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Eric and Ilsa: Globe and Mail rich couple's financial woes not uncommon, says expert

01/21/2015 08:35 EST | Updated 03/23/2015 05:59 EDT
The story of Eric and Ilsa, a high earning Vancouver couple who say they are struggling to make ends meet on $25,000 a month, has received huge online backlash, since they were featured in a Globe and Mail column on Saturday.

But while the column was met with mocking from people in disbelief that a $300,000 annual income could lead to debt, the Credit Counselling Society says it isn't uncommon for high earners to find themselves living outside their means.

"We see couples who have good earning power and yet are utilizing every dollar that they earn and then some," president Scott Hannah told On The Island's Gregor Craigie.

In the case of Eric and Ilsa, whose surnames were not published, their five children create an additional financial burden, Hannah said. But there are a number of other reasons why those with high incomes go into debt.

Hannah said the social pressure to live a certain lifestyle — for example enrolling children in private school — can lead to people spending more money than they should.

"We find that people of average means have greater ability it seems to be able to cut back, scale back in terms of their expectations than those who have a higher income," he said.

Hannah isn't surprised at the backlash over the column.

"This couple here are likely in that top two per cent of household incomes in Canada, so it's difficult, I suspect, for someone who's living on a tenth of their income and is able to live within their means without going into debt to feel sympathy for this couple."

As well as the backlash, there has been some confusion about the details of the original column. The Globe and Mail originally stated Eric worked two days a week, but later issued a correction, saying he works up to 80 hours a week.

To hear the full interview with Scott Hannah, click the audio labelled: Scott Hannah says Eric and Ilsa's situation isn't unheard of.

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