Just over one quarter of Canadians say paying down debt is the No. 1 financial priority for them in 2019, the ninth consecutive year that debt repayment has topped the annual CIBC survey.

The top reasons for the 29 per cent of Canadians who took on more debt in the past 12 months, top reasons included covering day-to-day items (34 per cent), buying a new vehicle (24 per cent) and paying for a home repair or renovation (20 per cent).

“Debt weighs heavily on Canadians, so it's no surprise that Canadians continue to put debt concerns at the top of their list of priorities each year,” says Jamie Golombek, managing director, CIBC Financial Planning and Advice.

“Debt can be a useful tool for achieving long-term goals such as home ownership or funding education, but if you're turning to debt to make ends meet, it may be time for cash-flow planning instead.”

Professionals available to help reduce debt

Golombek suggests those having trouble repaying debt should review their income and expenses with an expert who can find ways to cut back, lower interest payments and find tax efficiencies.

While debt repayment is the largest financial priority among those who took on debt last year, another 14% cited keeping up with bills and getting by as their biggest concern, followed by 12% who were having trouble growing their wealth.

While the poll says 39 per cent of Canadians worry that they're forsaking their savings by focusing too much on their debt, the vast majority (84 per cent) still believe that it's better to pay down debt than build savings.

Golombek says it’s rare that there is money to cover every concern and want, but adds that paying down debt and saving are a matter of tradeoffs and balancing priorities now and in the future.