BMO Wealth Management Report: Debt Considered the Top Financial Concern for Canadian Millennials

TORONTO- BMO Wealth Management released a report examining the financial and non-financial issues uniquely affecting today's millennials.

The report – "Generation Why" – found that almost one third (29 per cent) of Canadian millennials consider paying down debt as their greatest financial concern and 23 per cent highlighted it as their highest financial priority. Further, one in five (19 per cent) Canadian millennials indicated that they would rather pay off their accumulated debts before starting to save for retirement.

According to the Canadian Federation of Students, in 2015, Canadian millennials carrying student debt owed an average of $27,000.

"With the number of students pursuing post-secondary education twice the number of previous generations, millennials have focused on higher education as the best path to increase their opportunities in a challenging and competitive employment market," said Chris Buttigieg, Director, Wealth Institute, BMO Wealth Management. "However, the opportunity to pursue further education has to be weighed against the accumulation of additional debt, which makes the decision a difficult one."

He added that the cohort is uniquely positioned with a strong skill set and has an ability to grasp and use new technologies so are able to make positive changes by virtue of their skills and education.

Concerns about the present and future

The BMO Wealth Management Report also looked at the personal matters that affected Canadian millennials' ability to save including lack of job security or opportunities (63 per cent) and uncertainty in personal relationships, such as divorces or partners losing income (62 per cent).

In addition, Canadian millennials are focused on short-term financial goals – 41 per cent do not consider long-term goals, like saving for retirement, an immediate priority.

BMO offers the following financial tips for Canadian millennials:

Insure yourself: Unforeseen events, such as illness, can happen at any time and can cause considerable financial strain. Insurance can help ensure plans for the future, whether they are personal or for the family as a whole, are not derailed by disability or other incidents.

Financial goals and planning: A financial plan will help prioritize goals and determine the actions that can be taken to achieve them. A financial professional can also provide information and guidance that will help increase financial literacy specific to any areas of concern. 

Invest in an RRSP or TFSA: The BMO Wealth Management Report found that millennials prefer to use a savings account rather than tax-advantaged accounts such as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). While savings accounts enable easy access to accumulated funds, they do not provide any of the additional advantages of an RRSP or TFSA.