As you graduate, land that first job, and start – you know, managing your own money and living an adult life – you’ll find yourself in charge of your finances and all the decisions that come with that. Do you pay off that student debt? Save? Go back to school? Support your family? Invest in a property? This is a time of great change for many people, with little consistency person-to-person. Some are continuing on with education. Others are already progressing in their careers, while others may still be figuring out where their life will take them.
Taking stock and looking around at your social circle, you may start to wonder how you stack up financially, compared to other Canadian peers in your age group. While there is no one-size-fits all lifestyle and you don’t want to get too bogged down by comparisons, here are general guidelines for median net worths per age bracket according to Statistics Canada (StatCan) and their 2019 data (released in 2021). All American net worth values came from CNBC.
But before we dive in, let’s first break down what this data means.
What is net worth?
Your net worth is the value of all the assets that you legally own (such as a car) minus all your debts (such as a student loan).
For these purposes, the calculation is pretty simple: Total Assets – Total Liabilities = Net Worth.
What is median net worth?
In stats terms, a median net worth is the net worth right in the dab smack middle of all the other net worths for that age group (if you recall math class, in a series of 99 numbers, the median is the 50th number). In StatCan terms, this means that once all the net worths are collected and listed, the median net worth is the one in the dab smack middle, meaning that there are an equal number of people on either side of that value.
This net worth is often used because it gives a more realistic view of an age group’s financial situation, as other averages would be obscured by top earners who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth.
If your net worth is higher than the median average noted, it means you are faring better than 50 per cent of your peers in this age group. If your net worth is lower, don’t despair. There are many factors that impact a person’s net worth stage and, of course, this is not a reflection of your inherent value as a human. At the end of the day, if your lifestyle works for you, this is all that counts.
Also worth noting is that this data doesn’t break down the data by gender, race or other demographic factors. It instead looked at the median net worth for the major income recipient in a household – in Canada, the higest earners are still overwhelmingly men (just over 75 per cent), according to 2019 data in this StatCan report. Lacking is the context for any institutional barriers that may come in the way of financial gains.
What are assets and liabilities?
Your assets are your investments and possessions you own that hold monetary value. In other words, any investments, savings, stocks, property and more that belong to you legally.
Liabilities on the other hand are any debts you owe and that you need to repay (i.e. student loan, car or mortgage loans, etc.).
For those under 35: Median net worth is $48,800
Perhaps unsurprisingly, of all the age groups, this age group has the lowest net worth. This is of course not only a period in many young people’s lives where they’re just beginning to earn a steady paycheck and accumulate any net worth to speak of, but many also graduate with student debt. As we know based on the aforementioned calculation, this of course reduces an individual’s total net worth value.
For perspective, our American peers in this same age bracket can claim $13,900 USD to their name.
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For those 35 to 44: $234,400
This is the second-most dramatic jump in net worth of all the age groups. Some factors that may influence this rise is that around this time, people find themselves advancing in their careers, which often comes with a pay increase. If they invested early, their investments also had time to appreciate in value (over a person’s lifetime, these investments can snowball, growing with both compound interest and additional contributions).
Our southern neighbours in the same age group have a median average net worth of $91,300 USD.
For those 45 to 54: $521,100
This is the most dramatic jump in net worth of all the age groups. Here, the trend of progressing in one’s career and accumulating wealth continues into the pre-retirement years. Individuals likely acquired seniority in their roles and built valuable expertise and are likely better compensated for it than earlier on in their careers.
South of the border, those aged 45 to 54 by now have acquired $168,600 USD.
For those 55 to 64: $690,000
Of all the age groups, this is the peak of median net worth wealth. It is the time in many adults’ lives where they haven’t yet depleted their savings as seniors, but have the benefit of likely still earning a regular income at the peak of their seniority in their roles, possibly having paid off the bulk of their debts (such as mortgage debts), and can now claim ownership of any real estate values and other assets as a result.
Here too we outpace our friends south of the border, where their median net worth is $212,500 USD for this age bracket.
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For those 65 and older: $543,200
You may notice that for those in this age bracket the median net worth actually decreases. There is a reason for this: at this point, many seniors are in a phase of their lives where they’ve retired and are collecting their pension and tapping into their savings and investments to subsidize the cost of living. This means that they are depleting their net worth, but still have quite a bit thanks to any assets (such as property) they’ve acquired and paid off.
Americans in this age bracket are divided into two subgroups: Those aged 65 to 74 having a median net worth of $266,400 USD and those 75 and above claiming $254,800 USD.
With housing and real estate costing as much as they do in 2022, it’s hard to imagine this trend continuing for future generations of seniors without some major shifts in how we come into wealth accumulation.