Between 1999 and 2012, the value of debt and assets held by Canadian families both rose. However, the debt and assets increased at different rates by category of family.

In 2012, 71% of all Canadian families had some debt, up from 67% in 1999. Debt includes both mortgages and consumer debt such as car loans, lines of credit, vehicle loans, personal loans and student debt.

Between 1999 and 2012, the median debt held by indebted families—the value separating the top half of families with the most debt from the bottom half—increased by $23,400 (in 2012 constant dollars) to $60,100.

To provide a complete perspective on household finances, it is important to also examine changes in the value of assets among families with debt.

The median assets of Canadian families with debt rose by $179,800 over the same period (in 2012 constant dollars) to $405,200. Assets include financial assets (employer pension and non-pension) and non-financial assets such as real estate assets.

Such results suggest that the value of assets rose at least as rapidly as the value of debt for many Canadian families. In fact, median assets increased by 80% while median debt was up by 64%.

Even though both debt and assets increased for nearly all types of families, the magnitude of the changes was not necessarily the same in all family categories.