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How Do You Compare to the Typical Canadian?

When it comes to Canadian stereotypes, there are plenty.  The stereotypical Canadian wears an outfit made fully of denim and finishes most sentences with eh. Oh, and they probably know Bob or Cindy from Toronto. But what about the typical Canadian?

With all of the information available on the internet, I thought it would be fun to compile all of the statistics to get a picture of the typical Canadian and their financial situation. 

Married or Single? Kids or no kids? Male, female or intersex? And because I’m a money nerd, homeowner or renter? Car owner or public transit?  These are just some of the questions that define the typical Canadian.

And once we get a clear picture of who the typical Canadian is (and what they do with their money), I’ve provided some questions you can answer to see how you compare.

Defining the Typical Canadian

When I first set out to write this post I was thinking about finding the average for all of the information I was looking for.  But sometimes the average wasn’t available. And mathematically, it may not be the best representation of the “typical Canadian” as averages can be greatly skewed by outliers.

So, really I took what I could find.  Some of the numbers are based on averages, some on the median number (middle number if all of the responses were lined up from one end of the spectrum to the other), and some on the majority.  I tried my best to be clear on what number I was using and where it came from.

Thankfully, Statistics Canada has a plethora of random information readily available.  But most of the “latest information” is from 2020.  So although it may no longer be 100% accurate, it is the most “current” so we are just going to run with that. 

And finally, when 2020 data was not available I found the most appropriate information and either stated the year that it was from, or adjusted it for inflation.

Who is the Typical Canadian?

When coming up with an image of who the typical Canadian is, often the majority ruled.

As Toronto is Canada’s largest city in the largest province, it’s very possible that the “typical Canadian” lives in Toronto. But as someone who doesn’t live in Toronto, I didn’t want to tie down my fictitious person to one particular city.  Let’s just say that they live in a hypothetical city most likely in Ontario.

They are single (like 54% of Canadians) and employed full time. The median age of Canadians is 41.8 years so to make things simple let’s say our typical Canadian is 42 years old. And even though it is fairly even, women have the slight edge on being the majority of Canadians.

Our typical Canadian is a 42 year old single female, full time employee, living in a city in Ontario.

What is the Median Canadian Income?

The median annual after-tax income for Canadian families and unattached individuals in 2020 was $66,800 or $5566.67 per month according to Stats Canada.  To be honest I’m not sure how unattached individuals and families would have the same median income, but that’s the number we are going to work with.

For interest’s sake, New Brunswick has the lowest median annual after-tax income at $56,900 while Alberta has the highest at $77,700.

Incomes rose 7.1% in 2020 as compared to 2019 due to government sponsored COVID income support.  This includes increases to multiple programs – Covid relief programs, Canada Child Benefit (CCB), Employment Insurance (EI), Old Age Security (OAS), Canada Pension PLan (CPP), and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP). Overall the government provided over $82 billion dollars in income support due to the pandemic.  

This doubled government benefits to families as compared to 2019.

So, although employer-earned income decreased in 2020 due to lockdowns, households increased their take home pay.  It’s a safe bet to assume the median annual after-tax income for a Canadian decreased in 2021 as governments pulled back their income support yet some employers were still closed due to lockdowns.

Median annual after-tax income for the typical Canadian is $5566.67/month

What are the Average Housing Costs for the Typical Canadian?

This is a difficult category to get a picture of the “typical Canadian” because real estate is so regional in Canada.  A house in small town New Brunswick will cost significantly less than an apartment in the Greater Toronto Area. 

But to get an image of the “typical Canadian,” I’ve found the average housing costs.

It should be no surprise to anyone that the majority of Canadians own their home (68.55% according to Trading Economics) so let’s talk about homeowners.

For the housing category I included a mortgage payment, insurance payment, utilities, and property taxes.  

Because maintenance is so variable I did not include it in the calculation.  I know that some recommend 1% of the property cost for maintenance every year, but in a hot market, property prices are often detached from home values, so 1% isn’t always realistic.

Mortgage Payment

The average Canadian mortgage payment in 2020, according to Statistica, was $1382.  At first that number seems really low to me.  But it is before any of the latest interest rate increases

And remember, that’s an average. So, while homeowners in some of the more expensive cities have larger mortgages, these are offset by smaller mortgages in smaller markets.

A mortgage payment of $1382 per month accounts for 24.83% of the typical Canadian’s take home pay.  And while that is lower than the 32% of gross income the CMHC suggests for housing, it doesn’t include all that goes towards housing.

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Insurance Payment

When considering your housing costs, home insurance should always be included.  It always boggles my mind when I hear of someone losing their home due to a natural disaster and they didn’t have insurance.  This may be due to a number of factors, one being that home insurance is not mandatory in Canada.

If you have a mortgage on your property then your lender will often insist on insurance to help protect “their asset.”  But I’ve heard many stories of people letting their coverage lapse, or not renewing after they were mortgage free.

I personally have home insurance through Square One Insurance.  After shopping around they offered the best rates, and I love how they cover rental properties and have a-la-carte type insurance.  I can choose my limits and coverage.

Okay, off of my soap box and back to the typical Canadian.

According to Ratehub, the average annual home insurance premium is $960, or $80 a month.

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Utilities

And what would a house be without power, gas, water and sewer?  While what is included in utilities can vary if you decide to include things like cable, internet, cell phone, streaming services, etc.  For the sake of this thought experiment we are keeping it to the basics; power, gas, water and sewer.

This is another highly variable category due to consumption patterns and seasons. But after some digging I was able to find a report stating that the average utilities for Canadians are $325 per month.

Property Taxes

The final thing I’m including under housing is property taxes.  As the majority of homeowners (79.5% by some reports) own a single detached property that is the type of property used for our calculations.

The latest Canada property tax information I could find from Statistics Canada is from 1999 so I had to do a bit of creative math here.  I took the 1999 amount ($1861 per year) and plugged it into an inflation calculator.  

So adjusted for inflation, the average property tax on a single detached home in Canada was $2891 per year, or $241 per month.

While this number accounts for inflation in terms of overall total, it doesn’t account for home value appreciation which can greatly increase property tax on top of inflation.

Housing Total

So as a quick recap of the whole housing category, here is the monthly breakdown

  • Mortgage – $1382
  • Insurance – $80
  • Utilities – $325
  • Property Tax – $241
  • Total – $2028
$2028 represents 36.43% of the typical Canadian’s income. 

How Much Does the Typical Canadian Spend on Transportation?

When it comes to transportation, 84% of Canadians own a car, but they only use it for less than an hour a day, according to research done by car share company Turo.  And chances are, that 1 hour of drive time is probably commuting as 74% of commuters use a private vehicle. 

So, I think that it’s safe to say that the typical Canadian owns their own vehicle and drives it to work.  

To keep things simple I’ve already included any car payment amount lumped in with the consumer debt listed below.  But there is more to owning a car than just the car payment.

And it’s important to note that I’m not including any form of depreciation in any of the calculations because it doesn’t affect monthly cash flow.  I’m trying not to take too many liberties and over complicate things.

Other expenses included under transportation are fuel, maintenance, insurance, and miscellaneous.  

Fuel

Gas prices were a lot lower in 2020 than they currently are. And gas consumption will depend on how fuel efficient the vehicle someone drives and of course how far they drive per month. 

According to Statistics Canada, the average annual fuel cost for a Canadian was $1675 in November 2021. Digging a bit deeper and adjusting for the price of fuel per liter difference between then and 2020 we get an annual fuel cost of $1350, or $112.50 per month.

Just looking at that number now at the time of writing and it seems low.  Gas really has become quite expensive as of late.

It’s also important to note that while most people were working from home in 2020, I’ve neglected to adjust for that as it would further complicate things.  The fuel cost is assuming they are commuting to work “like normal,” if there is such a thing anymore.

Maintenance

The older the vehicle, the more maintenance costs you can expect to pay. Assuming our typical Canadian is not driving a brand new vehicle that still has a warranty, and that they are paying for their own oil changes and services, the monthly maintenance cost is $190.

Now, I can appreciate that someone isn’t paying that much every month.  But it’s an average.  If any major work has to get done they will have an expensive month or two which will affect the annual total. And it seems like anytime you take your car into the shop they always find something that needs to get down.

Insurance

According to information from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the average annual car insurance premium is $1156, or $96 per month.  Our typical Canadian (and you too) could look to reduce that by increasing their deductible or removing collision coverage (if it’s included).

Or, if you really want to decrease your car insurance cost, look to move to another province.  In 2020, British Columbia had the highest average annual premium at $1832, while Quebec had the lowest at $717.

Miscellaneous

This sub-category includes things like annual license and registration fees, parking, and road tolls.  It was very difficult to find calculated averages of this for Canada.  It seems that transportation is even more regional than housing.

That being said, I think that $50 a month is a fair number to include for our typical Canadian. And this is the only number in all of the calculations that is not supported by data. So, even if it is not 100% accurate it can act as a margin of error for everything else.

Transportation Total

So as a quick recap of the whole transportation category, here is the monthly breakdown

  • Fuel – $113
  • Maintenance – $190
  • Insurance – $96
  • Miscellaneous – $50
  • Total – $449
$449 represents 8.07% of the typical Canadian’s income.

How Much Does the Typical Canadian Spend on Groceries?

Canada’s Food Price Report has some great statistics when it comes to food costs.  They predict the future of food prices and also breakdown the annual spend by age and sex.

In 2020, a 42 year old female (our typical Canadian) spent $254 per month on groceries.  But keep in mind this number can vary because food prices will differ province to province and even city to town.

I’ve decided not to try and include eating out.  My thought is that eating out would be included in their discretionary spending (beyond the scope of this thought experiment).

How Much Consumer Debt Does the Typical Canadian Have?

Debt gets a lot of media attention because including large numbers or stats can draw in a reader. But not all debt is treated the same, and stats can often be manipulated or misleading. 

Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is interesting. But what they hide is vital.

Aaron Levenstein

Because mortgage debt was included above I have not included it in this section.  This section focuses on consumer debt (car loans, credit cards, etc.).  And since 70% of Canadians have debt, this is an important section to include when describing the financial picture of a typical Canadian.

Not including mortgage debt, in 2020 the average Canadian owed $23,237.  And if we assume a 5% interest rate and payments over 5 years, this translates to a debt repayment amount of about $439 every month.

The Big Picture – Can the Typical Canadian Afford Their Lifestyle?

To get an idea of the whole picture, I only focused on the big 3 expenses, housing, transportation, and food.  And of course I had to include something about debt too as it’s something we can’t ignore.

So How Does it All Add Up?

ExpenseAmount
Mortgage$1382
Home Insurance$80
Utilities$325
Property Taxes$241
HOUSING TOTAL$2028
Fuel$113
Vehicle Maintenance$190
Vehicle Insurance$96
Miscellaneous Vehicle Expenses$50
TRANSPORTATION TOTAL$449
GROCERIES$254
DEBT REPAYMENT$439
OVERALL TOTAL $3170

And for the visual learners (myself included) here is a chart of the income and expenses breakdown.  Anything not accounted for in the big 3 and debt repayment has been classified as discretionary spending.

Discretionary spending would include any other consumer spending, saving, investing, and fun money.

Pie chart showing spending distribution for typical Canadian

How Do You Compare to the Typical Canadian?

Now seeing all of the numbers, and obviously taking them with a bit of a grain of salt (this is a fun post of a thought experiment), how do you compare to the typical Canadian?  

  • Do you earn more? 
  • Are your housing costs more or less? 
  • Have you found ways to spend less on food
  • Are you debt free and therefore don’t have that line item in your budget?
  • How do your transportation costs compare?

Final Thoughts

I am far from the stereotypical Canadian. I don’t own a jean jacket, live in an igloo, or know anyone named Bob or Cindy from Toronto.

But I am a female employed full time. And I own a vehicle (well 3 actually) and a home. So in some ways, I can relate to the typical Canadian.

However, I’m not single. And although I’m fortunate to have family help with childcare when I go to work, I would think adding in childcare expenses to this thought experiment would leave a lot less money for discretionary spending.

What about you? How do you compare to the typical Canadian? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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