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“What, me worry?”

Millennials, debt & retirement

by Tim St Vincent

Millennials have a lot on their mind: friends, family, social justice, side hustles and more. But debt management? Not so much. Maybe they should spend a bit more time thinking on this issue.

Forty per cent of Canadians don’t pay off their credit card bill in full when it arrives simply because they can’t afford to. Forty-four percent of Canadians say that if their pay was delayed just one week, they would have problems covering their expenses. Fifty per cent of Canadians have no budget. Considering this, it really isn’t that surprising that a full 50 per cent of us admit to living from cheque to cheque.

Debt can’t be ignored. You can be certain it won’t ignore you. This is especially true if you are a recent graduate. A good education doesn’t guarantee you a good job the way it may have for a millennial’s parents or grandparents. What it does likely mean, though, is a fair bit of debt. A good way to summarize our nation’s near love affair with debt is one very sobering statistic; for every after tax dollar we earn, the average Canadian owes $1.78. Try not to think too much on that, it will keep you awake at night.

According to an Angus Reid poll, even with all of that debt floating around out there, millennials around 25 years of age – those who have recently graduated or who are fairly recent in the workforce – have the best outlook of all ages when it comes to retirement. Thirty-four per cent of them feel that they will have enough money saved to do everything that they want with only eight per cent worried about having enough money to keep up with the bills in retirement. Oh, for the optimism of youth!

We need to plan on managing both debt and retirement at all ages, phases and stages of life. The millennials have one advantage on their side, time. Approximately 32 per cent of Canadians have put off putting aside money for retirement because of the need to keep up with debt payments, yet 68 per cent of millennials say that their retirement saving will be sufficient to finance their retirement. With housing prices ever increasing and fewer good employer sponsored pension plans out there, millennials need to tap into that advantage they have and start planning now on how to manage their debt and retirement and not wait until they find a bailiff at their door.

Maybe one of the reasons millennials are so optimistic about the future is because 67 per cent of their parents admit to helping them out financially. Ironically enough, only 47 per cent of millennials admit to receiving aid from their parents!

But it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. Debt can be good, if used correctly and constructively for things like an education or a home purchase. Couple good debt decisions with solid budgeting and a realistic payment schedule and debt can be very manageable without the need to tap into your future inheritance by knocking on the door of the bank of mom and dad.

If you are a millennial and reading this, take heart; time is your friend. Use it well and it will reward you. Forget about it and the benefits it will bring you, and one day many years down the road, it will greet you with a nasty surprise. Plan well and don’t be surprised!

Tim St Vincent is a retired CFP (Certified Financial Planner) and is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance with the Credit Counselling Society (CCS), a non-profit organization. If you have any article suggestions or questions and wish to contact Tim or the Society to request / attend a workshop / webinar, please call 1-888-527-8999 or go to or

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