For the 11th year in a row the top financial priority for Canadians in 2021 is paying down debt, followed closely by keeping up with bills, according to a new CIBC poll. 

The survey indicates that 20 per cent of Canadians want to pay down their debt, followed by 18 per cent who want to pay their bills or get by.   

Canadians faced so many challenges in 2020 that it's understandable they are concerned about the economy in 2021, said Carissa Lucreziano, vice president, CIBC Financial and Investment Advice. “If [2020] has taught us anything, it's that we don't always know what's coming next and the best buffer for the unexpected is to be prepared with a plan and be open to adjusting it when circumstances change.” 

Economic pessimism fuelled by COVID-19 

Pessimism about the year ahead is driven by concerns about a possible economic downturn (78 per cent, up from 55 per cent in 2019). Top concerns for many over the next 12 months include inflation and the rising costs of goods (60 per cent) and slow overall economic growth (34 per cent). The uncertainty of the current environment is also making it difficult to plan ahead, say most survey respondents (71 per cent). 

Close to half (43 per cent) say their personal finances have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Of those affected, half (52 per cent) say they don't have the advice and information they need to get their finances on track, and almost half (46 per cent) believe it will take more than a year to get back to where they were before the pandemic.   

Lucreziano suggested concerned individuals follow financial management during uncertain times, including cash-flow planning, consider credit planning and stay focused and flexible to revising their plans to meet their ambitions.