British Columbians’ mental and physical health is suffering under the strain of debt, study reveals (Photo: Now-Leader)

Post interest rate hike debt tips

What to do about your debt and mortgages after the interest rate hike

Many consumers will soon find their debt loads heavier now that Canada’s central bank and the country’s biggest commercial lenders have raised their benchmark rates by one-quarter percentage point.

The country’s biggest banks raised their prime rates after the Bank of Canad hiked its overnight lending rate Wednesday by a quarter of a percentage point to 1.25 per cent.

Related: Bank of Canada hikes interest rate to 1.25%, cites strong economic data

It’s a challenge for Canadians still struggling to cope with the record amounts of consumer debt they amassed after the 2008 financial crisis because lenders use their prime rate as a benchmark for setting some other short-term rates including variable-rate mortgages and lines of credit. A hike is good news for savers as the prime rate also affects interest rates for savings accounts.

If you’re contemplating how to best take advantage of the increased rates or avoid falling into further debt, personal finance expert and Ryerson University business professor Laleh Samarbakhsh shared her advice.

Q: Now that the rate has gone up, what financial choices should I be making?

A: With the interest rate increase, debt becomes more and more expensive. Before you do anything, you have to understand what kind of debt you have to start with.

We have good types of debt and bad types. Good types can include any investment that is made to contribute to progressing your future. For example, a student loan is a good type of loan because you are investing in your ability to make more money. At the same time, debt you have from real estate or your primary residence is considered a good type of debt because you’re accumulating equity.

Focus first on what is considered bad debt like credit card debt, lines of credit or any kind of debt with higher interest rates and no future investment. Pay off the debt with the higher interest rate first, but also consider what debt you have that is tax deductible.

Q: If I have some money in a Tax-Free Savings Account, but also some debt, should I pull out that money in the account and pay off the debt?

A: A lot of times people might consider borrowing from a lower debt to cover a higher debt or borrowing from a TFSA to make a payment. My recommendation is if you have some tax deductibility because of debt you have, keep it. As much as paying off debt is important, if you won’t be able to pay off all your debt, you can use the deductibility you have from some to save on taxes and create an income to pay off the high-interest or bad debt.

We have had a successful year on the investing market, so if an individual makes contributions to their TFSA and has a portfolio with a higher return of 20 per cent or 25 per cent, it makes sense to keep that because the advantage is no tax being paid in the TFSA.

Q: What should I do if I have been looking at buying a home or if I just bought a home and am dealing with a mortgage?

A: For individuals who care about their credit score and are applying for a mortgage shortly, consider your credit limit. The types of debt that have a credit limit should be paid off first to release your capacity.

The typical concerns after a hike are usually individuals with mortgages because those are the biggest debts people carry. My advice would be for individuals with variable mortgage rates to consider locking down a fixed mortgage rate.

Q: What should I do if I have no debt, but want to take advantage of the hike?

A: Saving is making even more sense now because savings accounts will have fairly higher interest rates, so if you have no debt, my recommendation is to start with capping your Registered Education Savings Plan contributions first because that brings you tax savings.

Once the RESPs are capped, I would also invest in a Tax-Free Savings Account. The interest you make is tax-free, so I recommend maximizing your TFSA contribution.

After that, there are lots of forums and markets for investment and you can consult with your financial adviser about what is best to invest in at the time.

Q: Some economists think we might see further interest rate hikes later this year. Should I act on those rumours now?

A: It’s hard to predict what is going to happen, but we know the decade of low interest rates are over. It’s important to be more careful with spending and what kind of debt we are taking on and how and what the plan for repaying it is.

If you’re concerned, take action sooner rather than later and don’t let it bring mental pressure to your daily life.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

ARTS AROUND: Join watercolour workshops in Port Alberni

Victoria artist Joanne Thomas will provide beginner and advanced classes

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Bullhead derby returns to Port Alberni with new date, location

Lions Club partners with Maritime Discovery Centre

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Port Alberni RCMP honour fallen officers from New Brunswick

Moment of silence, prayers held for Fredericton officers killed last week

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

RCMP looking for missing Duncan teen

Dallas Macleod, 18, was last seen on Aug. 10

Evacuation order issued in Island village due to “risk of falling debris”

Fire continues to threaten town’s only access road

B.C. man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

Most Read