How Does Your Net Worth Compare To The Canadian Average

How Does Your Net Worth Compare With the Average Canadian?

How Does Your Net Worth Compare With the Average Canadian #personalfinance #networthThis post was originally published on March 6, 2018, and updated on October 6, 2021.

“Am I richer than my friends?”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever asked yourself that question.

There’s no shame. It’s completely normal to want to know how you stack financially against other people your age.

But how can you figure out how much money other people have?

It’s not like they write their account balance on the forehead. 

And asking someone how much money they make is as socially awkward as asking if they moonlight as an exotic dancer.

Thankfully, we don’t need to guess or commit social faux-pas to get answers. There is an objective way to measure wealth that makes wealth comparison simple: net worth.

What Is Net Worth?

Your net worth is the most accurate snapshot of your current financial position.

It basically answers the question, “if I sell everything I own and pay off every debt I have, how much money will I have?”

Put another way, your net worth is the value of everything you own (your assets) minus the amount you owe (your liabilities).

Assets are anything tangible or intangible that have a substantial monetary value. Here is a list of common personal assets:

  • Cash (yes, even those pesky coins that get stuck in between couch cushions count)
  • Chequing accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • ETFs
  • Index funds
  • Mutual funds
  • Employer-sponsored pension plans
  • Real estate (your home and other properties you own)
  • Vehicles (ex: cars, trucks, boats)
  • Cryptocurrency (ex: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, etc.)
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFT)
  • Insurance cash value
  • Income trusts
  • Company equity
  • Jewelry
  • Collectibles (ex: art, wine, antiques, coins, stamps, baseball cards)
  • Electronics and appliances (ex: fridge, TV, Xbox Series X)
  • Intellectual property (ex: patents, trademarks, copyrights, domain names)

Liabilities are things that you owe others. Here are some examples of liabilities:

  • Mortgage debt
  • Credit card debt
  • Line of credit
  • Student loans
  • Medical debt
  • Vehicle loans
  • Home equity loan
  • Personal loans
  • Unpaid taxes

Why It Is Important to Know Your Net Worth

Think of your net worth as your financial report card. 

If your net worth is positive (that is, your assets are far more valuable than the debts you owe) and increasing over time, then you know you’re in decent financial shape.

If your net worth is positive yet decreasing over time, it’s worthwhile to investigate the cause of the decrease and find a solution, so your net worth won’t eventually dip into the negative.

If your net worth is negative (your outstanding debts outweigh your current assets) and decreasing over time, alarm bells are ringing at full blast. 

If your net worth is negative but increasing over time, it shows that you’ve been doing a good job paying down your debts.

See, when you know your net worth and track it periodically, you can learn so much about your financial health and how much progress you’ve made.

That’s why it’s so important to calculate your net worth at least once every year.

How to Calculate Your Net Worth

Now that we understand the importance of knowing your net worth, let’s get down to business.

Because there are so many types of assets and liabilities to account for when calculating your net worth, you have to get organized.

Here are 3 ways to go about it.

1. Choose the pen and paper route

Some people prefer the feeling of writing things down on actual papers, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Grab a blank sheet of paper or open a new page in your journal, and make two columns.

In the first column, list all the types of assets and liabilities you have. And in the second column, jot down the corresponding dollar amounts.

Calculating Net Worth On Pen & Paper

After that, it’s as straightforward as crunching numbers on a calculator, by subtracting your total liabilities from your total assets.

To make things easier, consider purchasing net worth worksheets that you can download, print, and fill out by hand.

2. Track your net worth on a digital spreadsheet

A digital spreadsheet is usually the more efficient way to calculate and track your net worth, because it includes formulas that do the maths for you.

Of course, you still have to do the task of listing your assets and liabilities.

Calculating Net Worth On a Spreadsheet Example

You can create your own net worth spreadsheet from scratch, but why not make life easier by downloading a nice-looking template to work from?

Feel free to grab this net worth spreadsheet. It’s designed for people in Canada and the US, but everyone could make use of it.

3. Use a net worth tracking app

There’s an app for just about anything these days, including estimating and keeping tabs on your net worth.

Using an app to track your net worth has its pros and cons.

The biggest pro is convenience. Everything is automated once you link your bank and investment accounts, so you can see your up-to-date net worth whenever you feel like it.

On the other hand, because you’re entrusting the handling of sensitive financial data to a third party, privacy could be a concern.

Looking for the best of both worlds? Personal Capital (affiliate link) uses advanced encryption to keep your data safe, so you don’t have anything to worry about. It’s a secure tool to find your net worth at any time, for free.

Comparing Your Net Worth

Tracking your net worth over time allows you to see your progress, but comparing it to your peers will enable you to determine whether you are financially ahead or behind.

To accomplish that, we have to rely on publicly available survey data on the nation’s average net worth. 

However, the average value is not always the most accurate representation of “average,” because outlier values (i.e., people with extremely high net worths, or extremely low net worths) could skew the results. 

So the median is a more meaningful measure in this case.

Don’t worry. We will look at both the average and median net worth of people in every age group.

Before we proceed, here’s a quick refresher on what average and median mean:

The average is calculated by taking the sum of survey participants’ net worths and dividing it by the number of people surveyed.

The median is the exact midpoint in a series of values. In our case, this means that half of the people surveyed has a net worth higher than the median, while the other half has a net worth lower than the median. 

Without further ado, below are the net worth numbers that you’re looking for.

Canada’s Average and Median Net Worth Data From 2016

To begin, let’s take a look at the available statistics from 2016. Although the data is a little dated, there is still a lot to be learned from it. 

We will examine and analyze the net worths of singles and couples separately.

Average and Median Net Worth of Singles by Age (2016):

First, we have net worth data of single people:

Age GroupMedian Net WorthAverage Net Worth
Under 35 Years$9,700$62,100
35 to 44 Years$76,000*$214,000
45 to 54 Years$88,000*$290,400
55 to 64 Years$227,800$505,500
65 Years and Older$277,000$493,400

*This figure is not as reliable as the rest of the table.

All these numbers are from 2016 (not adjusted for inflation).

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0016-01  Assets and debts held by economic family type, by age group, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas, Survey of Financial Security (x 1,000,000)

Now let’s talk about what these numbers reveal about Canadians’ overall financial well-being.

As expected, both median and average net worth increase (for the most part) with age, which makes total sense. The older someone is, the longer they have saved and invested, and let compound interest work its magic. 

We also see a teeny tiny dip in net worth after people reach the traditional retirement age of 65. This is also completely normal. Since most retirees no longer bring in a regular income from their 9-to-5 and draw on their nest eggs, their nest eggs will shrink over time.

Now, onto the problematic parts.

Within each age group, the median net worth is alarmingly low.

Half of the adults under 35 have less than CA$9,700 to their names.

Furthermore, half of the country is entering retirement with a net worth of less than CA$227,800, which is hardly enough to provide a comfortable 30-year-long retirement, when you factor in the cost of senior care.

Average and Median Net Worth of Couples by Age (2016):

Now, here are the average and median net worth of Canadian couples at different stages in their lives:

Age GroupMedian Net WorthAverage Net Worth
Under 35 Years$106,000$277,300
35 to 44 Years$287,100$542,100
45 to 54 Years$612,500$982,300
55 to 64 Years$918,600$1,414,500
65 Years and Older$762,900$1,167,500

All these numbers are from 2016 (not adjusted for inflation).

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0016-01  Assets and debts held by economic family type, by age group, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas, Survey of Financial Security (x 1,000,000)

These net worth numbers are pretty impressive any way you slice it.

Yes, the wealthiest 1% is pulling up the average net worths across the board, which means the median net worths paint a much more accurate financial picture of the typical Canadian couple.

But that doesn’t erase the fact that half of Canadian couples are entering retirement with close to a million dollars. Woohoo!

Canada’s Average and Median Net Worth Data From 2019

Since the original publication of this article, Statistics Canada has made available net worth data collected in 2019. 

Again, we’ll look at singles’ and couples’ net worths separately.

Average and Median Net Worth of Singles by Age (2019):

Here’s how individuals’ average and median net worth change as they age:

Age GroupMedian Net WorthAverage Net Worth
Under 35 Years$16,000$79,100
35 to 44 Years$74,000*$212,500
45 to 54 Years$145,000*$451,700
55 to 64 Years$239,500*$544,800
65 Years and Older$322,300$589,700

*This figure is not as reliable as the rest of the table.

All these numbers are from 2019 (not adjusted for inflation).

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0016-01  Assets and debts held by economic family type, by age group, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas, Survey of Financial Security (x 1,000,000)

This data set largely follows the same pattern as the one from 2016, except that median and average net worth continue to rise after the age of 65. This could be due to the rising number of people working past 65, a strong stock market performance between 2016 and 2019, or a combination of the two.

The retirement nest egg number is still small. But the good news is, there’s no shortage of wonderful places within Canada where it’s possible to live comfortably on little. Plus, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and the Old Age Security (OAS) programs can always come to the rescue during retirement. So even for folks with smaller nest eggs, it’s not doom and gloom, as long as they’re willing to compromise a little.

Average and Median Net Worth of Couples by Age (2019):

Next, let’s look at the average and median net worth of couples of different age brackets:

Age GroupMedian Net WorthAverage Net Worth
Under 35 Years$120,600$336,100
35 to 44 Years$327,500$589,300
45 to 54 Years$678,200$1,123,200
55 to 64 Years$921,800$1,401,900
65 Years and Older$840,900$1,298,800

All these numbers are from 2019 (not adjusted for inflation).

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0016-01  Assets and debts held by economic family type, by age group, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas, Survey of Financial Security (x 1,000,000)

Half of the couples between 45 to 54 years of age have practically achieved LeanFIRE (i.e., a minimalist version of financial independence). 

A massive contributor to such stunning net worth numbers could be the real estate boom in large metropolitan cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. As long as this trend persists, the median net worth of Canadian couples will continue to skyrocket.

How Does Your Net Worth Stack Up?

Now comes the million-dollar question: is your own net worth higher or lower than the median net worth of people in your age group?

If your net worth is higher, congratulations! Keep up the excellent work!

If not, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world. It’s definitely possible to improve your finances at any age.

How to Increase Your Net Worth

Boosting your personal net worth is straightforward in theory: increase your assets, lower your liabilities, or ideally, do both.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. You need guidance, willpower, emotional support, and plenty of patience.

Here are some concrete steps you can follow:

1. Pay off your debts as quickly as possible

The money you owe is money that could be used to buy assets. So get aggressive and throw all your extra money at debt repayment.

To get started, make a list of all your debts. Make a note of the amount and interest rate for each type of debt.

Then tackle your debts in one of two ways. You could choose to prioritize paying off the debt with the highest interest rate, or focus on paying off the smallest debt first before moving on to larger ones.

Either method could get the job done. It really comes down to personal preference.

2. Keep your expenses low

It’s never fun to hear that you need to cut back on purchases and activities you enjoy, but it’s critical to keep your spending modest. Otherwise, you’ll end up back in debt and be forced to start over again.

Here are some general tips for cutting costs:

  • Make it a habit to log your expenses (on paper or on an app), so you can become more aware of your spending habits and identify areas for improvement.
  • If you can’t resist the urge to use your credit cards, cut them up or store them in a place that’s frustrating to assess. Using only cash will help to control your spending.
  • A car is a depreciating asset that is costly to drive, maintain and insure, so buy a sensible car and keep it until it needs to be replaced, or better yet, go car-free.
  • Everyone enjoys a tasty meal at a trendy restaurant, but cooking at home is considerably less expensive (and even healthier).

3. Make intelligent investments

It’s not enough to just save money. Your money won’t work for you hidden under the mattress.

To build your net worth, you also have to invest in appreciating or revenue-generating assets.

Here’s some tried-and-true investing advice that practically everyone can benefit from:

  • Invest as much as you can, whenever you can. Buying stocks is only a small part of investing. Even if you’re incredibly risk-averse, you can still put your money in low-risk investments (like GICs, savings bonds, certificates of deposit) and reap the benefits.
  • Invest in what you know. Don’t blindly follow expert advice if you don’t fully understand it. 
  • Maximize contributions to your tax-advantaged retirement accounts. The benefits are clear: you will pay less in taxes, and keep more profits. On that note, take advantage of any matching programs your employer offers. Don’t leave money on the table. 
  • Keep your stock portfolio diversified. Hold between 30 to 60 stocks across many different industries. Even better, buy and hold ETFs or low-cost index funds.
  • Don’t panic sell when the market is down. Buying and holding your assets for the long haul is the winning formula.

4. Stay positive

Growing your net worth can feel like a grind, even on your best days. So it’s essential to keep your eyes on the prize and maintain a positive attitude.

Remember, most of life’s best things don’t come with price tags. You don’t necessarily need a high net worth to live your best life. 

Even shifting your net worth from negative to positive can be a major accomplishment for someone starting out with a lot of medical bills or student loans. Always be proud of how far you’ve come.

Onward and Forward

No matter if your net worth is higher or lower than the national average, and no matter where you are on your financial journey, the mere fact that you’re reading a personal finance blog suggests that you’ve overcome the number 1 hurdle to getting rich ― desire.

I am confident that you’ve got what it takes to achieve your financial goals.

Good luck!

Enjoyed this article? Connect with Casual Money Talk on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and don't forget to sign up for our email newsletter to be notified of future content.

Category: GeneralMoney For Beginners

15 comments

    1. The numbers don’t reflect a typical mortgage; they reflect an average, including plenty of people who don’t have any kind of mortgage. Since nobody in Vancouver can afford one, it stands to reason the number would be low here too 😛

      (Joking to some degree, obviously)

    2. We all feel poor in Canada because we are taxed heavily. My retirement goals involve spending half the year in another country, my money will go further and the winters will be warmer. I have done much better with real estate than with my RRSP’s because of leverage. If you buy a live in rental property you can have the bonus of getting rental income to help with retirement, forget about the perfect house with the white picket fence, buy a triplex and live happily ever after.

  1. How can numbers be cute ? I personally think that your net worth and the amount that you need for retirement also depend upon where you live. Someone can accumulate less money in a different province but still be able to live comfortably because their cost of living isn’t as high.

    1. Oddly, despite much lower housing costs outside of Vancouver or Toronto, people do not accumulate any additional wealth or savings than those in high housing cost areas. Real Estate always has been the foundation of wealth for the majority of individuals. Unless you are a tech or business wizard or part of the elite entertainers or athletic group, Invest in Real Estate no matter where you are.

      1. Imagine all the great things those other people can spend their money on though, rather than putting it towards an inflated home price, they can buy a boat, or travel with the family. Savings may be similar, but lifestyles are day and night. Real estate is just a method of forced savings for 90% of the population. Investing in something you pay interest on isn’t always the smart play.

      2. I don’t think real estate investing is superior to investing in liquid assets especially in this current market. There’s a lot of costs to real estate even with the monthly rent as well as the aggravation.

    2. Lol his simply saying those mortgage numbers are nothing compared to the Vancouver/ Toronto area. Which is true if you compare it to other provinces.

  2. Wow, I thought I was poor….
    Forcibly retired at 56 (could not get another job), almost 60 now, and to my surprise I am way above median and average net worth 3 times over.
    So why do I feel poor?

  3. I live in Vancouver. My mortgage is over 350k for a 500ft condo. Where are these tiny mortgage numbers for the under 35 crowd coming from? I’m jealous.

    1. Don’t get frustrated with others because of your own choices.

      I earn dollars and live in Mexico and have never had a better lifestyle. I own my modest home outright and it also generates enough in rental income to cover my basic cost of living.

      I am still working in Canada for now, half of the time, but saving or investing virtually all of my paycheques and will leave my job next year to be in Mexico full time chasing interest, curiosity and waves.

      How did I do it?

      Sold my home in Victoria at an outrageous profit, of course. Something you may also have the option to do.

      We all have choices, and each of them their own set of consequences, some good some bad.

  4. They are tiny mortgage numbers because so few people that age 35 own homes. No home, no mortgage. But since these figures are averages the total mortgage amount outstanding to each age group is divided by number of people in that age group whether they have a mortgage or not.

  5. Net worth might be an interesting number and certainly banks and lending institutions will want to know its value, but as for helping one get to where they want to be, let’s say financial secure during retirement, its an after the fact number, at least to me.
    I now preach, to anyone who wants to listen, that one should invest to generate Income. The idea is to maximize your income, by investing in quality dividend growth companies and take advantage of investing opportunities to grow your income whenever possible.
    If your investment income continually grows at a reasonable rate, why worry about net worth. Once your income exceeds your annual expenses or meets your income goal, your there. Financially secure, because the income will continue to grow even when you stop adding money to your investments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Article by: Flora Pang

Flora Pang aspires to become someone who plants trees in their spare time, writes thank-you notes to strangers, and serves in UN peacekeeping operations around the world. But to date, blogging about personal finance remains her only contribution to society. You can catch her rambling about money on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and (to a lesser extent) Pinterest.