My name is Bruce Gandossi. I’m a chartered accountant and licensed trustee in bankruptcy in British Columbia. A few months ago I wrote an article asking the question: Will the Vancouver 2010 Olympics Impact Personal Bankruptcy Rates? Here’s what I said a few months before the Olympics about bankruptcy in Canada:
We may have a mini boom during the Olympics, as all of our hotels and restaurants will be full with visitors from around the world. But after that, incomes won’t be rising, and house prices won’t be rising, so debtors won’t be able to rely on overtime or a rising real estate market to deal with their debts.
As predicted, Vancouver residents were very busy in the months leading up to and including the Olympics. I live in Vancouver, and I work from my Vancouver bankruptcy office, and I can tell you from first hand experience that the Olympics were fantastic. Like many other Vancouver residents, I had the pleasure of experiencing the Olympics first hand. I went up to Whistler the week before the Olympics to see the preparations for skiing. I attended the opening ceremonies, and they were unbelievable. I watched the speed skating on the big oval in Richmond (my firm also has a bankruptcy office in Richmond), and I saw short track and hockey games in Vancouver.
Are we suffering a “hangover” from the Olympics? I’m happy to report that no, we Vancouver residents are not suffering a large let down. The Olympics were great, and we were happy to be a part of it.
However, there is no doubt that the Olympic jobs are now gone, and we are no longer living in the boom times created by the Olympics. Obviously the end of the job boom can reduce income, and increase the risk of personal bankruptcy in Canada.
I’m not an economist, but I do meet with regular, hard-working Canadians every day, and based on what they tell me I worry that many are living in a “false economy.” The Olympics certainly helped us here in Vancouver, but all across Canada, and the world, government stimulus money has also helped bolster the economy, and keep our economy from sliding into an economic depression.
Government economic stimulus is somewhat like credit card debt. I use the credit card today to buy what I want, and I feel great. But, at some point in the future, I will need to repay what I borrowed, and that’s the “time of reckoning” that is not yet here. I hope the economy continues to recover, but as a trustee in bankruptcy I’m also a realist. We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
There is some great news when it comes to dealing with debt. Over the last eight months I have personally witnessed an increasing number of Vancouver residents choosing to avoid filing bankruptcy in Canada to deal with their debts; instead, they are choosing to file a consumer proposal. Recent changes in the rules make filing a consumer proposal a more attractive option for many Canadians. In a proposal I help you negotiate a settlement with your creditors, where you pay perhaps a third or a half of the total amount you owe over a three to five year period, and your creditors agree to write off the rest. If the creditors accept your proposal, you avoid filing bankruptcy in Canada. I tell people they need three things going for them to file a proposal:
First, you need to be old enough to understand a proposal, and young enough to have the time to make the payments over the next three to five years.
Second, your health should be sufficient so that you know you will be working for the next three to five years so that you can make your proposal payments.
Finally, to make payments you need a stable source of income. If you expect to get laid off next month, a proposal may not be your best option.
As my fellow residents of Vancouver look back fondly on our Olympic experience, I encourage everyone to look ahead to their future, and if you find you have more debt than you can handle, consider a consumer proposal as an option to deal with your debts. We will meet with all debtors initially without cost to assist you in the assessment of your options. Please contact a trustee today for your free initial consultation, and find out what options will work best to help you deal with your debt.