Manulife uses cookies to personalize your experience, analyze site traffic and serve targeted ads. Learn more about your privacy options.

View more

Manulife uses cookies to personalize your experience, analyze site traffic and serve targeted ads. Learn more about your privacy options.

View more
Skip to main content Skip to notification content

‘Tis The Season to Be… Thrifty?

Manulife Bank’s Debt Survey Reveals Fewer Canadians Willing to Buy Gifts or Go into Debt for Them, Compared to Pre-Pandemic Times

  • Nearly One-Third of Canadians Have No Debt and Fewer Are in Debt Compared to A Year Ago
  • Three Times as Many Canadians Expect to Spend A Lot Less During the Holiday Season Than Prior to the Pandemic
  • About Three-Quarters of Canadians Who Don’t Have A House, But Want to Buy One, Can’t Afford To
  • 31 % of Canadians Say Their Mental Health Has Worsened Over the Past Year
December 16, 2021

Toronto – Fewer Canadians say they are likely to buy gifts during this holiday season compared to just a few short years ago before the pandemic, nor are they willing to go into debt to buy them. Many plan to be more cautious with their spending following the financial turbulence of the pandemic, according to Manulife Bank’s latest Debt Survey.

Among those polled in the bi-annual survey, 61 per cent said they planned to buy gifts this holiday season, a decrease of five percentage points from the fall of 2018. In addition, only 53 per cent indicated they are willing to go into debt to buy presents, compared with 61 per cent three years ago. Overall fewer Canadians are in debt compared to a year ago, yet only about one in five (22 per cent; -6 pts vs. Fall 2018) say their holiday spending budget is higher this year than last year.

“This shows us that during the pandemic, many Canadians have been doing an admirable job of paying down their debt and planning for their future,” said Rick Lunny, President & CEO of Manulife Bank. “Continuing to exercise some restraint at this point in time could certainly help them achieve their financial goals in the long run.”

Indeed, the past 20 months have seemingly had a net positive effect on the debt load of Canadians. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of Canadians report having at least some form of debt outside of their mortgage, down from 73 per cent earlier in the pandemic, and 79 per cent prior to the pandemic. At the same time, the share of indebted Canadians carrying most forms of debt instruments has either declined or remained the same over the course of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the mental health of Canadians has not shown a similar trajectory. Almost one in three Canadians (31 per cent) surveyed perceive their mental health as having worsened over the past year, while only 12 per cent said their overall mental health has improved over the same period. Additionally, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of Canadians indicated they are worried about the potential for future lockdowns and restrictions caused by the pandemic.

With housing prices at an all-time high, home ownership continues to be very difficult for most Canadians. According to the survey, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of Canadians who do not own a home want to own one but can’t afford to. In addition, most Canadians (71 per cent; +4 pts vs. Spring ‘21) are worried about housing prices in their local community, with a vast majority (87 per cent; +3 pts vs. Spring ‘21) believing that there is an affordable housing crisis in Canada, statistically higher proportions on both counts, relative to Spring 2021.

“Despite housing prices being at record highs, home ownership is achievable in the current interest rate environment – for those who can make the down payment,” said Lunny. “That’s why flexible financial planning is imperative. No matter what your situation is or the environment we operate in, people need to have a good understanding of where their money goes, how they can minimize their current spending and how they can find ways to save more towards their goals.”

Nearly half (42 per cent) report that their spending is outpacing their income, despite a reduction in debt and household income going towards interest payments. It follows that a vast majority (88 per cent) are worried about the inflation rate in Canada. Additionally, more Canadians feel as though the cost of living has increased (64 per cent; +3 pts) than did in Spring 2021.

Learn more about the Manulife Bank of Canada Debt Survey and ways to manage finances by visiting:


About the Manulife Bank of Canada Debt Survey

Now in its eleventh year, the Manulife Bank of Canada poll surveyed 2,001 Canadians in all provinces between ages 20 and 69 with household income of more than $40,000. The survey was conducted online by Ipsos between October 14 and October 18, 2021. National results were weighted by gender, age, region, and education. This survey has a credibility interval of +/- 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had all Canadian adults between the ages of 20 and 69 been surveyed.


About Manulife Bank

Manulife Bank is one of Canada’s original digital banks. Since our launch in 1993, we’ve been designing efficient, flexible products that fit seamlessly into our customers’ lives to help make their decisions easier and lives better. Today, Manulife Bank has over $27 billion in assets and serves clients across Canada in all provinces and territories.


About Manulife

Manulife Financial Corporation is a leading international financial services provider that helps people make their decisions easier and lives better. With our global headquarters in Toronto, Canada, we provide financial advice and insurance, operating as Manulife across Canada, Asia, and Europe, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States. Through Manulife Investment Management, the global brand for our global wealth and asset management segment, we serve individuals, institutions and retirement plan members worldwide. At the end of 2020, we had more than 37,000 employees, over 118,000 agents, and thousands of distribution partners, serving over 30 million customers. As of September 30, 2021, we had CAD$1.4 trillion (US$1.1 trillion) in assets under management and administration, and in the previous 12 months we made CAD$31.6 billion in payments to our customers.

Our principal operations are in Asia and Canada, and the United States, where we have served customers for more than 155 years. We trade as 'MFC' on the Toronto, New York, and the Philippine stock exchanges and under '945' in Hong Kong. Not all offerings are available in all jurisdictions. For additional information, please visit


Media Contact

Amanda Ganie