Millionaire nation: Canada tops G7 rich list
NationalPost.com – financialpost.com/economy
May 6, 2011. Eric Lam
If you’ve been feeling like a million bucks lately, you might be onto something: Turns out Canada has a higher proportion of millionaire households than any other G7 country.
The surprising top-rank is based on a Financial Post analysis of a recent report from the Deloitte Center for Financial Services. Using data from Deloitte, the Post compared the number of households with total assets of at least US$1-million with the total number of households in the country and found that for every 100 households in Canada, 12.6 would easily qualify for the local country club.
The United States, in contrast, suffers with only 8.9 millionaire families per 100 households. Germany is dead last with 8.7 millionaire households per 100. Japan is closest to Canada at 11.6 per 100 — if you want to call that close.
But don’t go putting a down payment on that Ferrari just yet.
First, the Deloitte figures have produced an army of Canadian paper millionaires because they include home equity, said Stefane Marion, economist with National Bank Financial.
And as anyone who has tried to buy a home in a major Canadian city in the past few years will tell you, the sustained housing boom and surging Canadian dollar have produced some very lofty housing prices relative to much of the developed world. This divide is especially stark when considering the U.S. real estate implosion following the subprime crisis and subsequent recession that wiped out substantial wealth in the United States.
“There’s a much greater concentration of wealth in a tangible asset, like a house, in Canada,” Mr. Marion said. “You may own the property as an asset, but there’s no cash flow.”
And with 40% of Canadian homeowners owning their home outright with no mortgage, it is no surprise that there is substantial wealth locked into property, he added.
Not too liquid, eh?
“Look, unless you want to live in a cave, or move to another country, you can’t really spend any of that wealth,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist with CIBC World Markets.
Good idea. Time to sell your house and take your mighty loonies to one of those poor loafer countries like Germany. Maybe buy a nice castle on the Rhine and push around your lederhosen-clad servants?
Not quite. Our rich might be legion, but they’re just not all that rich.
While there is a greater proportion of millionaires in Canada than any other major economy, the average millionaire household has assets of about US$1.9-million. This is pretty middle-of-the-pack compared with the United States at US$3.7-million and Switzerland, which tops the list of all counties with US$4.2-million per millionaire household.
Also, it is important to factor in Deloitte’s methodology.
First, there is some variance in the definition of a “household” depending on the country.
Val Srinivas, head of research with the Deloitte Center for Financial Services, said the figures were based on a combination of population data from local government statistics agencies (the 2006 census in Canada’s case) and projections from the United Nations.
“I’d be careful about doing the cross-country comparisons,” Mr. Shenfeld said. “There could be substantial differences in what assets and liabilities qualify from country to country.”
As well, countries with aging populations tend to have more wealth simply because its citizens have had more time to accumulate assets.
So, our lucky 12.6% might not be superrich, or even totally legitimate. But one thing is for sure, they’re richer than the remaining 87.4% of us.
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