Many Canadians could find themselves in debt years longer than expected, even though many are optimistic that they will be debt-free in a few years, according to a survey released Monday.

The survey, by CIBC, found that Canadians holding some form of debt feel they will be debt-free by age 55. However, only 35 per cent of Canadians in the 55 to 64 age group are actually debt-free.

Canadians in the 25 to 34 year old age range told pollsters that they expected to be debt-free by age 44, but the poll found that only 18 per cent of those in the 45 to 54 age group were.

Jim Yih, a financial expert and the founder of, said he thinks the optimistic outlook on debt found by the survey was surprising.

"I think that the optimism is not substantiated," he told CTV News Channel on Monday. "The likelihood of people being debt-free and staying debt-free is difficult."

He attributes younger Canadian's optimistic viewpoint as a result of a lack of experience.

"The older you are the more you're going to deal with the necessity of debt," he said.

Christina Kramer, the executive vice-president of retail distribution and channel strategy for CIBC, said that Canadians need to remain focused on debt repayment strategy.

"A key finding in this poll is that the passage of time alone is not enough to achieve the goal of paying down your debt," Kramer told The Canadian Press.

"Canadians with a goal of being debt-free would benefit from having a realistic plan in place that includes extra payments towards their debt and a strategy to minimize their interest costs."

Yih said that debt is prevalent in Canadian's lives and that our economy is actually driven on consumerism.

"Debt has become big business," he said. "There was a time when you went to a financial institution and the advice was ‘pay off your debts.' And now it's 'go into more debt, we'll give you another credit card, we'll give you a loan to consolidate your loans, we'll give you a bigger debt limit.'"

Jamie Golombek, of CIBC Wealth Management, said that many people are getting into debt by spending beyond their means.

"In reality without any proper planning they may find they have more debt than they think at a later point," Golombek told CTV Winnipeg.

Albertans were the most optimistic of their financial situation, stating that they believe they will be debt free by age 52 on average. In Ontario and Quebec, the average age stated was 54 and in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, 58.

"It can be tempting to believe that 10 years from now you will be better off financially and will have paid down your debt considerably, but the reality is that it takes a slow and steady approach to both debt management and savings to make progress towards your financial goals," Kramer said.

Eight per cent of respondents believe they will be into their 70s before their debts are paid off and 10 per cent said they will never be debt-free.

"Where this party ends is when interest rates go up and people all of a sudden have all this debt with interest rates that are double what they are now or more," said John McCallum of the Asper School of Business.

Yih said he puts some of the blame on the high debt load Canadians are carrying on financial institutions.

"Certainly I think the financial industry has to bear some responsibility because they've made debt so accessible," he said.

The telephone survey, conducted by Harris-Decima, polled 2,008 Canadians between June 30 and July 10.

With a report by CTV Winnipeg's Jill Macyshon and files from The Canadian Press