Housing unaffordability paints bleak retirement picture for millennials

Housing unaffordability paints bleak retirement picture

Financial future for millennials is vastly different from that of previous generations, KPMG in Canada poll finds


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What will retirement look like for Millennials? KPMG Survey

Barely half of Canadian millennials think they will ever be able to afford a house, which could have a dramatic impact on their ability to retire, finds a new poll commissioned by KPMG in Canada.

Home ownership has traditionally been a key pillar in funding Canadian retirement plans, but unlike the Gen X and baby boomer generations that preceded them, millennials are finding home ownership is no longer an assumed rite of passage of adulthood and a means of securing their future.

The KPMG Millennials and Retirement poll found that only 54 per cent of millennials will ever be able to afford a home, which would be a big drop from home ownership levels of previous generations. According to data from Statistics Canada, 70.1 per cent of Canadians aged 35-54 and 76.3 per cent aged 55-64 owned a home in 2016.

The poll surveyed 2,500 Canadians, including 1,000 millennials between the ages of 23 and 38.

Key Poll Findings:

  • More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of all Canadians believe home ownership is an investment for financial stability in retirement
  • Only 54 per cent of millennials expect they will ever to be able to afford a home
  • 65 per cent of millennials worry if they buy a home and delay their savings, they won't have enough saved for their retirement
  • 42 per cent of millennials are putting their retirement savings on hold to pay off or down their mortgage
  • Almost two in five (38 per cent) millennial homeowners believe they paid so much for their house that they're afraid that by the time they want to retire, they won't get the same price or more for it

"The financial future for millennials is vastly different from that of previous generations," says KPMG's Martin Joyce, Partner, National Leader, Human & Social Services. "They face unique challenges when it comes to building wealth despite having more education and income, primarily because of housing unaffordability.

"While Canadians generally believe home ownership is essential for a financially stable retirement, most millennials feel times have changed and they can't rely on their home to be a viable nest egg like their parents have."

The reality of soaring house prices and high levels of personal debt has many millennials giving up on the idea of owning a home as their parents did, with 46 per cent calling it a pipedream.

"What we are seeing is that millennials face a choice today that their parents' generation didn't," says Mr. Joyce. "They either buy a home or focus on saving for retirement. Buying a home involves taking on considerable debt because house prices are so high in relation to incomes, and that limits millennials' ability to save. While most feel home ownership is an investment for financial stability, they worry their home will be worth less in the future."

While millennials make more money, partly because they are the most educated generation in history, those who have bought homes are also far more indebted than previous generations, making it harder to save for retirement. According to Statistics Canada, they have a debt-to-income ratio of 216 per cent (meaning they have $2.16 in debt for every dollar of disposable income), which is much higher than Gen-Xers and baby boomers had at their age. In turn, high rents, especially in major urban centres, are also squeezing the younger generation's ability to save for retirement.

When asked to look ahead to 2050 at the future of retirement, all Canadians see a much different landscape from the one enjoyed by the older cohorts today. A large majority thinks more people will remain in the workforce and that Canada will have a retirement age higher than 65.

"We're concerned that millennials will not be in the same position to retire as the generations that preceded them were," says Mr. Joyce. "A variety of factors is hampering their ability to accumulate more wealth and prompting calls for government reform."

Most believe the government should play a greater role in meeting future retirement needs of Canadians.

Other key poll findings include:

  • 77 per cent of all age groups think there will be a "significant shortfall" in retirement savings;
  • 82 per cent say more government benefits/CPP will be needed to support income needs;
  • 89 per cent believe the federal government must do more to protect pension plans for Canadians;
  • 83 per cent believe Canada will need to overhaul its public and private pension and retirement savings systems; and,
  • Nearly all (90 per cent) of millennials believe people will remain in the workforce longer and 84 per cent think the retirement age will be higher than 65.

KPMG in Canada used Methodify, a research automation platform, to study Canadian attitudes. Tables available upon request.


KPMG in Canada Website
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About KPMG in Canada

KPMG LLP, an Audit, Tax and Advisory firm (kpmg.ca) is a limited liability partnership, established under the laws of Ontario, and the Canadian member firm of KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"). KPMG has more than 7,000 professionals/employees in over 40 locations across Canada serving private- and public-sector clients. KPMG is consistently recognized as an employer of choice and one of the best places to work in the country.

The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International, a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity, and describes itself as such.

For more information, please contact:

Caroline Van Hasselt
National Communications
KPMG in Canada
(416) 777-3288

Millennials - Own or Retire? KPMG Survey

© 2021 KPMG LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved.

For more detail about the structure of the KPMG global organization please visit https://home.kpmg/governance.

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