Most Canadian millionaires are Self-Made and almost Half are Immigrants, poll shows

January 22, 2015

Seeking the American Dream? Come to Canada.

In one of the most comprehensive studies of our nation’s affluent, analysts report that two-thirds of Canada’s millionaires are self-made. Strikingly, almost half the nation’s high net-worth individuals are either immigrants or first-generation Canadians, compared to just one-third of millionaires in the U.S., and nearly seven in 10 of them generated their own riches.

“Canada has always been positioned as a place of opportunity; with this study, we’re able to validate that,” said Yannick Archambault, vice-president and chief operating officer of BMO Harris Private Banking, which commissioned the study. “(Immigrants) bring a strong work ethic, a lot of determination and entrepreneurship.”

According to the report, 48% of Canadian millionaires are either immigrants (24%) or first-generation Canadians with at least one parent born outside Canada (24%). Of this group, 68% say their wealth is self-generated.

Analysts also find that the face of prosperity doesn’t necessarily have a five-o-clock shadow. Although males still account for the majority of moneyed Canadians, females represent one-third of those with a net worth topping $1 million – up from just 21% three years ago.

Among these movers and shakers is Susan Niczowski, whose Summer Fresh Salads business tops $100 million in sales; Ann Kaplan, the mother of six behind multimillion dollar company iFinance Canada Inc.; Eveline Charles, founder of the eponymous salon brand; construction mogul Kelsey Ramsden; and Allison Byrne, COO of Rocky Mountain Liquor Inc – a company where two-thirds of the executive and 80% of front-line managers are women.

“Women are more empowered, more knowledgeable and more interested in personal finance now (than in the past),” said Archambault, who describes the trend as the product of educational initiatives promoting women in business, increased female interest in financial markets, changes to family structure (more men staying home with the kids), and government policies encouraging equality.

A federal committee, for instance, is currently developing proposals to boost the number of women with board seats in publicly traded companies, while the Ontario government recently unveiled plans for reforms that would compel companies to disclose their gender equity stance in annual filings.

Other key takeaways from the BMO study:

67% of Canadian millionaires earned their wealth on their own steam; 20% attribute at least part of their affluence to an inheritance; and the remainder came to money in other ways, such as a divorce settlement or through a spouse.

Just 4% of high net worth Canadians are under age 40, compared to 24% of high net worth Americans.

Education is one of the largest predictors of big bucks: eight in 10 Canadian millionaires possess at least an undergraduate university degree, 46% have a graduate or professional degree, 10% have a technical, trade or apprenticeship degree, and just 9% hold a high school diploma or less.

The online survey of 305 Canadian adults with $1 million or more in investable assets was conducted by Pollara March 28 to April 11. A probability sample of this size is considered accurate within 4.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Misty Harris, Postmedia News


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