Mark McKenzie thinks of himself as an optimist, but even an optimist knows that five years into the financial crisis, the economy is still in a fragile state.
It was mid-2008 when Mr. McKenzie, a 46-year-old consultant in the financial services regulation industry, first began to notice contracts for his fledgling business were becoming scarce, not just among his Toronto clients but internationally as well.
With business dwindling and only his wife’s income to rely on, Mr. McKenzie found he needed to borrow money to keep his business afloat. By 2009, he had accumulated $75,000 in debt. Lenders continued to offer him huge loans, but Mr. McKenzie decided to make a tough call and not take on any more debt.
“Once I decided I’m not going to keep afloat using debt, that became truly the turning point for me,” Mr. McKenzie said. “I just said this is crazy. The economy isn’t going anywhere. Things aren’t going to change tomorrow. That’s it.”
The McKenzies sold their house in Mississauga, Ont., and became renters. Mr. McKenzie called his creditors to negotiate debt settlements and slowly chipped away what he owed.
“It was gut wrenching,” he said. “It’s an emotional journey. It takes determination to ride through it and to be able to pick up the pieces and to move forward.”
By 2010, business began picking up for Mark McKenzie Consulting. By 2011, Mr. McKenzie had paid off his debts. This year, the McKenzies were able to purchase a house in Brampton, Ont., and have been helping the eldest two of their three children through post-secondary education.
“There’s some slight improvement but things are pretty fragile,” said Mr. McKenzie, who is cautiously optimistic about the future.
“You always have to be hopeful but always be cognizant of the risks that are out there.”