Credit counsellors busy as Calgarians struggle with debt and unemployment
The average Albertan is carrying more debt than the national average, and many are reaching out for help as the downturn continues.
Dan Harsent moved to Calgary from Victoria for a good job, something a lot of people do, but a change in his fortunes means he and his family is struggling.
“A lot of it has to do with being underemployed, the job that I took when I came out here did not pan out as it was supposed to, the company got bought and sold a couple of times, the plan got changed, there wasn’t nearly enough money there, I was trying to get out which took a while and in the meantime we were going further and further behind,” he said.
Harsent isn't alone. Albertans, on average, now carry nearly $28,000 in debt outside of their mortgages. That's $6,000 more than the average Canadian.
“When times are good, people spend money, and when times are bad, people use credit,” said Jennifer Croft, 4Pillars Debt Specialists. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the trend continues where people go into debt because of the way the market trend is.”
Croft said one of the main problems is that people don’t save for emergencies anymore like they did a generation ago, and says everyone should have three to six months of income saved up. She also says that once debt gets going, it’s hard to turn around.
“A lot of people think, oh, that’s just $1,000, I make $2,000 per month, I can pay that off is six months, but they don’t think of the power of compounding interest working against them,” she said.
Dan Harsent is going through credit counselling and things are starting to improve, but he said it’s been a long road that has taken its toll.
“It affects everything you do, it affects your relationship with your spouse, it affects your self-confidence as a man and a father and the guy who is supposed to be providing for the family, when you can’t do that and you feel it’s all on you when you are the responsible guy, it’s horrible,” he said.
Albertans are also the worst in Canada at falling behind to keep up with debt. There has been a 13 per cent jump in delinquency, which is going more than three months without paying off any debt. That's four times higher than the national average.