While I know I'm on the right track with my finances, I'd be lying if I said staying out of debt has been easy. In fact, it's been a bigger challenge than I ever could've imagined. But that's just one of the lessons I've learned since making my final payment. Here's what a year of being debt-free has taught me.
Although aging Canadians were typically the most financially stable age group, older Canadians are piling up debt more quickly than other demographics. A recent study by the Vanier Institute of the Family showed that more than 70 percent of those aged 55 to 64 held some form of debt in 2012, up from 61 percent in 1999.
The important thing is to write the goals down and post them somewhere that you see them everyday. Don't be embarrassed about putting them on the fridge and having your friends see them when they come over for a visit. You may not be proud of falling into debt but you should be proud of overcoming it.
These challenges facing Ontario are well documented. Yet the government's policy direction is not moving in the right direction. Recent developments suggest that the government intends to continue growing spending on the types of policies that have contributed to the problem such as high deficits and a new round of corporate subsidies.
This month, Canadian students finish exams and begin hunting for summer jobs. A student working the counter at Taco Bell for minimum wage would have to work eight hours a day, seven days week, for almost the entire summer to cover tuition, never mind the cost of specialized or technical degrees. Students have a responsibility to work and pay for at least some of their education. Also a responsibility, when choosing their college or university program, to think about whether they are choosing a field of study where there is a real demand for jobs.
Put simply, the aging of Canada's population has resulted in large and growing unfunded liabilities. The funding shortfall is estimated at $792.3 billion for the CPP, $494.4 billion for OAS, and $894.7 billion for medicare. Together the unfunded liabilities in Canada's public pensions and health care programs total $2.2 trillion or $134,841 for each income taxpayer. These unfunded program obligations make up more than half of total government liabilities. And their sheer size calls into question the structure of taxing current workers to provide benefits for retirees. Ultimately, to maintain current levels of spending in the future, taxes will have to increase or benefits for other programs will have to be cut -- or both.
When dealing with advisors, an important consideration is competency. If the person you're working with isn't competent, how much is it costing you? I might find that my client's banker is overcharging them or their accountant is less than adequate, only to hear them say that they can't move their business because the person they deal with is nice or maybe even a friend.
Back in the 1960s, Stanford University researcher Walter Mischel conducted a famous study about self-control. After following the study group for 40 years, the researcher's findings about self-control continue to provide insight today into our collective psychology. That insight may be worth reflecting upon as we confront our current debt loads.
As I try to change my own views on money, I thought I'd share some of the insights that have helped me create a more positive relationship with it. In my experience so far, it can be as simple as switching your thought patterns, so you see the glass half-full rather than half-empty. Here are a few examples.
More than 1 in 3 people said they did not discuss their debt with their spouse prior to getting married. If you are starting a new life together would it not be a good idea to at least start a conversation about the debt burden that will impact you and your spouse's ability to buy a home and borrow for other purchases?
In the financial media, January is the month often coined the 'debt hangover' with many people feeling the winter blues while trying to reconcile how they will service their holiday bills and increasing debt loads. The 'debt psyche' that results for many during this period is often one of a heightened aversion to assuming more debt.