By: Elisabeth Buffey-Needham

Published On: August 27, 2014

I was fortunate to travel to Europe this summer. While there, we met a German mother and her daughter also vacationing. Conversation turned to economy, and we brought up the topic of affluence and debt. We spoke to the fact that Canadians in general are heavily in debt. In fact, in an article written by Sunny Freeman of the,

“With debt-to-income ratios at an all-time high around 150 per cent, Canadians have stretched themselves to the limit since the recession and have left little head room to buffer against another economic downturn, Moody’s suggests in the report released Thursday.”1

Dianne Nice, also of the, explained:

“The average household debt figure at the end of 2010 was $100,879, with the debt-to-income ratio at a record 150 per cent, the report says. That means for every $1,000 Canadian families earn after tax, they now owe $1,500. Mortgages account for two-thirds of that debt at $63,000 per household. The other third is made up of personal loans and credit card debt.”2

These are frightening statistics. No wonder many of us cannot sleep at night! The German ladies could not fathom anything like this! “You save for something and then you purchase it,” said the mother. This is one big difference (and I’m generalizing here) that I see between Europeans and North Americans – we do not live within our means – we are always trying to keep up with the elusive Joneses!

North Americans, on the whole, are so consumed with stuff, with consuming. We have allowed it take over our lives, to have a whole house filled with more stuff than we’ll ever need and yet we feel empty and stressed. I think we need to take a hard look at ourselves, remember what is truly important and work to changing our lives – shed our lives and our homes of the chains of our needless possessions and the expectations of others we believe we need to live up to and simplify our lives.