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Money Talks: Emphasizing Wealth in Household Finances 

Report Highlights


Definition of household wealth: The difference between the value of total household assets, which consist of financial and non-financial assets, and total household debt, which consists of mortgage and consumer credit.

Accumulating wealth is not a high priority for most Canadian households.

  • Over 70 per cent of households do not view wealth accumulation as very important.
  • More than one quarter (29 per cent) of households report to have no wealth. Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of households with no wealth do not expect to improve their wealth situation in the next three years.
  • The two most often-cited reasons for not being able to accumulate wealth are the current level of income and the need to honour other financial obligations.
  • An overwhelming majority (80 per cent) of Canadians who are building wealth say they will consume at least part of it in the next three years. Younger rather than older households are more likely to think they will tap into their wealth.

Many Canadians are satisfied with how much wealth they have accumulated, but often are unaware of how much wealth they have. Little attention is paid to changes in the economic environment, which can affect household wealth.

  • 42 per cent of Canadians are satisfied with the wealth they have accumulated, but more than half (51 per cent) say they calculated their wealth a year or more ago, never, or could not recall.
  • Only four in ten (39 per cent) households engaged in refining their saving and investment strategy in the past 12 months; even less – 31 per cent – developed or tuned their retirement planning.
  • Some 28 per cent of households that held financial investments monitor the performance of their investments only once a year or more seldom.
  • One quarter (26 per cent) of households say they don’t usually monitor any of the key external factors that could impact their wealth.

Canadian households are reluctant to engage in active savings, even when additional funds may be available.

  • The household savings rate plummeted from its peak of 19.9 per cent in the early 1980s to 3.8 per cent at the end of 2012.
  • 25 per cent of Canadian households said they have never or almost never made savings contributions.
  • Difficulties in allocating funds to savings are apparent: over the past 12 months, three in ten households (29 per cent) never or almost never had money left over after paying essential expenses.
  • Only one fifth (21 per cent) of mortgage holders increased the amount of mortgage payments or made lump sum contributions to pay off mortgage faster over the past year. Refinancing a mortgage to decrease the amortization period is yet a less popular measure.
  • Even when additional funds are available, i.e. due to lower interest rates, Canadians seem to be more likely to use the funds for consumption rather than wealth accumulation.

Financial vulnerability of households increased as they continue to heavily rely on the appreciation of assets when accumulating wealth.

  • The composition of household assets shifted away from lower-yielding, lower risk assets towards higher-risk and more volatile holdings in equity and investment funds shares. This reduced the buffer of lower risk funds available for households in the event of adverse economic shocks.
  • The increased volatility of the value of household assets curbed considerably the overall pace of wealth accumulation and increased the uncertainty of its outcomes. The average year-to-year rate of growth of wealth slowed down from 3.9 per cent in the 1990s to 2.6 per cent in the 2000s.
  • The well above average level of the household debt-to-assets ratio and constantly increasing debt-to-disposable income ratio indicate that both households’ short-term and long-term vulnerability have increased.

Recommendations

We encourage Canadians to be more proactive in building their wealth. Educating yourself on how you can build wealth given your own personal circumstances is the first step in strengthening household finances. Obtaining advice from financial professionals may also be useful. Anecdotal evidence suggests that patients often ‘do their homework’ before attending a doctor’s appointment, search Google, Wikipedia and other websites; adopting a similar approach to financial wellbeing would be beneficial.


Survey Methodology

A public opinion survey was commissioned by CGA-Canada to examine the attitudes of Canadian households to wealth accumulation .The survey was administered by Ipsos Reid from September 14 to 21, 2012. The interview questionnaire was designed by CGA-Canada in collaboration with senior staff of Ipsos Reid and pre-tested. The sampling methodology was designed to accommodate an online interview process, with respondents making up a representative sample of Canadian adults aged 25 years and over. The survey sample was drawn using Ipsos Reid’s online panel; a total of 1,805 online interviews were conducted with households living in the 10 Canadian provinces. With this sample size, sampling error of plus or minus 2.31% is produced at a 95% confidence level (19 times in 20).

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CGA-Canada | Last Updated: May 22, 2013

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Money Talks: Emphasizing Wealth in Household Finances