Manulife Bank survey finds most Canadians see debt as one of their top
financial priorities, yet many struggle to keep it in check

WATERLOO, ON, May 20 /CNW/ - More than four out of five Canadians rank being debt-free among their top financial priorities, yet close to half feel they lost ground or only held steady in the past year in their struggle to make it reality.

"We know Canadians are concerned about debt loads and the key is to take some concrete steps to keep it under control," said Doug Conick, President and CEO of Manulife Bank of Canada.

When asked about their financial priorities, exactly one third of those surveyed ranked being debt-free as a '10' - their top financial priority. Another 36 per cent ranked it as a nine or eight on the 10-point scale. Slightly more than one in 10 (11 per cent) said they were already debt-free.

When it comes to reducing their debts, the past 12 months have not been good to many Canadians, despite record low interest rates, the poll suggests.

More than one in four (27 per cent) said their debt increased in the past year. Another 17 per cent saw no change in their level of debt, while 19 per cent said they did reduce their debt, but by less than they'd expected.

By comparison, fewer than one in 10 (seven per cent) said they shaved more than they expected from their debts in the past year.

When it comes to reaching their debt-free goal, 11 per cent said they have no idea how many years it might take them. Another 18 per cent said it will be more than 15 years.

"If they have a plan in place and are working with an advisor, they stand a better chance of reaching their goals," added Mr. Conick.

"Often homeowners miss opportunities to reduce their debts because they don't have the time or expertise to learn about the options available to them," he said. "For example, when asked what they did the last time their mortgage came up for renewal, about two-thirds said they did not shop the market for the best rate or product. Instead, they stayed with their current lender and, of those almost one in three simply accepted the first offer their current lender provided."

Stephanie Holmes-Winton, a Halifax-based Advisor and President of The Money Finder, describes learning to manage the debt side of the balance sheet as "one of the greatest wealth-building exercises Canadians can carry out."

"Debt seems to be the final taboo and it needs to be brought to the forefront of all of our financial planning discussions," she says. "Far too many adults never truly understand debt, much less how to use different types of debt to their best financial advantage. Working with an advisor who can educate clients on the best use of their debt dollars is of great value."

Manulife Bank launched Canada's first all-in-one account, Manulife One, in 1999 to help Canadians better manage their finances. The all-in-one account brings all your banking together to simplify your finances so income and savings can work harder to reduce debt faster.

An online financial calculator at manulifeone.ca helps Canadian homeowners understand how much interest they could save and how much more quickly they could become debt-free simply by managing their banking needs more efficiently within a single account.

Manulife Bank believes that by comparing their current way of banking to a more efficient, all-in-one structure, mortgage-holders may gain a better sense of the factors that ultimately drive their interest costs and learn how they could become debt-free more quickly.

The Manulife Bank of Canada poll surveyed 1,000 Canadian homeowners between ages 30 to 55 with household income of more than $50,000. It was conducted online by Research House from April 16 to 23, 2010.

For more information about Manulife One, ask your advisor for a referral or find the closest Manulife Banking Consultant near you by visiting www.manulifeone.ca.

About Manulife Bank and Manulife Financial

Established in 1993, Manulife Bank was the first federally regulated bank opened by an insurance company in Canada. It is a Schedule l federally chartered bank and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Manulife Financial. As Canada's first advisor-based bank, it has successfully grown to nearly $16 billion in assets and serves clients across Canada. Manulife Bank provides its innovative Manulife One account and deposit and loan products through independent financial advisors to help individuals make the most of their financial plan.

Manulife Financial is a leading Canadian-based financial services group serving millions of customers in 22 countries and territories worldwide. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily through John Hancock in the United States, the Company offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were Cdn$446 billion (US$440 billion) as at March 31, 2010.

Manulife Financial Corporation trades as 'MFC' on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under '945' on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at www.manulife.com.

SOURCE Manulife Financial Corporation

For further information: For further information: Media contact: Tom Nunn, Manulife Financial, 1-877-782-2363, tom_nunn@manulife.com


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