Canadian households owed $2 trillion at the end of 2016

Debt levels continue to hit record highs in this country, but Canadians' net worth is also rising as the value of assets increases.

Net worth also rising, according to Statistics Canada report

Canadians are borrowing more, but they aresaving more too, according to Statistics Canada data released Wednesday. (iStock/Getty Images)

Debt levels continue to hit record highs in this country, but Canadians' net worth is also rising as the value of assets increases.

The information is contained in a Statistics Canada report released Wednesday on how much Canadians owe, and what they're buying with their borrowed money.

The much publicized debt-to-income ratio — how much we owe, compared to how much we earn — inched up to 167.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016, a new high.

That means for every dollar of Canadians' disposable income, they owe almost $1.67 in debt.

"The debt-to-income ratio was up 2.4 percentage points in 2016 overall, marking the fastest annual growth since 2010," TD Bank economist Diana Petramala observed after the numbers came out. "Gains in real estate asset values, however, helped keep most other ratios of indebtedness stable."

All in all, Canadian households owed $2,028.7 billion at the end of 2016. That figure rose by nearly $30 billion in the last three months of 2016, and about two-thirds of the new debt came in the form of mortgages.

Canadians now owe $1,329.6 billion on their mortgages, and $596.5 billion in consumer debt such as credit cards.

Still, on a per capita basis, the typical household was worth $281,300 at the end of 2016, due to a 1.2 per cent quarterly increase in the value of financial assets like stocks, bonds and mutual funds, coupled with a 0.9 per cent increase in the value of non-financial assets, which would include real estate.

"As home prices accelerate in some parts of Canada, particularly in Ontario, households have been getting a nice boost to their net wealth," Petramala said. "Debt growth has accelerated somewhat, but it is not growing at the double-digit pace that would typically be considered dangerous." 

The savings rate also ticked up to 5.8 per cent during the period, from 5.5 per cent.


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