Canadians getting richer but deeper in debt, report says

Average household net worth topped $400,000 at the end of 2012, a 5.8 per cent gain to the highest level on record

Debt load increasing even as net worth does, too

Canadians' net worth increased even as their debt loads ticked higher last year, a report suggested Thursday. (Tim Wimborne/Reuters)

A new calculation shows Canadians are getting richer even though they may be among the most indebted in the world.

The report by Environics Analytics says Canadian average household net worth topped $400,000 at the end of 2012 for the first time in history at $400,151, thanks to a 5.8 per cent pickup during the year.

The report attributes the improvement to a 5.4 per cent increase in liquid assets and a 5.1 gain in real estate values, in conjunction with a more modest 3.3 per cent rise in debt.

The new data shows the Canadian households are still richer than their American counterparts, which had a US$381,086 average wealth at the end of 2012.

But the gap is closing. That's because while Canadian household debt rose modestly by 3.3 per cent, in the U.S. debt actually declined by 2.4 per cent last year.

But debt accumulation has slowed markedly since last July, when Ottawa imposed stricter mortgage rules to slow down the housing market.

The Bank of Canada has long warned that Canadian households owe too much, at more than 160 per cent of annual disposable income.

The household wealth calculation does not take into account government debt, which is far higher in the U.S. than Canada.

The data shows households in Regina had the biggest jump in net worth last year, rising 11.2 per cent to $391,826. That was fuelled by the strongest growth in real estate holdings among cities and the second fastest rise in liquid assets, behind Saskatoon, Environics Analytics said.

Hamilton experienced the second fastest growth in net worth among major cities, up 9.5 per cent to $420,515.

Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto remain Canada's wealthiest cities.