OTTAWA - Personal debt levels climbed to record levels in 2012.

The growth came as both Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney repeatedly warned against borrowing too much.

According to Statistics Canada, the household debt to income ratio stood at 164.6 per cent,

That's about the level reached in the United States before the financial crisis.

Experts say the record borrowing leaves Canadians vulnerable if unemployment rises or interest rates head higher.

TD Bank chief executive Craig Alexander says we've navigated through the risks so far, but the time has come to pay off your bills before that happens.

The Bank of Canada is expected to keep its key rate on hold for now, giving Canadians a window to start reducing their debts before costs start to rise.