How one Canadian family is coping with the highest inflation in years

With inflation at a nearly 40-year high, Canadians are feeling the financial strain. In a six-part series this summer, The Canadian Press is speaking to people at different stages of life to see where they’re being hit the hardest. This story details the experiences of mid-career adults and their families.

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Myron Genyk didn’t think much about the price of food a year ago.

But now the 43-year-old father of three is suffering from sticker shock as his family’s grocery bill balloons.

“No. 1 is the increase in food,” said Genyk, an entrepreneur from Mississauga, Ont. “My kids are growing, so they’re eating more, but food prices have also shot up.”

With inflation rising at its fastest pace in nearly 40 years, the cost of everything from food to gas has skyrocketed.

Canadians across the country are feeling squeezed, but big families with multiple children are at times shouldering much of the higher costs — and changing demographics and consumer patterns have left some of them more exposed to inflation than in previous generations.

Some face meteoric grocery bills to feed insatiable teens or are helping older kids pay for university or buy their first home.

Others face mounting costs related to helping aging parents.

Then there are those doing both—the so-called sandwich generation.

“Some still have kids at home and they’re also helping out with aging parents,” said Elena Jara, community engagement partner with insolvency firm Bromwich and Smith.

“Inflation only makes that harder.”

Middle-aged adults have traditionally had the benefit of entering their prime earning years, taking some of the sting out of inflation. But as milestones for many Canadians happen later in life, this pattern is changing.

First-time homebuyers are getting older, for example, with the average age now around 36.

That means mid-career Canadians are more likely to have a big mortgage, leaving them vulnerable to higher interest rates.

Canadians are also having children later in life. Over the past five decades, the average age of a first-time mother has been steadily rising, from 22.6 in 1969 to 29.4 in 2019.

Adult children are also living longer at home. New census data found almost half of young adults in Ontario cities like Toronto, Oshawa, Windsor and Hamilton were living in the same household as at least one parent.

That leaves parents in the roughly 40 to 60 age range potentially covering more day-to-day costs or unable to downsize.

“Having a larger household with many mouths to feed would definitely increase your spending on food and make you more sensitive to food inflation,” said Rebekah Young, vice-president, head of inclusion and resilience economics at Scotiabank.

Higher costs could also push Canadians in their prime earning years to curtail savings, potentially later delaying retirement to pay the bills, she said.

But inflation is even worse for low-income Canadians as they spend more of their disposable income on essentials, Young said.

The situation has left Canadians feeling increasingly gloomy about their finances, according to a raft of recent surveys.

More than half of Canadians aged 55 and up said they’ve delayed retirement because of mounting inflation this year alone, based on respondents to a recent poll by Bromwich and Smith and Advisorsavvy.

Another survey by TransUnion Canada found 60 per cent of Canadians polled lack optimism about their household finances over the next 12 months, with almost a third concerned they won’t be able to pay their bills in full in the coming months.

For Genyk, who runs his own Bay Street asset management company, he’s hopeful high inflation will be a “temporary blip” on his financial path.

Still, he’s feeling squeezed by higher prices.

“I’m definitely spending more money this year than I was last year on basic goods,” said Genyk, CEO and co-founder of Evermore Capital Inc., a Canadian asset management company that focuses on accessible retirement investing.

“That is directly impacting how much I can save for retirement.”

Inflation is also shaping his consumption habits and even changing his vacation plans.

For example, the Genyk family is planning a trip to the Rockies with their three children, ages seven, 11 and 13.

A few years ago, the family flew into Calgary and rented a van for two weeks for $1,900.

This summer, the van rental quote was $8,000.

“We got creative and found if we flew to Edmonton, we could rent a five-seater SUV there for a much more reasonable price,” he said.

“Having a growing family, you also need more space. When you get a hotel room, the days of one room with a pop-up crib are done.

“All these things add up.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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