Seniors richer than a generation ago

By Staff | July 11, 2014 | Last updated on July 11, 2014
2 min read

Seniors today have never been better off financially, and are four times richer than their parents were at the same age in the mid-1980s, says a report from BMO Economics.

“Many Canadians 65 years and older have benefited from strong equity, bond and real estate markets, rising participation in the workforce, and higher pension benefits,” says Sal Guatieri, senior economist, BMO Capital Markets.

Read: Vacations top list of savings goals

The study also found that Millennials (those aged 25-34 years) are on a somewhat firmer footing than their parents were at the same age, in terms of jobs, wealth and income, but they’re juggling increased debt and higher housing costs.

“The financial position of young families has improved since the 1980s, but has greatly lagged seniors. Barring a high-paying job, most young people will be pressed to replicate the financial success of their grandparents and parents,” says Guatieri.

Read: Boomers worry about outliving savings

The study also finds that about twice as many seniors work today than three decades ago, doubling the employment rate for that age group to 13%. Since overall labour force participation has increased, seniors are having a harder time finding jobs because of more competition. Unemployment among seniors has nearly doubled since the mid-1980s, although it’s much lower than for other age groups.

Seniors have increased their spending power faster than people aged 55-64 and 25-34 years. Adjusted for inflation, the median income of people 65 and older rose 40% to $23,700 in 2011 from $16,900 in 1984.

Median net worth of households headed by someone aged 65 and older rose more than four-fold (312%) to $460,700 in 2012 from $111,693 in 1984 (in constant 2012 dollars).

Canadian equity returns, including dividends and after inflation, rose more than twice as fast in the past three decades than in the similar period before the mid-1980s.

Read: MFDA website adds section for seniors

Today, the typical senior is nearly nine times richer than the typical millennial, a wealth gap between similar age groups that has more than doubled since 1984.

The home ownership rate for seniors is at 70.8% for 2012 compared to 61.2% in 1984. This implies strong demand for renovations, with seniors spending more on maintenance than other age groups.

A growing number of households headed by a senior have mortgages (12.1% in 2012 vs 8.3% in 1984). The share of seniors with some type of loan has increased from 42.5% in 2012 to 26.1% in 1984. Still, the amount of debt held by a senior is small at $18,000 in 2012, a fraction of total assets ($479,000) and less than annual income. staff


The staff of have been covering news for financial advisors since 1998.