The Average Canadian Net Worth By Age – Does It Matter?

Whenever new statistics come out, there seems to be the desire to want to compare ourselves to them.  How are we doing when compared to the new benchmark. But does it really matter how we compare to the average Canadian net worth by age? I don’t think so.  Let me explain why.

How is the Average Canadian Net Worth Calculated?

Not to overwhelm you with too much math, here are the basics of how to calculate an average.  First, you add all of the values together and then divide that number by the number of values.  An easy example would be the average of 4, 5, 6.  The answer is 5 (4+5+6=15, 15/3=5).

But the thing with averages is that outliers can greatly impact the calculated average.  Thinking about net worths, for example, if you had 2 people, one with a net worth of $0 and the other with a net worth of $1 million, their average net worth would be $500,000. Doesn’t really seem realistic when comparing the two, does it?

The more values you include in the calculation of an average the more “realistic” the average is.

Relevant Post – FMS – Part 1 – Net Worth Statement

Now that you know how an average is calculated let’s talk briefly about how to calculate your net worth.  It can be very simple.  Add up all your assets (anything worth value) and subtract all your liabilities (debts).  The answer is your net worth.  For more guidance see this post on net worth statements. And as always if you have any questions feel free to comment below.

It is difficult to find reliable data on the average Canadian net worth by age because so many organizations include different assets and debts in their net worth calculations.  And few will tell you the sample size that they are using for the calculation.

The numbers listed below are from Statistics Canada (a trusted source), but they include households with certain assets and liabilities (debts).  So if your household does not have the listed assets or liabilities, it stands to reason that your numbers would not be included.  

But the purpose of this post is to explain why it’s not relevant to compare yourself to an average. So we can work with the numbers below for this explanation.

Expense Tracking Workbook opt in graphic

What is the Average Canadian Net Worth By Age?

Now that you know how the average Canadian net worth is calculated, here is the breakdown by age.

AgeAssetsLiabilitiesNet Worth
<35 Years$328,500$143,800$219,900
35 – 44 Years$691,400$222,500$499,500
45 – 54 Years$1,137,000$233,200$946,900
55 – 64 Years$1,204,300$140,400$1,103,400
>65 Years$965,300$75,000$932,800
Source: Stats Can

The Problems with Comparing Yourself to the Average

The first issue is the accuracy of the comparison. Are you truly comparing apples to apples when comparing your net worth to the average Canadian net worth by age?  

If you do not know what is included in the average calculation this becomes difficult.  Including, or not including your principal residence can have a significant impact on your net worth.  This is especially true for residents of Vancouver or Toronto where real estate has exploded as of late.

There are also psychological issues with comparing yourself to the average Canadian net worth by age. And as we know, there is more to money than just numbers.

If Above the Average Canadian Net Worth by Age

If your calculated net worth is above the average, you may have an overinflated sense of pride.  This may or may not be justified.  

And if you are above the average, so what? 

What exactly does that mean? 

Are you a better person for it? 

You are the same person you were before you calculated your net worth and compared it to the average. 

A number doesn’t change anything.

A net worth calculation is a snapshot in time.  It doesn’t predict future behaviour.  You could be above average today and gamble it all away and be below average tomorrow.

And statistically speaking (don’t worry we aren’t getting into too much math here), for every person above the average Canadian net worth by age, there is also someone below it.

Don’t let being “above average” go to your head.  Really it doesn’t mean that much and should really not carry any personal significance for you.

If Below the Average Canadian Net Worth by Age

If being above average isn’t really that big of a deal, neither is being below average.

Just hearing or realizing that your net worth is below the average Canadian net worth by age may make you feel embarrassed or full of shame.  But that’s the thing with averages, not everyone can be at or above them.  

And who really cares?

Your net worth is personal and doesn’t change the person you are, regardless of the “average.”

One of the issues with personal finance is the comparison nature that some people feel.  You can be a good, scratch that, great person, and still be below the average Canadian net worth by age. (And the opposite is also true).  Don’t let a number affect how you feel and who you are.

Your net worth is just a number, regardless of any average, it is no indication of personal character.

What To Do Instead?

So if it’s pointless to compare yourself to the average Canadian net worth by age, what can you do to track your progress?

That’s simple, calculate your net worth.  Decide what to specifically include in that calculation and always use the same calculation.

Then as you progress, recalculate your net worth to see how you’re doing.  Really, it doesn’t matter what the number is right now.  

You don’t get a gold star or a trophy once you hit a certain number.

What matters is that you are making progress in a positive direction.  So if your net worth is currently -$100,000 and a year from now it’s -$95,000 you’re moving in the right direction.  Keep making small gains, all those little steps add up over time.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Bill Gates

Final Thoughts

And at the end of the day, remember that your net worth is just a number and one personal finance calculation you can use.  It isn’t the be-all-end-all.  There is no emotion or judgement with it, it’s just a number, just like 8, 792, or 1,045,789 is.

Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in FOMO or wanting to keep up with the Joneses (or the average Canadian net worth by age). But statistics and numbers never really tell the full story of something.

Don’t worry about the average Canadian net worth by age – in the end it really doesn’t matter.  Focus on your financial journey and the progress that you are making and the rest will take care of itself.

16 thoughts on “The Average Canadian Net Worth By Age – Does It Matter?”

  1. I have started tracking my net worth on a monthly basis – just part of my first of the month spreadsheets that I update. I have excluded one savings account as all that money is “owed” to Revenue Canada so while I have it for now – I won’t have it for long. While it goes up and down a bit depending on the market it is generally going up and that is my focus.

    Another metric I have seen is 3xsalary, 4xsalary at various age ranges which is another slightly meaningless stat but I have caught up to that now and when I started looking at my net worth it was nowhere near that so progress – even if this marker isn’t worth really comparing against.

    1. Good for you Pam. We track our net worth twice a year because we like to see the bigger movements. And spreading it out can smooth out some of the market fluctuations. Sounds like yours is trending in the right direction.

  2. Thank you Maria for this reminder to focus on our own goals and progress, not that of others. Another pitfall of focusing too much on a number is that once attained, it’s rarely deemed “enough”. We can too easily fall into the endless pursuit for a new, “better” number. The cycle of want never ends and is exhausting! ?

  3. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others. However, you’re absolutely right that it’s neither helpful nor important to compare our net worth to others—whether we’re talking about skewed averages or not.

    We all have different priorities and life circumstances, and none of us can know the full story behind others’ successes or failures. The only comparisons we should make are to ourselves. If we’re heading towards our goals and living true to our values, that’s what counts!

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more Chrissy. Sometimes it is difficult not to compare ourselves to others even if it is to our detriment. But what really matters is “living true to our values” – well said.

  4. I like your take on comparing your net worth to others! It’s true that everyone’s situation is different and it depends on where you live etc. Also, I think a lot of people with a high net worth could be treading on water, because their net worth is tied up in illiquid assets. They might have a high net worth tied up in their property, but their expenses are so high that they would have to sell it if they lost their job. I think assets matter in relation to expenses and how long you can afford to not work. I think you said it perfectly about focusing on your own journey. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Graham, you have a great way of looking at things “assets matter in relation to expenses and how long you can afford not to work.” For those of us seeking FI that number is more important than most calculations.

    1. Great point Mr. Dreamer. The median can be a much better comparison if you’re wanting to compare. We’ve been really trying to focus on comparing our numbers to our own progress and not really worrying about others. But that is easier said than done.

  5. Love your blog Maria! This was a nice reassurance that we all needed to hear. It’s programmed in our flawed human brains to compare ourselves to others. A positive twist is using that upward comparison for motivation. However, it can be demoralizing to some. You hit the nail right on the head when you advise to compare your old self vs your future self. Keep up the great work!

    1. Tyler – Thank you so much for your kind words. I think that you’re right and we are programmed to a certain degree to compare ourselves to others. That is why it is so important to be mindful so that we can start to change that narrative.

  6. That’s interesting! When I followed the link it showed that the average TFSA balance was around $20K! That surprises me given the high (approx) $500K net worth for 36 to 44 year olds. I guess Canadians are wealthier than American counterparts because the average NW for Americans is much lower.

    1. GYM – although the average NW for Americans may be lower it would be interesting to compare the cost of living between the 2 and of course there are always exchange rates to consider. My TFSA balance is well below the average, but I know that yours is well above helping to make up for my lower contribution to the average;)

  7. I kind of get your take. I still think there is value in comparison because you need to know where you stand. Positive progression is great but the goal can’t be just some arbitrary number, has to come from somewhere. Your point about being -100k in year 1 and being -95k in year 2 works fine if you are 20 years old, an 80 year old with that is in trouble and likely going to be leaving debt for their children.I agree though, the average is meaningless, median numbers have more value.

    1. I agree Wes that median numbers have more value but they are not always published and also not always broadly understood. And unfortunately, I think there will always be people leaving debt to the next generation.

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