01/26/2012 10:47 EST | Updated 03/27/2012 05:12 EDT

CIBC Household Debt Survey Finds Those Least Likely To Afford It Are Piling On Debt


OTTAWA - A new analysis of household finances shows Canadians least able to afford it — boomers nearing retirement and those already in hock — are the ones piling up the most debt.

The CIBC says its analysis suggests Canada may have a bigger household debt problem that the raw numbers suggest.

The raw numbers are bad enough. The ratio of household debt to disposable annual income has reached 153 per cent.

That's a record high for Canada and approaches the 160 per cent level that preceded the housing collapse in the United States four years ago.

But a closer look at who holds the debt shows those already above the 160 per cent line — about one-third — hold three-quarters of all the household debt.

As well, a rising share of the highly indebted are 45 years and older, a time when the opposite would be expected.

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld says the micro analysis of debt does not point to a crash, but suggests that household spending will need to slow and will dampen economic activity going forward.