Debt among Canadian millennials at record levels, while earnings haven’t kept up: RBC report

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Melissa Lopez-Martinez
CTVNews.ca Writer

Canadian millennials are more likely to face the brunt of a wavering labour market as most face mounting debt with an income that fails to keep up with inflation, according to a report from RBC Economics.

The report released on Wednesday said Canadian millennials are more vulnerable to serious financial burdens if job losses continue to rise in their age bracket. July marked the third consecutive month Canada’s overall unemployment rate has increased; the rate stood at 5.2 per cent in May before it rose to 5.5 per cent in July, according to Statistic Canada.

The data, based on changing average mortgage rates between January 2019 and January 2023, found older millennials between the ages of 35 and 44 had an average debt-to-income ratio of 250 per cent in 2019. Approximately half of what Canadians in the same age group reported having in 1999 reported, which was 150 per cent.

Younger millennials are also reporting above that nearly 25-year statistic, as their debt-to-income ratio is at 165 per cent.

Additionally, millennials who own a home are likely to see a 25 per cent increase in monthly mortgage payments by 2024 amid interest rate hikes, significantly affecting millennials who’s earnings haven’t kept up with the pace of their increasing debt. Since the start of the pandemic, hourly wages have grown by 12 per cent, the report says, which is less than half of the average five-year fixed mortgage payment.

In turn, boomers, who account for those aged 65 and older, are less vulnerable to interest rate hikes since the majority no longer have mortgage debt. As for the 14 per cent that still do, the average balance is half the size of a millennial mortgage.

As millennials continue to struggle post-pandemic with the rising cost of living and housing crisis, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended a message to younger Canadians during his cabinet retreat.

"To young Canadians, I want to say something: You've had two crucial years of adulthood dramatically interrupted by COVID, and then you were hit by global inflation and increased interest rates,” Trudeau said to reporters on Wednesday.

"We owe it to you to take action, so you can fully benefit from the promise of Canada,” he continued.

Housing affordability was among the core topics discussed during the three-day retreat in Charlottetown, P.E.I.. However, the prime minister did not announce any new plans to tackle the housing crisis on Wednesday.

According to Statistics Canada, the average debt including mortgage debt, credit cards and student loans among other debts, for Canadians between the ages of 35 to 44 was $105,100 and $69,500 for those under 35.

With files from The Canadian Press.