Sask. has highest percentage of debt-free families: Statistics Canada

Sask. has highest percentage of debt-free families: Statistics Canada

A new report from Statistics Canada says Saskatchewan has the highest percentage of debt-free families in Canada, with 32.8 per cent of households free of debt in 2016.

StatsCan's Survey of Financial Security, published Thursday, contrasts with a quarterly report from the consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion released in November.

That report said Saskatchewan families were mired in debt, with higher-than-average amounts of non-mortgage debt compared to the rest of Canada, and the worst delinquency rates in the country.

The TransUnion report said Saskatchewan residents have an average non-mortgage debt amount of $24,783 per consumer, while the national average sits at $22,413.

It also said nearly 6.9 per cent of consumers in the province are 90 days or more past due for debt payments on things like car loans, lines of credit and credit cards.

Meanwhile, Stats Can says the province not only had the highest percentage of debt-free households in 2016, but the fourth-highest median net worth in Canada, at $293,500. That's behind B.C., Ontario and Manitoba, but ahead of Alberta, Quebec and the Maritime provinces.

Overall, the StatsCan report said 29.6 per cent of Canadian families were debt-free in 2016, with seniors the most likely to be in that camp.

Debt extremes

How could Saskatchewan residents have both the highest number of debt-free families, and the most consumer debt?

The difference in the numbers may come down to mortgages, says John Nicoletta with Statistics Canada.

The TransUnion report only looked at non-mortgage debt, while the Statistics Canada report considers all debt. 

"If you incorporate that number it can definitely affect the overall rate in terms of your debt free or rate in terms of those that have debt," Nicoletta said, though he noted it's difficult to determine exactly how that difference changed the numbers.