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In the media

Bankruptcy News in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.

Money Management: Advice for small business owners

Global News, September 25, 2017

Freida Richer, tells us what to be aware of when starting a small business and shares insight on what to look for financially and tips to prevent insolvency. Freida is a Licensed Insovlency Trustee, providing expertise in bankruptcy and consumer proposals.

Student loan debt and how to manage it

Global News, August 28, 2017

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, offers advice on student loan debt.

Back to school on a budget

Global News, August 17, 2017

Financial Advisor and Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Angela Lock, joins Global Calgary with some helpful tips for parents hoping to reduce back to school spending.

How to cool down your summer spending

Global News, August 2, 2017

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Angela, provides some tips on saving money during the summer.

How to save money during the summer

Global News, July 31, 2017

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, discusses saving money during your summer vacation.

Bank of Canada hikes lending rate

CTV News, July 13, 2017

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Angela Lock, discusses the Bank of Canada's hike in interest rates.

What to know before buying a vehicle

Financial expert Freida Richer discusses what you need to know before purchasing a vehicle.

Marriage and debt — financial problems and marital breakdown

Staying on the same path financially is important for a happy marriage. Licensed insolvency trustee Freida Richer provides great advice.

Alberta insolvency numbers continue to rise

CBC News, May 31, 2017

Number of insolvencies in the province up 23.6 % over 12-month period ending in March

Debt continues to be an issue in Alberta with a 23.6 per cent increase in the number of insolvencies over a 12-month period ending in March, according to first quarter statistics released Wednesday.

"That's probably not a huge surprise to many people, just because our economy has taken a turn for the worse over the last couple of years and I think people have really felt the crunch," said Angela Lock, a licensed insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton in Calgary.

Read more ...

Consumer insolvencies drop in Alberta

Global News, May 2, 2017

For the first time in more than 12 months, Alberta has a seen a decrease in insolvencies.

Consumer bankruptcies were down almost 12 per cent from February 2016 to February 2017, but consumer proposals were up 8.6 per cent over the same time.

Grant Thornton Licensed Insolvency Trustee Angela Lock said proposals are likely up because the terms are more favourable for consumers.

Read more ...

Money Smarts: Dos and Don'ts of unmanageable tax debt

Global News, April 25, 2017

Do you have tax debt and are having trouble paying it off? Licensed Insolvency Trustee Freida Richer joined Global News Morning to talk about what options are available to you.

Tax neglect will only add to debt stress

Global News, April 25, 2017

Licensed Insolvency Trustee Angela Locke joins Global Calgary to discuss how tax neglect will add to debt stress.

Money Smarts: Debt solutions for seniors who are victims of fraud

March is fraud prevention month and Canadians are being encouraged to educate themselves on the warning signs of financial fraud and ways to protect themselves against scammers. Debt expert Freida Richer talks about the warning signs and explains some debt solutions for seniors who find themselves in this situation.

Avoiding online dating scams

CTV News, March 2017

Edmonton Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, offers advice on avoiding online dating scams.

Consumer insolvencies continue to rise in Alberta

660 News, February 28, 2017

Albertans' money problems don't appear to be getting any better, as the province saw a 34 per cent increase in bankruptcy and consumer proposal filings last year, according to a report from the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada.

Grant Thornton expects another sharp increase this spring, before they slow down in the summer.

Licensed Insolvency Trustee Angela Lock said people are running out of back-up plans as severance, employment insurance and other funds have dried up. Read the full article ..

Tips to save and protect your money

Global News, February 27, 2017

Financial expert and Edmonton Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer discusses ways we can save and protect our money. She joins us to discuss the warning signs of online dating scams and some tips on how to protect yourself.

Love & Money

Global News, February 28, 2017

With the rise of technology more people are heading online to find love, Robert Hunt from Grant Thornton has a few tips on how to avoid online fraud.

Edmonton Sun, January 31, 2017

The number of Albertans suffering serious financial problems rose again last fall, according to a report released Tuesday by the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada.

In Alberta, consumer insolvency filings, which include bankruptcies and proposals to settle debts, increased 26.4 per cent from November 2015 to November 2016. Bankruptcies alone increased 28.5 per cent.

Alberta ranked third behind Saskatchewan and Newfoundland. The national increase was 8.6 per cent.

"Overall, the trend is the numbers have increased and that's reflective of what I'm seeing as a licensed insolvency trustee," said Freida Richer, vice-president and principal with Grant Thornton.Read the full article ..

Tips to get finances on track

Global News, January 23, 2017

Licensed Insolvency Trustee and proposal administrator Freida Richer provides tips on how to get your financial goals back on track.

CTV News, January 10, 2017

A big resolution for many households is getting a stronghold on their finances. Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, shares her insights.

Hayes McNeill & Partners Ltd. joins Grant Thornton Limited

Vancouver Island / Ontario / Halifax, Monday, December 12, 2016 — Hayes McNeill & Partners Ltd.'s personal insolvency and corporate recovery services on Vancouver Island join Grant Thornton Limited.

As of December 1, 2016, Hayes McNeill & Partners Ltd.'s personal insolvency and corporate recovery services on Vancouver Island has joined Grant Thornton Limited.

Through this union, the team of people joining Grant Thornton Limited will be better positioned to address the needs of consumers and businesses experiencing financial difficulties, while having access to enhanced services, with a broader range of local and global resources. It will also bring the added benefit of a new combination of leadership, experience and enriched national services.

"We remain the same team of committed Licensed Insolvency Trustees and Estate Managers available to help consumers and businesses to resolve their debt challenges, just under a different name," said David McNeill, CIRP, LIT, President, Hayes McNeill & Partners Ltd. "We are pleased to be joining Grant Thornton Limited as they are a likeminded national firm that shares our appreciation and commitment to our clientele and communities."

"We are honoured to welcome the team of 13 people, three of whom are Licensed Insolvency Trustees, from Hayes McNeill & Partners Ltd." said Robert Hunt, CPA, CA, CIRP, LIT, Managing Partner of the Consumer Insolvency Business Unit of Grant Thornton Limited. "Their collective knowledge, experience and dedication to excellent service truly make them a great addition to Grant Thornton Limited."

Hayes McNeill & Partners Ltd. has been operating as a full service insolvency firm since 1972, bringing substantial experience in the field of insolvency, providing a wide range of solutions for both individuals and businesses experiencing difficult financial times as well as for lenders concerned about the collection of loans they've advanced. They operate out of four offices located on Vancouver Island: Victoria, Port Alberni, Duncan and Nanaimo.

Hayes McNeill & Partners Ltd. was the insolvency services provider of Hayes Stewart Little & Co. which joined Grant Thornton LLP on October 1, 2016.

About Grant Thornton Limited

Grant Thornton Limited operates the consumer and corporate insolvency practice of Grant Thornton LLP. Its staff are passionate about making a difference for their clients, colleagues and communities across Canada. The organization believes everyone deserves a financial fresh start, while being treated with dignity and respect. Grant Thornton Limited’s Licensed Insolvency Trustees are professionals authorized to provide government-regulated insolvency proceedings for consumers and businesses experiencing financial challenges. One of Grant Thornton Limited's goals is to help Canadians to get a financial fresh start. For more information, visit:

About Grant Thornton LLP in Canada

Grant Thornton LLP is a leading Canadian accounting and advisory firm providing audit, tax and advisory services to private and public organizations. We help dynamic organizations unlock their potential for growth by providing meaningful, actionable advice through a broad range of services. Together with the Quebec firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton LLP, Grant Thornton in Canada has approximately 4,000 people in offices across Canada. Grant Thornton LLP is a Canadian member of Grant Thornton International Ltd, whose member and correspondent firms operate in over 100 countries worldwide. A listing of Grant Thornton offices and contact information can be found at:

Alberta still has the highest consumer debt in Canada

Global News, December 2, 2016

There is no doubt times are tough across Canada, especially here in our province where thousands of people in the energy sector have been laid off. Now more than ever, it's important to know how to plan financially. Personal finance and debt expert, Freida Richer joined the Morning News to talk about what you can do to put yourself in a better situation for now and the future.

How to prepare for the housing crash that may not actually happen

Financial Post, December 2, 2016

Imagine for a brief moment all the people who have predicted a housing crash in Canada for at least a half a decade actually turn out to be right at some point.

And take it a step further and picture yourself as the homeowner who bought at the top of the market and is now under water — namely you have more mortgage than your house is worth.

The question you might be asking yourself is, "Now, what do I do?" For starters, don't panic.

"First off a home price is going to fluctuate potentially many times up and down during the life of a mortgage term. It really only becomes relevant if you are planning on selling," says Janet Boyle, vice-president of real estate and secured lending with Scotiabank. "If the mortgage is potentially larger than the value of the home, what that means is the customer would have a deficit to pay with their financial institution. I would suggest those scenarios are few and far between." Read the full article ..

Online shopping making debt easier to accumulate

Global News, November 28, 2016

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, online shopping has become more prevalent than ever – but it can quickly send you into a spiral of debt if you're not careful. Freida Richer, Licensed Bankruptcy and Proposal Trustee, talks about the importance of financial planning and resisting the urge to make impulse purchases.

How to avoid impulse spending this Black Friday

Global News, November 25, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Angela Lock, offers advice on how to avoid impulse spending this Black Friday.

Consumer proposals jump 97.5% as Albertans maintain optimism in insolvency

CBC News, November 1, 2016

Rather than declaring bankruptcy, more and more people are making offers to pay creditors less than they owe.

More than 5,000 Albertans who can't pay their debts have filed for an insolvency measure known as a consumer proposal this year, far outstripping the 3,600 or so who filed for more traditional bankruptcies.

The move toward consumer proposals has been growing since insolvency laws changed in 2009 — but has spiked, in particular, so far in 2016.

The number filed between January and August in Alberta has jumped 97.5 per cent over the previous five-year average.

Traditional bankruptcies, meanwhile, are up just 3.1 per cent.

Angela Lock, a licensed insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton LLP, said Albertans looking to deal with overwhelming debts are becoming more aware of the consumer proposal option, which can offer some financial advantages over declaring bankruptcy. Read the full article ..

Bankruptcies continue to spike in Alberta

660 News, October 31, 2016

There’s still a long road ahead for Alberta's economy.

Consumer insolvencies have shot up by 46 per cent in the past year in Alberta, according to a report by the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada.

That's the second biggest jump in the country after Saskatchewan.

Insolvency Trustee Angela Lock with Grant Thornton says we can expect that number to slump even more in the coming months.

"I think that it may just continue to increase, unfortunately, for the next six months or so," she said.Read the full article ..

The difficult decision to enter into a home foreclosure

Global News, October 24, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, discusses housing foreclosures in Alberta and how the process differs depending on what type of mortgage you have.

More Albertans filing for bankruptcy and consumer proposals: report

Global News, September 30, 2016

A new report shows the percentage of Albertans who can’t pay their debt has spiked.

According to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada report, insolvencies (bankruptcies and consumer proposals) increased by 24.5 per cent in Alberta between July 2015 and July 2016. There was a 7.9 per cent increase in bankruptcies, with consumer proposals spiking 36.9 per cent.

The Bankruptcy Canada Superintendent Office believes more Albertans are choosing consumer proposals over bankruptcy because proposals allow a person to make a proposal to their creditors to pay back all or a portion of the debt owing under the new terms.

Also, consumer proposals allow for debt consolidation, interest free terms and flexible payback periods, as well as allowing to keep ownership of assets which isn’t the case with bankruptcy.

Read the full article ..

Debt and mental health

Global News, September 26, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, discusses debt and mental health, and why bankruptcy isn't the only option.

Metro News, September 8, 2016

Albertans are struggling to live within their means in a weakened economy.

One third of Albertans say their debt level has increased this year, while 42 per cent say they are still spending all or more than their net pay and 10 per cent do not think they will ever be debt free, according to the Canadian Payroll Association’s annual National Payroll Week Research Survey, released Wednesday.

Albertans also had the highest jump in delinquency and insolvency rates this year over 2015.

Freida Richer, a licensed insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton LLP, said this is reflective of the economic downturn.

Read the full article ..

Consumer insolvency rate jumps 43% in Alberta

CBC News, August 31, 2016

The rate of consumer insolvencies rose in Alberta in the second quarter of this year by 43 per cent compared to last year, according to the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada.

Personal bankruptcies increased by 32.4 per cent in Alberta, while consumer proposal filings — a formal agreement with creditors under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to settle debts under conditions other than the existing terms — are up 51.5 per cent from 2015.

Total insolvencies — both consumer and business bankruptcies and proposals — rose 41.8 per cent in Alberta in the second quarter of last year to the second quarter of this year.

Alberta consumer insolvencies have increased by 43 per cent year over year, far outstripping the national average increase of 7.8 per cent, the federal agency says.

Read the full article ..

Tips for heading into post-secondary school with a financial plan

Global News, August 22, 2016

With the start of the school year just around the corner, a lot of students are heading out on their own for the very first time. As they plan to hit the books, it’s important they also have a financial plan. Licensed Insolvency Trustee and proposal administrator Freida Richer joins Global News Morning with a few tips.

Edmonton debt levels spiking, delinquency on the rise

Metro News, August 18, 2016

Not only are Edmontonians more in debt than people in almost every city in the country, the number of people missing their payments has jumped dramatically, according to new data.

New numbers from credit agency Equifax showed that only Calgarians had higher debt levels than Edmontonians, who owe an average of $26,691, not including mortgages.

Read the full article ..

Debt delinquency rates climbing in Alberta and Saskatchewan

CTV News, August 18, 2016

The fallout from the low price of oil is continuing to have an impact on families in Alberta and Saskatchewan, driving delinquency rates way up, says one credit service.

Equifax Canada says the delinquency rate in Alberta has jumped to 1.4 percent, up by about 40.3 percent a year ago. Saskatchewan’s delinquency rate also went up and is at 1.2 percent, a gain of about 22.7 percent.

Officials say that while those rates are still relatively low, they do show the impact of the downturn in the oil-producing regions. As for Calgary's increase, Angela Lock, an insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton, says that it is not surprising to see. "We're seeing a alot of indviduals at our office that are facing financial crisis. For a lot of them, their EI has run out, they're living with family and there's nothing that they can do to get out of the debt and move forward.

"They're all hoping to receive an income from somewhere and they're applying jobs and that sort of thing."

Read the full article ...

Influx of Calgarians seeking money management help

660 News, August 18, 2016

A lot of Calgarians are finding themselves in a pinch as a struggling economy leads to job cuts.

There's been a 32 per cent increase in delinquency rates in the city and a 48 per cent boost in employment insurance numbers in the province, over this time last year.

Angela Lock, Licensed Insolvency Trustee with Grant Thornton, has seen a major influx of people seeking help with money management.

"Experiencing a reduction in incomes, salary decreases, no more bonuses," she said.

Many come in with debt they expected they could pay off with future income they’ll no longer be getting. "Even in times when our economy is booming, we see that lots, so, often people are carrying that debtload for long periods of time. They’ve been keeping up with those minimum payments," she said.

Read the full article ..

Back to school: How university students can save money for extracurricular activities

Global News, August 17, 2016

Grant Thornton Insolvency Trustee Angela Lock joins Global Calgary with details on on how to manage your finances during the back to school season.

Back to school budgeting

Global News, August 16, 2016

Grant Thornton Insolvency Trustee Angela Lock joins Global Calgary with details on on how to manage your finances during the back to school season.

Influx of Calgarians seeking money management help

CBC Radio, August 12, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, talks about new lender MoGo, that both preaches financial literacy and lends to people with bad credit.

Debt in Alberta piling up

CBC Radio, August 12, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, talks about new lender MoGo, that both preaches financial literacy and lends to people with bad credit.

Hardship grows in Alberta as oil industry contracts

World Socialist Web Site, August 5, 2016

A sharp decline in oil industry activity since the summer of 2014 has led to rising unemployment and poverty in Alberta, a province that until recently was called "the economic engine" of Canada.

During 2015, Alberta’s unemployment rate grew from 4.7 percent to 7.0 and now sits at 7.8 percent, significantly higher than the seasonally adjusted Canadian average of 6.9 percent. This is the first time in over two decades that Alberta’s jobless rate has been above the Canadian average.

Read the full article ...

Surviving the Slump: How to control spending during summer vacation

Global News, August 3, 2016

During tough economic times, some simple budgeting plans can alleviate overspending. Angela Lock of Grant Thornton breaks down some key factors to stay afloat during the summer months.

Read the full article ...

Alberta consumers struggling with mounting debt as insolvencies spike in May

Edmonton Sun, July 28, 2016

Albertans continue to struggle under the ever-increasing weight of a heavy debt load, with the number of consumer insolvencies up 35 per cent between May 2015 and 2016.

That figure comes from the latest monthly report of the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, which was released Thursday and showed the total number of insolvencies in Alberta rose from 8,516 to 11,500.

Insolvencies include bankruptcy proceedings and formalized consumer proposals to settle debts with a creditor.

In May, 480 consumers declared bankruptcy while 672 entered into proposals to stave off bankruptcy.

Freida Richer, licensed insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton, said the increase in overall filings in May was not surprising considering what Alberta experienced at the start of 2015 with the economic downturn.

"Filing a consumer proposal as an alternative to bankruptcy is an easier pill to swallow emotionally because some people just can’t get past the stigma associated with bankruptcy," Richer said. She added that 60 per cent of the filings at her firm this year have been for bankruptcy.

"There is less cash available in households because of job losses, because EI payments have stopped or severance packages have run out."

Read the full article ...

Summer spending debt

Global News, July 18, 2016

A recent BMO report says Canadians admit to spending more during the summer without a concrete plan to pay it off. Licensed Insolvency Trustee Freida Richer joined Global News Morning with tips for tightening the purse strings during a traditionally high-spending time of year.

Shrinking economy continues to concern Calgarians

CTV News, July 14, 2016

A bleak economic forecast released earlier this week suggests Alberta's economy is shrinking. Now, the Bank of Canada says the same is true of the nation. Insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton, Angela Lock, says it's especially tough for older workers. "There is nowhere for them to turn. They are having a lot of issues in the sense that they've always had really good jobs, and high-paying jobs, and now they're barely making ends meet, or making end meet at all and having to rely on family," said Lock.

Read the article ...

Money management: reaching financial goals

Global News, June 27, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee Freida Richer gives advice on reaching your financial goals and the costs associated with having your own vehicle.

Types of debt and possible debt solutions

News Talk 770, June 12, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Angela Lock, discusses different kinds of debt, and a variety of solutions for getting out of debt, including bankruptcy.


Consumer bankruptcy up 33 per cent

Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter, June 10, 2016

Bankruptcies reached a high of 523 in March, an increase by 129 compared to last year, according to a report by the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada (OSB) published on May 31.

Consumer or individual insolvencies made up 515 of those cases, and the remaining eight were filed by businesses.

According to economist Nick Ford with ATB Financial, "the amount of personal bankruptcies and consumer proposals have increased substantially over the course of the year and are expected to continue growing."

"Albertans laid off in energy-related occupations have likely seen their severance run out, which has left many unable to pay their debts."

According to Freida Richer, a licensed insolvency trustee (LIT) with Grant Thornton Ltd., there has been an increase in consumer bankruptcy cases in Edmonton and the surrounding area.

"Albertans have been carrying the highest levels of household consumer debt, and we've also seen that delinquency rates have increased by 25 per cent," Richer said.

Read the article ...

Having an honest talk about finances before getting married

Global News, May 31, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Freida Richer, discusses how your finances will impact your marriage.

Albertans lead country in debt and delinquencies again

CBC News, May 27, 2016

"It's not surprising at all given our current economic conditions in Alberta, especially given that Albertans tend to keep up with the Joneses a little more. Our culture here is everyone here carries debt and credit card debt," said Angela Lock, a licensed insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton — an accounting and business advisory firm.

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Angela Lock, comments on personal debt levels in Alberta.

Read the article ...

Consumer debt and delinquency

CTV News, May 18, 2016

Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Angela Lock, discusses credit card debt and insolvency.

Watch the interview (beginning at the 12:30 mark)

Alberta and Calgary lead way in insolvency increases as oil slump drags on

Calgary Herald, April 29, 2016

Alberta's remorseless economic pain has the province leading the nation in increased insolvency, with an 18.1 per cent jump in 2015 over the previous year.

Among major cities, consumers in a Calgary broadsided by slumping oil prices were the hardest-hit, with a 19.2 per cent hike in bankruptcy and those renegotiating their debts, says Statistics Canada.

Read the article ...

Dos and don'ts of unmanageble tax debt

Global News, April 25, 2016

Freida Richer discusses tax debt, and filing your tax returns, and dealing with the CRA with a Consumer Proposal.

Dealing with tax debt and the CRA

CHQR 770, April 19, 2016

Bruce Alger discusses options in dealing with tax debt to the CRA and asset exemptions in bankruptcy.
Click here to listen
(Enter April 19, 7am in the dropdown windows, then click ahead to the 47 minute mark)

The pros of filing for bankruptcy

Global News, March 28, 2016

Freida Richer, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with Grant Thornton, talks about the typical fears and concerns of filing a personal bankruptcy.

Insolvency trustee offers advice on dealing with debt

Global News, March 16, 2016

Bruce Alger, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with Grant Thornton, joins Global Calgary with details on how to deal with overdue debt to avoid a financial misstep.

Uncertainty in Alberta's Economy

CBC News Alberta, March 12, 2016

Freida Richer, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with Grant Thornton, discusses debt levels and debt servicing. (Freida comes in around the 10 minute mark).

Money Smarts: Top 3 Alberta Financial Worries

Global News, Feb 22, 2016

Financial expert Freida Richer provides advice on how Albertans can deal with their biggest financial worries on the Morning News.

Seniors increasingly likely to retire in poverty, study says

CBC News, February 16, 2016

Calgary millennials admit they aren't storing enough cash away for their retirement years — and more seniors are at risk of retiring in poverty.

While a new study from the Broadbent Institute focused on those approaching retirement between the ages of 55 and 64 financial experts say it highlights a trend — young people who aren't planning for the future.

Angela Lock, a bankruptcy specialist with Grant Thornton Ltd., says there's a generational gap when it comes to managing debt and saving.

"Seniors carry a lot more guilt and a lot more stress, as a contrast the younger people don't carry that same sense," she said.

Read the article

Jobs, lay-off rights, and when is it time to walk away from your mortgage?

CBC - Alberta at Noon, February 12, 2016

Jobs, lay-off rights, and when is it time to walk away from your mortgage? Insolvency expert, Bruce Alger, joins us on the phone-in (Bruce comes in around the 23 minute mark).

Albertans' Crushing Household Debt

Basking in the glow of our natural resource wealth, Albertans have racked up perilous levels of debt. Now we’re struggling to pay it back — or giving up

Alberta Venture, February 9, 2016

Blame it on our love of toys, if you insist, but it's a bit more complicated than that. While household debt in Canada reached a record high in — September 2015, with Canadians borrowing a combined $26.27 billion in Q2 alone, Alberta was the leader of the debtors pack. For years, Albertans were buoyed by easy access to credit and the highest-paying jobs in the country, with an average hourly rate of more than $28. And, as anyone would, we put our money to work.

This article also features a section by Bruce Alger called "How to stay out of the bankruptcy trusteess office".

Read the article

Jingle mail rears its ugly head in Alberta again

Federal government worried about Albertans making strategic defaults on their mortgages

CBC, February 8, 2016

One of the big bads from the 1980s is starting to emerge again in Alberta.

Jingle mail — the act of walking away from an underwater mortgage by mailing your keys back to the bank — is a peculiarity of the Alberta residential market and an act of desperation. However, a combination of high debt and lost jobs make it an option in a province going through a significant economic reckoning.

It's enough of a concern that the federal government is watching the Alberta market closely. Jingle mail, or strategic defaults, weaken the housing market and increase loan losses among Canada's banks.

"We're slowly starting to see it in Grande Prairie and Fort Mac," said Don Campbell, senior analyst with the Real Estate Investment Network.

"People saying that we can't make a go of it and mail the keys to the bank. In the big cities, not so much because the average sale prices haven't really dropped much, we haven't seen the pain yet. But Calgary is getting pretty tight."

Bruce Alger, an insolvency trustee at Grant Thornton in Calgary, said he is dealing with one such case and has heard of more.

"It's when you see high-end home prices drop 20 per cent below the peak," said Alger. "I think there are people considering walking away and I've talked to one or two myself."

Read the article

Money Smarts: Tips for paying down debt

Global News, January 25, 2016

In this economy it's more important than ever for us to keep track of our finances in order to reach our financial goals and resolutions. The third Monday of every month Freida Richer joins the Morning News to discuss ways we can do that. This month we talk about lifestyle changes needed in order to successfully pay down debt.

Alberta's consumer debt delinquencies spike as nation's hit record low

CBC, December 2, 2015

In another sign of the lopsided impact of the downturn in the energy sector, consumer delinquency rates in Alberta have spiked while Canadians in most other provinces are better than ever at paying back their loans.

Bruce Alger, a trustee with the accounting firm Grant Thornton, says the numbers aren't surprising, given the economic situation.

"I don't see a bright future for us right now in terms of the price of oil and quite frankly I think, sadly, things are probably going to get worse before they get better," he said. "Q4 is probably going to be a little bit worse than Q3."

Read the article

Delinquency rates rising as Calgarians carry highest average debt

Calgary Herald, December 2, 2015

A report by consumer credit monitoring firm Equifax says the third-quarter delinquency rate in Calgary — home to the country’s highest average debt loads — jumped 8.5 per cent from a year earlier to 0.9 per cent. The average household debt in the city, excluding mortgages, was $28,355.

Bruce Alger, a licensed trustee with Grant Thornton’s personal insolvency team in Calgary, said the rising delinquency rates in Alberta are predictable, given how the oil price collapse has impacted the economy and employment.

“Calgary is the capital of consumer debt for Canada. There’s a predictable pattern which follows all of these things,” he said.

“When you get laid off, you get the package. You use the package. Then you go on EI (employment insurance). You use the EI. Then when you’re done EI you start to use your savings and your available assets. And when you’re done that you start to use your credit cards.”

Alger said people considering selling assets to pay down their debts should call a trustee to review their options.

“There are exemptions they can take advantage of,” he said.

Read the article

Albertans are accumulating more debt and paying it off slower than the rest of Canada

Edmonton Sun, December 2, 2015

Albertans not only have more consumer debt than other Canadians, the rate at which they fail to make their payments is soaring.

"Alberta has been riding on this wave of consumer confidence and optimism in that Alberta lead the way in economic growth, job stability, low unemployment. Now, it’s a different story today," said Freida Richer, licensed trustee with Grant Thornton, an accounting, business advisory and risk management firm.

Read the article

Black Friday and Debt

Dinner Television, November 27, 2015

Black Friday seems like a great day to get a deal. But could these retail holidays be just the thing you don’t need? We welcome financial expert Freida Richer.

Managing your finances during the economic downturn

Global News Edmonton, November 25, 2015

There is no doubt times are tough across Canada, especially here in our province where thousands of people in the energy sector have been laid off.

Watch the video

Avoid Over spending this Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Global News, November 23, 2015

Debt Expert Bruce Alger joins Global Calgary with details on how to avoid over spending heading into Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Personal insolvency filings in Alberta up 28 per cent from 2014

Calgary Herald, September 30, 2015

The number of consumer insolvencies in Alberta jumped almost 30 per cent in July from year-ago levels, reports the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada

Statistics released Wednesday reveal 824 insolvency filings, a 28.3 per cent increase from July 2014. The number of bankruptcies rose 19.3 per cent to 353. Bankruptcy proposals, where an offer to creditors is made to settle debts, soared 36.1 per cent, to 471.

"There’s a lot of pain out there and we’re not over it yet," said Bruce Alger, a licensed trustee with Grant Thornton's personal insolvency team in Calgary.

"The July numbers are not a surprise to me at all. Typically, we don't get as many filings at that time of year but we had a big increase in June. We had an increase in July. Our calendars are filling every day now."

Alger, who specializes in helping people facing financial difficulties, said there is little optimism among those he speaks with about the economy or the possibility of oil prices rising in the near future.

Read the full article

Albertans' bankruptcy filings up 23% in June since 2014 and rising: Grant Thornton

BNN, September 15, 2015

Bruce Alger, Partner, Grant Thornton, about debt levels among Calgary residents and the growing numbers of those filing for personal insolvency with his firm.

Watch the video

Nearly one-quarter of Albertans living without a financial safety net

Calgary Herald, September 2, 2015

With the province in the grip of a recession, nearly a quarter of Albertans say they’re living paycheque to paycheque with hardly anything set aside for a financial emergency.

That's according to the annual BMO Rainy Day Survey. Twenty-four per cent of survey respondents said they're living hand-to-mouth. And while Alberta residents have an average of $40,341 in emergency savings (up $4,665 from 2014), 42 per cent of people said they had less than $5,000 socked away. Sixteen per cent had under $1,000 in savings.

"Emergency funds are increasingly important during recessionary times as individuals and families can find themselves in periods of unemployment," said Lesley-Anne Scorgie, a Calgary-based author on personal finances.

She said the recommended rule is to save three months worth of gross salary for an emergency fund — for an Alberta household making $90,000 per year, that would be $22,500.

"Though it seems like a lot of money to set aside, periods of unemployment can last six to nine months during a recession and other emergencies such as car accidents requiring deductibles, a leaky roof or broken furnace can also occur. Emergency funds are what you use to tide you over during these times of uncertainty," she said.

Scorgie said it can take time to build an emergency fund but it's important. People need to tighten their budgets, develop other streams of income and take advantage of the low market.

Bruce Alger, licensed trustee with Grant Thornton’s personal insolvency team in Calgary, who specializes in helping people in personal financial difficulty, said it’s clear that a large percentage of people who rely on the available credit limits on their credit cards as their emergency funds.

"And do not have any kind of savings or any kind of emergency plan," said Alger. "The availability of credit has really sort of allowed a lot of people to be lulled into a little bit more of a relaxed state about saving money and having an emergency fund."

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Average consumer debt in Calgary continues to decline

Calgary Herald, August 26, 2015

Calgarians continue to carry the highest average consumer debt level in the country, though the burden is easing more people "deleverage" amid the plunge in oil prices and growing uncertainty in the economy.

A report Wednesday from TransUnion said Calgary's average debt load was $27,945 — excluding mortgages — in the second quarter of 2015, down 1.15 per cent from a year ago. In contrast, the average debt for Canada’s largest cities was $21,028, a 0.71 per cent increase.

"This interesting trend — which sets Calgary and other Alberta cities apart from the rest of Canada — is possibly because Alberta consumers are preparing themselves for some financial tightness caused by the oil slump since December 2014. Some of them have unfortunately lost their jobs and are forced to cut back," said Jason Wang, TransUnion’s director of research and industry analysis in Canada.

Of the six largest cities surveyed, only Calgary and Edmonton saw a decline in debt levels. In Edmonton, the average debt dipped 1.2 per cent to $24,066.

"I am almost certain with no end in sight (for the economic uncertainty) that you would be silly to add to your debt," said Bruce Alger, licensed trustee with Grant Thornton's personal insolvency team in Calgary, who specializes in helping people in personal financial difficulty. "I hate to use the word, but I think it's a bit of a bust. I honestly believe that."

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Student Debt

CBC Radio, Aug 24, 2015

Grant Thornton's Freida Richer talks about the growing problem of student debt in Alberta. (7:46)

Accountant tells Albertans to brace for economic storm

630 CHED Calgary, August 23, 2015

With Canada officially in recession, and oil below $40USD barrel, things are looking a little grim on Alberta’s economic front.

Bruce Alger is a Trustee in Bankruptcy with Grant Thornton LLP. He tells the Alberta Morning News that things are going to get worse before they get better, with possibly even higher unemployment numbers than the Great Recession.

"The last time we saw numbers like this I think was the end of 2008, the beginning of 2009." he says. "Of course if people will go back and remember then, I think at that point in time it was an external cause for our situation with the monetary crisis and meltdown, and we were basically back in business again. What stands out for me this time is that I think this is going to be quite a protracted situation."

Alger says there are other worrisome signs he’s seeing: he says repo men are already starting to circle around boats and motor homes.

"I think we’re going to see a lot more of that stuff going back to the finance companies and banks over the next little while, absolutely.” he says. “I’ve already seen a number of files opened in the last little while where all the toys are disappearing back to the financiers."

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Post-secondary students seek bankruptcy advice

CBC, August 20, 2015

Nearly half of students worry about covering tuition and living expenses, says CIBC poll

A Calgary bankruptcy advisor is seeing more post-secondary students coming to his office because of student debt loads.

University of Calgary student Bilal Ahmed estimates he'll owe about $40,000 by the time he graduates. (CBC)

As another school year is about to start, Bruce Alger has some advice for them.

"You've got to keep your student loan as low as you possibly can regardless of temptation to take the spring break trip to Mexico," he said, warning there is no guarantee of a good-paying job once you graduate.

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Alberta insolvency rates rise as oilsands slump

CBC, July 20, 2015

Bankruptcy trustee warns people are becoming too reliant on credit cards

It's the type of story that Freida Richer hears every day in her downtown Edmonton office where she works as a bankruptcy trustee with the firm Grant Thornton.

Bankruptcy trustee Freida Richer says people are relying more and more on credit to supplement their income during the economic downturn. (CBC)

"With the economic downturn, people are relying more and more on credit to supplement their income and to supplement their habits and lifestyles, which they aren't able to adjust or change."

According to Industry Canada data, insolvency rates in Alberta were up 8.3 per cent during the first quarter of this year compared to the same time in 2014.

Richer says that increase has translated into more people struggling to make their minimum monthly payments and turning up at offices like hers looking for help.

She blames easy access to credit and the "buffet" of available cards, each with its own incentive and rewards.

That coupled with low savings has left people overextended, and Richer stresses it's not just an issue for those who have suddenly found themselves out of work.

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In our culture of credit, we must recognize the warning signs

Freida Richer, The Globe & Mail, June 13, 2015
Freida Richer is a licensed trustee at Grant Thornton Ltd. in Edmonton, with experience in all aspects of proposal and bankruptcy administration.

For the first time in recollection, consumers of every generation are relying on credit to live, as it is increasingly being perceived as an additional source of income – a way of life. Credit can be a benefit to consumers when used wisely, but for the financially illiterate, it poses a dangerous slope toward debt and insolvency – and each age group faces this risk for different reasons.

Today's society has been cultivated into a culture of credit, with each generation using it to spend more freely and carelessly than ever.

Credit has become so accessible that it’s pushing debt levels out of hand, and licensed trustees are seeing a growing problem across all demographics of clients who are seeking financial help to deal with these debts. Each generation of consumers has demonstrated different reasons for why they have come to rely heavily on credit card debt – raising warning signs for consumers who are susceptible to these spending habits.

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Amid oil price fallout, EI recipients in Alberta rose 15 per cent in February

Calgary Herald, April 23, 2015

The number of Albertans receiving unemployment benefits is spiking as the distress of depressed oil prices becomes more clear.

Statistics Canada said Thursday that Employment Insurance beneficiaries in the province jumped 15.6 per cent in February, to 36,000, the fourth consecutive monthly increase and the largest since May 2009.

And the mounting jobless numbers are causing financial hardships, says Bruce Alger, senior vice-president with the accounting firm Grant Thornton in Calgary.

"I've been saying that I've been expecting it, and quite truthfully it's now happening," said Alger, adding upheaval in the oilpatch is having a ripple effect on other occupations. For example, the firm's northeast office has seen some taxi drivers come in because their incomes from airport fares are down significantly, he said.

"It always affects everybody," said Alger. "I’m talking to people who have little retail businesses and all of a sudden they were barely making ends meet before and now sales have dropped enough that they've got negative. And they don't know whether they should put more money into it."

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Credit counselling in high demand in Alberta as oilpatch downturn hits home

Financial Post, March 31, 2015

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta lost 14,000 net jobs in February — 7,000 of those in the natural resources sector. Suncor Energy Inc., Cenovus Energy Inc., Nexen ULC and ConocoPhillips Canada are among the big oil companies to have cut jobs as they grapple with low oil prices.

The pain is being felt in the public sector, too. In announcing a grim budget with a record $5-billion deficit last week, the Alberta government said it would be shedding 2,016 jobs.

Bruce Alger, a licensed trustee at personal insolvency firm Grant Thornton in Calgary, said more than half the work he’s doing these days is on consumer proposals — a legal process where debtors can pay some amounts owed to a creditor, without having to resort to bankruptcy.

Alger said he’s already seen a bit of an uptick in clients asking him for help, but he's expecting to see an "influx" come summer or fall.

"As a lot, Albertans are typically young and optimistic and credit is readily available," said Alger. "It's been generally so good here for so long that if you survived 2008-2009 unscathed, you think ’wow, I can handle just about anything."

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Consumer proposal filings spike as debt-ridden Albertans seek relief

Bankruptcy rate sees corresponding decline

CBC, Feb 27, 2015

There has been a sharp increase in the number of Albertans filing consumer proposals as a way to get out from under heavy debt loads, new figures reveal.

Alberta recession: financial adviser says consumers should downsize budgets

A consumer proposal is a legally binding process under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act — administered by a bankruptcy trustee — where a debtor offers to pay a creditor a percentage of the amount owed, extend the deadline for paying it off, or both.

According to a report released Friday by the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada, the number of consumer proposals filed by Albertans spiked by just under 58 per cent from December 2013 to December 2014.

At the same time, the number of consumer bankruptcies filed in Alberta dropped by almost 18 per cent from 2013 to 2014.

"In the last four years, in Alberta we have seen the popularity of bankruptcies decrease, which can be partially attributed to Alberta’s booming economy and greater consumer education around the benefits of consumer proposals," said Bruce Alger, a licensed trustee at the accounting firm Grant Thornton.

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Consumer debt a growing concern in Alberta

Calgary Herald, February 27, 2015

Debt-burdened Albertans, facing a tough economic slide due to plunging oil prices, and job insecurity are increasingly filing proposals to creditors to settle their debts.

Bruce Alger, senior vice-president in Calgary with Grant Thornton, an accounting, business advisory, and risk management firm, said Albertans have an average of $125,000 household debt, which is the highest in the country.

"It always takes some time for all this stuff to catch up," he said. "The rock has been dropped in the pond and the ripples are occurring."

"I've already started to see oil and gas related contractors come in to see me."

Alger doesn't foresee the number of proposals growing in the province this year but he said overall personal insolvency files are bound to climb.

"There’s no question they’re going to increase," he said. "And the reason that you’re not going to see quite the increase in proposals is you’ve got to have something to propose . . . It’s a last resort."

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Alberta consumers outspent other Canadians by $10,000 in 2013

Calgary Herald, January 22, 2015

Alberta households led the country in average spending on goods and services, with expenditures that were more than $10,000 more than any other province, according to Statistics Canada.

Bruce Alger, senior vice-president in Calgary with Grant Thornton, an accounting, business advisory, and risk management firm, said now is the time more than ever for Albertans, with the highest debt in Canada, to have discipline and caution in terms of their expenses.

"Despite the fact that the Bank of Canada has reduced interest rates to stimulate the economy, i.e. spending, my reaction is I would be not wanting to take advantage of all those new offers out there or anything to be spending my money," he said. "Now's the time to sort of hunker down, understand where your money’s going and react accordingly and be very cautious before you take on any new obligations."

He said news of the reduction in drilling activity in the province as well as the $23 billion drop in capital investment in the oil patch this year will translate into job losses.

"And the knock on effect not just from people directly involved in our industry but hospitality, real estate, construction, I mean, any discretionary spending is not even discretionary, if you don't have it, you can’t spend it," said Alger.

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Alberta recession: financial adviser says consumers should downsize budgets

CBC, January 16, 2015

Albertans are being warned to take a closer look at their finances with the economy teetering towards a recession and many companies announcing layoffs.

Bruce Alger, a financial adviser and bankruptcy trustee at Grant Thornton, says he saw a record number of personal insolvency filings in 2009 after the last recession and is expecting more of them same.

"Albertans continue to have the highest household debt in the country, and as other expenses continue to hike up such as utilities, property tax and potentially interest rates," he said. "Now is the time more than ever for consumers to have discipline and caution in term of their expenses."

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