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'I spent years worrying': New data shows debt climbing in Canada, Manitobans struggling to pay money back

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More Canadians are seeing their credit card debt climb higher according to new data from a credit reporting agency, and Manitobans particularly have been feeling the effects.

The TransUnion report published on Tuesday showed the number of Canadians only paying the minimum monthly amount on their credit card rose eight basis points to 1.3 per cent.

It noted in the report that people are instead focusing on things like mortgage payments.

"The interest on your mortgage is probably the single biggest expense in a month, so that puts a lot of pressure on people, and they want to keep up to date on things. So they will take the line of least resistance," said Leigh Taylor, the president of LCTaylor Licensed Insolvency Trustee.

The report also touched on serious consumer-level delinquency – when payments are more than 90 days past due.

The country's total jumped 20 basis points from quarter one in 2023 to 1.76 per cent in quarter one of 2024.

Looking at provinces individually, Manitoba had the third highest delinquency rate at 2.11 per cent. The province also had the second-highest change year-over-year going up 24 basis points.

"Tough economic times with inflation, etc. There's going to be more people that are going to default on their credit card payments,” Taylor said.

Those who are being impacted the most are millennials, as they make up the largest share of credit accounts, but are also saddled with the highest share of debt.

Marlowe Brownlee is one of those individuals who has been dealing with financial stress.

"I spent years worrying about my financial position," said Brownlee.

"When you look at things like inflation, when you look at the rising cost of literally anything from groceries to vehicles to even any kind of extracurricular activity you can think of, there's a lot of things that lend themselves to millennials finding themselves in credit card debt."

He said his separation in 2019 was the tipping point, and supporting his kids was his number one priority.

"I found myself under an enormous amount of debt pressure and didn't really know how I was going to get out of that," he said. "So when we separated, I had to start taking my finances very seriously in order to ensure that I was going to be able to be there for (my kids)."

He feels that credit card debt is the easiest debt to fall into, as credit cards are so easy to access compared to a line of credit or mortgage.

Taylor said for people like Brownlee dealing with debt problems, there are options out there, but warns people not to wait before it's too late.

"A good budget over three or four years could do wonders for your economic situation. If that isn't going to work, there are solutions to things such as consumer proposals under the Bankruptcy Insolvency Act that can give you a really good chance to get back on your feet," said Taylor.

For Brownlee, he recommends educating yourself on a credit card's terms and conditions, and building a good relationship with a bank or financial advisor.

"Taking your finances seriously is a good first step, and I think a step that I know myself was missing for me for a while and I'm sure is for others too," said Brownlee.

The report also notes that Gen-Z too is driving the surge in debt, with a big gain in outstanding balances year-over-year.

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