Economy & Markets

Although housing is driving growth in the median net worth of Canadian families, it’s also driving a significant rise in household debt levels

By James Langton |

 

Rising home values and increasing pension plan holdings powered double-digit growth in household net worth between 2012 and 2016, according to new data from Statistics Canada (StatsCan) published on Thursday.

Specifically, the median net worth of Canadian families grew by 14.7% to $295,100 from 2012 to 2016. The increase was driven largely by housing, as real estate is both the largest asset and the biggest debt for most Canadians.

StatsCan reports that the total value of assets in 2016 was $12 trillion, with the median value of assets rising by 12.4% since 2012 to $440,200 in 2016. Total debt reached $1.76 trillion in 2016, which is up by 24.4% from 2012; and the median value of total debt rose by 27.1% over the same period.

Private pensions are the second-largest asset category for Canadian families, accounting for 29.2% of assets, StatsCan reports, noting that pension assets are up by 17.7% from 2012 to $3.5 trillion.

"The majority of this growth came from employer-sponsored registered pension plans, which increased 17.4% to $2.3 trillion in 2016," the StatsCan report says.

As for other financial assets, StatsCan reports that holdings of non-pension financial assets grew to $1.37 trillion in 2016 from $1.1 trillion in 2012. Of that, investment fund assets grew to just less than $300 billion from just more than $250 billion in 2012; equities rose to $250 billion from $216 billion; and bond assets declined to $21.5 billion in 2016 from $25.7 billion in 2012. Assets in TFSAs jumped to $164 billion in 2016 from about $69 billion in 2012.

The data also show that although the median family has seen its financial assets increase since 2012, it has smaller holdings of investment funds, stocks, and bonds over that period. Median increases are coming in TFSAs, deposits, and "other" financial assets.

By geography, StatsCan reports that families in British Columbia reported the highest median net worth in 2016, followed by Ontario and Manitoba. New Brunswick reported the lowest median net worth. Meanwhile, the largest growth in median net worth from 2012 to 2016 came in Manitoba, followed by Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

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