What Salary is Considered Upper Class in Canada? The Golden Number

upper class in canada

As someone who loves to travel and explore the world, I’ve always been curious about the financial dynamics of different countries. Canada, with its vast landscapes and diverse cities, has always intrigued me. So, what does it take to be considered “upper class” in Canada? Let’s dive in.

Canadian Financial Landscape

Canada, known for its picturesque landscapes and multicultural cities, also presents an interesting financial landscape. The definition of “upper class” varies across countries, and in Canada, it’s closely tied to the country’s economic indicators and living standards.

Median Household Income

According to the National Household Survey conducted in 2011, the average income of the top 10% of Canadians was above $80,400. By 2020, this figure had risen to an average of $160,800 for the top 10%, as reported by Statistics Canada.

The median after-tax income for Canadian households in 2020 stood at $66,800, meaning those in the top 10% earned almost triple the median income.

Cost of Living

Living in Canada isn’t cheap, especially in metropolitan areas like Toronto and Vancouver. On average, the cost of living for a family of four is roughly $4,500 per month, excluding rent. For an individual, this figure hovers around $1,300. However, these numbers can vary significantly based on the province, city, and personal lifestyle choices.

Impact of Taxes on Wealth

Tax in Canada

The Canadian tax rate you pay depends on your income bracket. But ultimately, the more money you make, the more tax you pay. Wealthy individuals often pay the highest tax rate which is usually around 50% when you factor in provincial and federal tax rates.

In addition, the wealthy are required to pay additional taxes, such as luxury tax. So, wealth should always be considered after tax due to the large obligation in Canada.

For your ease of reference, here’s a quick look at federal income tax rates for 2022 across different brackets:

  • Under $50,197 → 15%
  • $50,197 to $100,392 → 20.5%
  • $100,392 to $155,625 →  26%
  • $155,625 to $221,708 →  29%
  • Over $221,708 → 33%

You also have to think about provincial or territorial income tax and can use your combined tax rate to estimate your tax liability. Below are the tax rates for the highest income tax bracket in each province and territory in Canada.

Province/Territory Highest Income Bracket Noted Corresponding Tax Rate
Newfoundland and Labrador $1,000,000+  21.8%
Nova Scotia $150,000+ 21%
New Brunswick $166,280+ 20.3%
Prince Edward Island (PEI) $63,969+ 16.7%
Quebec $112,655+ 25.75%
Ontario $220,000+ 13.16%
Manitoba $74,716+ 17.4%
Saskatchewan $133,638+ 14.5%
Alberta $314,928+ 15%
British Columbia $227,090+ 20.5%
Yukon $500,000+ 15%
Northwest Territories $147,826 14.05%
Nunavut $155,625 11.5%

Defining “Upper Class” in Canada

The term “upper class” often conjures images of luxury cars, sprawling mansions, and extravagant vacations. But in Canada, the definition is more nuanced and closely tied to specific income brackets and net worth.

Income Levels

Canada Income

According to Statistics Canada, the top 1% of Canadians had an average income of $512,000 in 2020. This figure provides a benchmark for what might be considered an “upper-class” income in the country. However, it’s essential to note that this is an average, and the actual threshold can vary based on several factors.

Net Worth

While income is a significant indicator, net worth also plays a crucial role in determining one’s financial status. In Canada, individuals with a net worth of $1 million or more are typically considered to have a high net worth.

Lifestyle and Expenditures

Being “rich” isn’t just about numbers. It’s also about the lifestyle one can afford. For a travel enthusiast like me, being upper class might mean the ability to take multiple international trips each year without financial strain. For others, it could mean owning multiple properties or having access to exclusive events and experiences.

What Professions are Dominant Among the Upper Class in Canada?

In Canada, a significant majority of individuals (87.7%) who fall within the top 1% income bracket predominantly work in the following sectors:

  • leadership roles
  • healthcare
  • business and financial management
  • roles in education, legal fields, social services, community outreach, and governmental services
  • professions in the natural and scientific domains.

These five professional categories encompass 51.9% of the entire Canadian workforce, 77.4% of those in the top 10% income bracket, and 79.7% of those in the top 5%.

Individuals in the top 1% working in healthcare, as well as those in education, legal sectors, social services, community initiatives, and governmental roles, typically possess university degrees. They have average earnings of $333,600 and $365,800, respectively.

On the other hand, those in leadership and administrative roles in business and finance, even though a smaller percentage have university degrees, tend to have higher average incomes, with figures standing at $421,200 and $398,500, respectively.

Factors Influencing Wealth in Canada

Several factors can influence an individual’s financial status in Canada. From educational background to career choices, various elements play a role in determining one’s place in the economic hierarchy.

Education and Career

Education in Canada

While it’s true that most rich Canadians graduate from college or university, Forbes shares a long list of billionaires without a formal university education background. Still, it’s reasonable to assume that a means for education opens doors to high-income careers in medicine and business, for example. In addition, by attending post-secondary education, you are able to socialize and network with like minded individuals.

Financial Literacy

Income in Canada

A study highlighted a positive correlation between financial literacy and wealth. Canadians who grew up discussing money matters are more likely to be financially literate and, consequently, better positioned to accumulate wealth.


 MoneySense tells us 44% of Canadians expect to receive an inheritance. On top of that, the average inheritance amount in Canada is a whopping $100,000 — with an emphasis on the word average. Although, dealing with sudden wealth from an inheritance can be challenging to deal with emotionally.

Wealth Gap in Canada 

Wealth is definitely unequally distributed across Canada. One study reports that the richest 87 Canadian families hold just as much wealth as a shocking 12 million Canadians. In other words, a third of the country carries the same wealth as the richest families. This is known as the wealth gap. Income equality progressed in the 80s and 90s, but a Bank of Canada study notes it’s remained relatively stable over the last 25 years. 

Still, the wealth gap hurts lower-income Canadians the most. Plus, rising costs of living and inflation make it increasingly difficult to come close to what is considered rich in Canada. But that doesn’t mean wealth is unattainable. It’s never too late to set up a strategy to improve your wealth. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What was the average income for the top 5% of earners in Canada in 2020?

In 2020, individuals in the top 5% income bracket in Canada earned an average of $238,500, as reported by Statistics Canada.

2. How much did the top 1% of Canadians earn on average in 2020?

The top 1% of earners in Canada had an average income of $512,000 in 2020, based on data from Statistics Canada.

3. How many Canadians reported an income of $100,000 or more in 2020?

A 2020 study by Statistics Canada revealed that approximately 3 million tax filers had an income of $100,000 or above.

4. Is an annual salary of $120,000 considered substantial in Canada?

Yes, an annual income of $120,000 is deemed to be a good salary in Canada, particularly for individuals. However, it’s essential to note that the cost of living can differ significantly depending on the region, so the location plays a crucial role in determining the adequacy of a salary.

5. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the upper class in Canada?

While many businesses faced challenges during the pandemic, the upper class, especially those with diversified investments, often saw their wealth grow due to surges in certain sectors like technology and healthcare.

6. How does Canada’s upper class compare to that of other countries?

Canada’s upper class is relatively affluent on a global scale, especially when considering quality of life, healthcare, and education. However, in terms of sheer numbers, countries like the U.S. have a higher concentration of billionaires.

7. What role does real estate play in determining one’s financial status in Canada?

Real estate, especially in cities like Vancouver and Toronto, plays a significant role. Many of the upper class have substantial investments in real estate, which has seen consistent appreciation in value over the years.

8. Are there specific regions in Canada where the upper class predominantly resides?

While the upper class can be found throughout Canada, they are more concentrated in urban centers like Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal due to business opportunities and amenities.

9. How does the Canadian government support or regulate the wealth accumulation of the upper class?

The Canadian government has progressive tax policies, ensuring the wealthy pay a fair share. Additionally, there are regulations in place for transparent business practices and wealth accumulation.

Wrapping Up

Being considered “upper class” in Canada is about more than just a number. It’s a combination of income, net worth, lifestyle, and various other factors. As someone who loves to travel, I believe that being financially comfortable is about having the means to pursue your passions without constraints. Whether it’s exploring the Rocky Mountains or dining in Toronto’s finest restaurants, financial freedom is the ultimate luxury.

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