "If this year has taught us anything, it's that we don't always know what's coming next and the best buffer for the unexpected is to be prepared with a plan and be open to adjusting it when circumstances change."

According to the polling industry’s generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2020.

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