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For help managing your debts in Calgary, Edmonton, Alberta, call us toll free at 310-8888 for a free, no obligation, confidential consultation – in person or over the phone

In person:
Mon to Fri: 8am-4:30pm.

Over the phone:
Mon to Fri: 7am-5pm
Sat & Sun: 9am-3pm


Debt management help for seniors

There is a significant uptrend in the number of insolvencies among Canadians over the age of 55. According to a 2014 report issued by the Vanier Institute of the Family, older Canadians are carrying more debt into retirement. Seniors were 17 times more likely to become insolvent in 2010 than they were in 1990. Twelve per cent of people over 65 owed money on mortgages in 2012, up from eight per cent in 1999 – and the average mortgage debt rose to $125,100 from $77,100.

With so many retirement-age Canadians and seniors carrying increased levels of debt, many will face a choice: accept a reduced standard of living or carry more debt to compensate. This can put a strain not only seniors, but on their adult children who may need to support them.

Contributing factors to increasing debt levels among seniors include:

Low interest rates

With interest rates so low, some seniors may be tempted to take on additional debt to finance expensive items such as real estate, home renovations, and big ticket consumer products. As interest rates remain low, this may not have an impact but if changes in interest rates trend higher, fixed and low income citizens may be at the biggest risk.

Trying to maintain lifestyle

Some seniors have not adequately adjusted their lifestyle from pre-retirement, which can be financially straining on a post-retirement income. We see many 55+ year old consumers whose post-retirement income has dropped and subsequently they are taking on more credit card debt to make up the difference.

Wealth transfer

Many parents pay for adult children’s expenses, such as supporting them during major life transitions like unemployment or divorce. Sometimes seniors also help their children with major purchases or even daily living expenses. If they have grandchildren, they may offer to cover the costs of sending them to swimming lessons or camp.

Market Downturns

  • Investments may have suffered losses during market fluctuations

  • Pensions may be frozen or even reduced due to pension-fund losses

Long Term Care

  • Costs of long-term care

For seniors who need help with debt, options may include:

Consumer proposal

In a consumer proposal, you may only be asked to repay a portion of your debt. The amount repaid is negotiated by your consumer proposal administrator and your creditors and is not subject to interest charges or additional fees.

Although people often feel the need to file bankruptcy because it prevents their wages from being garnished, retired seniors with credit card debt, or other debt, don’t have any wages, so there is nothing that could potentially be garnished — which means they needn’t feel compelled to file bankruptcy. A consumer proposal is often a better option for seniors.

Orderly Payment of Debt

An Orderly Payment of Debt program, while only available in select provinces, is a debt management plan through a government approved counsellor. In this plan, a debt management plan you repay all of your debts in full, but generally at a minimal interest rate.


As a last resort, when your financial obligations can no longer be met, bankruptcy is a legal option that enables you to get immediate protection from your creditors and have a fresh start.

We can help

If you or your parents are approaching retirement, or are already retired, and financial stress is affecting your or their health and wellbeing, Grant Thornton can help. Our Proposal Administrators and Licensed Insolvency Trustees are experienced in helping retirees and seniors deal with their debt problems. We can work with you to explore your options for dealing with debt after retirement.

Our Licensed Insolvency Trustees (formerly called Trustee in Bankruptcy or Bankruptcy Trustee) and Estate Managers believe everyone deserves a financial fresh start, while being treated with dignity and respect. We have offices conveniently located in Calgary, Edmonton, throughout Alberta, and across Canada.

Call us toll free in Alberta at 310-8888 for a free, no obligation, confidential consultation.

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