Vancouverites rich, Calgarians in the hole

The new Environics Analytics' Wealthscapes 2010 report reveals who's got debt and who's cash-rich: find out how much Canada's top cities and provinces are worth.

Vancouver has a lot to brag about. Not only is it one of the most beautiful and livable cities in Canada, it is also ranked as the wealthiest with a net worth of $572,988 – the highest in the country.

But according to Environics Analytics’ latest report, WealthScapes 2010, which measures the assets, liabilities and wealth of Canadians, Vancouver’s growth seems to be stagnating as its net worth grew at 3.1%, one-third less than the 4.6% national average. Vancouver households are also facing new financial pressures, seeing average debt increase by 6.4% to $158,372, and declining real estate values, which dropped by 0.6%.

WealthScapes 2010, which includes information available up to December 2009, compiles data from more than 80 financial and investment statistics reports, and breaks them down to census-area level. The report is meant to help businesses and marketers better understand the financial situation of key target neighbourhoods, and consumers’ ability to bounce back from an economic downturn, according to Catherine Pearson, vice president and leader of the financial services practice at Environics Analytics.

Toronto vs. the West

Due to a strong real estate market, Toronto is the second-richest city in the country according to its net worth figures, knocking off last year’s second-place winner, Calgary. During 2009, Calgary suffered a 3.7% drop in real estate value while Toronto’s real estate holdings increased by 2.3%.

Toronto’s average household net worth is $531,621, just a tad bit more than Calgary’s $526,534. Calgarians are also fond of taking risks with their money: Calgarians had the lowest amount of dough locked up in savings bonds and deposits (29.4%), but while they have a lot of cash ($287,944 liquid assets per household), they also have the highest debt: $184,850 per household.

The average amount of liquid assets in Toronto and Vancouver is $287,944 and $287,406, respectively.

Quebec City, meanwhile, is the least affluent of the 10 largest cities in Canada with an average household net worth of $212,078. However, Quebec City’s net worth grew by 10.3% between 2008 and 2009 – faster than any other major city. This improvement was due to a major real estate boom in the city, as property values jumped 7.9% last year (compared to the 1.8% national average).

Talking debt and savings

In the years leading up to the slowdown in 2008, Canadians increased their debt load by 10.2% annually, according to Wealthscapes 2010 data. But last year, in part due to low interest rates, Canadian households borrowed on average just 5.7% more than the previous year – nearly half the pre-2008 debt growth rate. Ontario and Nova Scotia had the lowest increases in debt at 4.8% and 4.6%, respectively.

When it comes to savings, residents of Saskatchewan and Newfoundland households were the biggest penny-pinchers, with an average increase in liquid assets of 11.9% and 7.4%, respectively. Alberta households continued to invest in riskier vehicles such as stocks and mutual funds (69% of their portfolios) while Newfoundlanders kept 55.9% of their portfolios in safe bank deposits and bonds.

Ontario households placed their savings in traditionally safe short- and medium-term bank deposits, up 7.8% to $90,312 per household – the highest holdings in Canada.

Wealth by province

The average net worth of Canadians grew 4.6% last year to $351,282. British Columbia is still the wealthiest province, with an average net worth of $489,812, while Alberta is in second place with average net worth of $415,712.

Ontario, however, is getting ready to make a comeback as an economic powerhouse. Currently in third place in net worth ranking, Ontario is closing in on Alberta with an average net worth per citizen of $403,194, but it is expected to surpass the west by 2011 if it maintains its robust growth, which is 4.7%, while Alberta’s is just 2.1%.