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Catherine Yeulet/Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than half of retired Canadians hold some form of debt which may cut into their retirement plans and cash flow, a new poll suggests.

According to the survey conducted by Harris Decima, 59 per cent of retired Canadians are in debt, compared with 76 per cent of non-retirees.

CIBC, which funded the survey, says the results highlight the need for Canadians to have a good debt repayment strategy, especially as they approach retirement. That's because fixed incomes make it more difficult for retirees to pay down their debt.

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"While retired Canadians carry less debt than the national average, their debt could be stagnant and may end up costing them more in interest costs over a longer period of time," said Christina Kramer, executive vice-president of retail distribution and channel strategy at the CIBC.

"You really have to think about the debt you are retiring with because the regular repayments you make will directly affect the discretionary income you have."

That's because for retirees, who have fixed incomes, all monthly payments must come from retirement savings or pension earnings. This can affect how much money they have left to cover their day-to-day expenses.

Only 27 per cent of the retired Canadians surveyed say they have made an extra payment toward their debt in the last 12 months, compared with 42 per cent of non-retired Canadians.

On average, retired Canadians carry 1.65 debt products with a balance, such as mortgages, lines of credit, loans and credit cards. In contrast, non-retired Canadians carry 2.64 products with a balance.

The percentage of retired Canadians with debt was highest in Atlantic Canada, at 76 per cent. All other regions hovered just below 60 per cent.

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