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2.0 Key findings

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The 2005 survey results showed that:

  • The median net worth of Canada’s estimated 13.3 million family units amounted to $148,400 in 2005, a 23.2% increase from 1999, after adjusting for inflation.

  • Gains in median net worth were seen in all but the lowest wealth quintile since 1999. Increases were highest in the fourth and top wealth quintiles. This signifies increased inequality in Canada’s wealth distribution. The 20% of family units with the highest net worth held 69.2% of all personal wealth in the country in 2005.

  • Total assets, everything from pension assets, stocks and bonds to principal residences, amounted to over $5.6 trillion, nearly 1.4 times the estimate of $3.9 trillion in 1999. The single most important asset for Canadians was their principal residence, accounting for one-third of the total. This was followed by employer pension plans (EPP), which represented almost 18.5% of all assets.

  • The increase in the market value of real estate was the major contributor to the growth of total assets of Canadian families between 1999 and 2005. Real estate accounted for almost 50% of the increase with gains largely attributable to price increases as well as an increase in the number of families holding this type of asset (+13.6%).

  • A significant change in the composition of assets between 1999 and 2005 was the growth in the amount invested in real estate such as cottages, timeshares, rental properties and other commercial properties. The aggregate amount in this type of real estate was roughly 1.8 times larger in 2005 than in 1999 amounting to almost $481 billion from $266 billion, in constant 2005 dollars. This was by far the largest rate of growth of any single asset.

  • Assets held in private pension instruments such as employer pension plans, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs), were the second largest contributor. The increase in this category was largely driven by the sharp growth in the value of EPPs.

  • About 9.4 million family units, or 70.6% of the total, had some form of pension assets in 2005, whether they were EPPs, RRSPs or RRIFs. In total, pension assets peaked for family units in which the major income recipient was aged between 55 and 64.

  • In 2005, these family units, which would have been approaching retirement or just recently retired, had total median pension assets of $242,500. This was well above the median for all family units of $68,000.

  • About 58% of family units had RRSP s, RRIFs or Locked-in Retirement Accounts (LIRAs) in 2005. The median value of these plans was $30,000.

  • Just under one-half (48.6%) of family units had assets in employer pension plans. The median value of those assets was a much larger $68,300.

  • Canadians had debts estimated at $760 billion in 2005, three-quarters of which took the form of mortgages. This represented a 43.3% increase from 1999. This increase can be explained by both the rise in cost to purchase a home and the increase in the number of families who owned their principal residence with a mortgage (+16.6%). The median value of mortgages in 2005 amounted to $93,000, up 17.0% from about $79,500 in 1999.

  • Debts from lines of credit amounted to roughly $68 billion in 2005, about 9% of the total. Loans on owned vehicles amounted to about $46 billion, or 6.1% of the total. Canadian family units held almost $25.8 billion in outstanding credit card and instalment debt, or 3.4% of the total, while student loans approached $20 billion.

  • Outstanding credit card and instalment debt was up 58.4% from $16.3 billion in 1999. The median credit card and instalment debt rose to $2,400 in 2005.

  • Almost 11 million Canadian families reported owning a credit card in 2005. Of the over 2 million family units that reported not owning one, nearly 19% of these families were refused this type of credit. Nearly 73% of families who had credit cards reported they pay off their balances each month. The median credit limit on all credit cards owned was $10,000.

  • A notable development over the six-year period was the growth in outstanding line-of-credit debt, which surged 2.3 times. At the same time, the number of family units with line-of-credit debt increased almost 77% to 3.3 million. Almost a quarter (24.9%) of all families had a line-of-credit debt in 2005, compared with 15.4% in 1999. The median debt in this form rose from $5,800 to $9,000. Much of the increase was secured by residential assets in the form of home equity lines of credit.

  • The median debt load for family units rose 37.8% from $32,300 to $44,500 between 1999 and 2005. Canadians had an estimated $13.52 in debts for every $100 in assets in 2005, up from $13.06 in 1999. However, the debt burden was much higher for certain family types, such as lone-parents families ($28.32 per $100), and couples with children under 18 ($20.03 per $100).

  • Family units headed by someone under 35 carried the highest debt load, $39.40 for every $100 of assets, up 17.2% when compared to 1999. Family units headed by seniors carried the least amount of debt, $2.26 per $100 of assets.

  • The survey found that of the 7.4 million people aged 55 and over, 63.7% reported having been retired.

  • Respondents were asked to report all their reasons for retiring. The top three Canadians cited were: personal or family responsibilities (23.7%), health (22.8%), and having completed the required number of years to qualify for a pension (19.6%).

  • Of the roughly 4.7 million people who retired, just over 784,000 of them returned to work for pay following their first retirement. Over 48% of those returning to work for pay reported that financial considerations were the most common reason for returning to work. Other significant reasons cited were that work was interesting and job offers from employer.