A registered retirement savings plan (RSSP) is a tax-sheltered way to save for retirement and cut your tax bill. RRSPs can hold investments like bonds, stocks, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.
Any money or contributions within your deduction limit that you put into an RRSP are deductible on your annual tax return. Along with the tax-sheltering, RRSPs provide a tax deferral - this means that you're only taxed when you make a withdrawal.
While RRSPs are a great tool for retirement planning, you can also use them to do things like:
A tax-free savings account (TFSA) can help you save and grow money for any need. TFSAs also hold investments like bonds, stocks, mutual funds and exchange-trade funds.
Money or contributions you put into a TFSA are made with after-tax dollars. This means you’ve already paid income tax on the money you put in your TFSA. So you won’t have to pay tax when you take money out.
Plus, you won’t be taxed on any investment growth in your TFSA. Not even when you take the money out of your TFSA.
You can withdraw funds from your TFSA for any reason, whether it’s for a wedding, a dream vacation, a new home or providing financial aid to your family members.
|What’s the contribution limit?||Your RRSP contribution limit is calculated each year and will appear on the Notice of Assessment you receive after filing your prior year’s taxes. You can also find your exact contribution limit by logging on to your My Account on Canada.ca.||For 2020, the limit is $6,000. You can find your exact contribution limit by logging into your My Account on Canada.ca.|
|Can you carry forward unused contribution room?||Yes.||Yes.|
|Can you regain contribution room after you make a withdrawal?||No (with certain exceptions).||Yes. The amount withdrawn will be added back to your contribution room in the following year.|
|Is a maximum age limit for making contributions?||Yes, you can contribute until December 31 of the year you turn 71.||No.|
|When can I contribute?||You can contribute at any time, as long as you have contribution room. CRA allows contributions made in the first 60 days of the calendar year to be used as a deduction for the prior tax year.||You can contribute at any time, as long as you have contribution room. Again, note that withdrawn amounts will not be added to contribution room until the following calendar year.|
|Are contributions tax deductible?||Yes.||No.|
|Are withdrawals taxable?||Yes.||No.|
|Do withdrawals count as part of my taxable income?||Yes.||No.|
|Is investment growth taxable?||No. Investment growth is tax-sheltered while in the account, but once you withdraw your funds, they are taxable.||No.|
|Is there an opening age limit?||No. You can contribute as soon as you have available RRSP contribution room.||You typically have to be at least 18 to open a TFSA.|
|Do my savings need to be converted into income?||Yes, by the end of the year you turn 71.||No.|
|Can RRSPs and TFSAs affect government benefits like Old Age Security (OAS) or Employment Insurance (EI)?||Yes, the CRA will typically consider funds you withdraw from your RRSP as income. This may impact how much you’ll get for OAS or EI.||No, your government benefits will not be reduced due to the income you earn in your TFSA or the amount you withdraw from your TFSA.|
You may want to save and grow your money in an RRSP and use it in your retired years. You’ll still have to pay the tax further down the road. But by that time, you may not have other financial obligations, like paying off a mortgage, student loans or your child’s education. You may even be in a lower tax bracket at that age, which means you may pay less income tax.
Or, for example in the interim, you may be looking to buy your first home. In this case, you can borrow from your RRSP for the down payment. Learn more about how the RRSP Home Buyers Plan can help you.
You can also use an RRSP to fund you or your spouse’s education under the Lifelong Learning Plan. For more information, visit the Lifelong Learning Plan website.
For short-term goals like buying a car or making a down payment on a house, you may want to consider a TFSA. A TFSA offers tax-free investment growth and lets you withdraw funds at any time, for any reason.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to choose between an RRSP and a TFSA. You can have both.
While the question is simple, arriving at the right answer for your situation can take a little thinking.
Let’s say you fall into this life bracket:
In such a case, here’s a look at what could happen under a couple of different scenarios.
If you invest the $1,000 into your group RRSP at work, you can contribute the full $1,000 pre-tax. That’s because RRSP contributions are tax-deductible. Plus, you can get this tax deduction up front when contributing to a plan such as a group RRSP.
If you want to invest in an RRSP outside of a group plan, you’d:
If you choose to invest in a TFSA, the actual amount you’ll have to invest is $700 ($1,000 less 30% income tax). That's because you contribute to your TFSA using after-tax dollars.
To do the exact math, you’d multiply $1,000 by .30, which gives you $300. Then subtract $300 from $1,000, which leaves you with $700.
So, $700 would be the starting amount in your TFSA account. But the perk is that any investments (e.g. stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.) you have growing in a TFSA will be tax-free.
Let’s say you were hoping to save your contribution for retirement in your 60s. But financial pressures require you to withdraw all of your savings at age 50. Per the charts below:
While what you have in your pocket is virtually identical in either case, the one advantage to a TFSA withdrawal is that you can recontribute the full amount any time starting with the next calendar year – and there’s no loss of TFSA contribution room.
With an RRSP, you don’t get your contribution room back when you make a withdrawal. If you want to recontribute in the future, you’ll need to use unused RRSP contribution room.
If you save and invest your initial contribution until retirement, here’s what you will have when you withdraw the full amount at age 65. Per the chart below:
|Let’s say you contribute $1,000* to an RRSP and it’s grown to $4,322|
|Your tax bracket & RRSP contribution||How much will you have when you withdraw money?|
|30% tax bracket, mid-career in your 30s & your RRSP has grown to $2,079.||$1,455.30|
|40% tax bracket, retired in your 60s with a high income & your RRSP has grown to $4,322.||$2,593.20|
|30% tax bracket, retired in your 60s & your RRSP has grown to $4,322.||$3,025.40|
|20% tax bracket, retired in your 60s with a lower income & your RRSP has grown to $4,322.||$3,457.60|
|*Your initial contribution of $1,000 is before taxes. RRSPs are tax-deferred. This means you don’t have to pay taxes on any money growing in the account until you withdraw funds.|
|Let’s say you contribute $700* to a TFSA|
|Your tax bracket & RRSP contribution||How much will you have when you withdraw money?|
|30% tax bracket, mid-career in your 30s & your TFSA has grown to $1,455.||$1,455|
|40% tax bracket, retired in your 60s with a high income & your TFSA has grown to $3,025.||$3,025|
|30% tax bracket, retired in your 60s & your TFSA has grown to $3,025.||$3,025|
|20% tax bracket, retired in your 60s with a lower income & your TFSA has grown to $3,025.||$3,025|
|*In this case, your original contribution amount was $1,000. But since you contribute to a TFSA with after-tax dollars, your contribution of $1,000 becomes $700 after 30% income tax.|
In the end, the pros and cons of a TFSA vs. RRSP contribution may depend on whether your tax bracket in retirement is lower or higher than it was during your career when you made the initial contribution.
Another factor to consider is that because TFSA withdrawals are not considered taxable income, they don’t affect your eligibility for income-linked government benefits like Old Age Security (OAS). For example, in 2020, if someone age 65 had income over $75,910, some of their OAS benefit would have been clawed back by the government. And, the benefit would have completely disappeared at the $123,386 annual income level.
Many people use both RRSPs and TFSAs to save. But if you’re trying to decide which account to invest in when some extra money comes your way, consider the tax bracket you expect to be in when you hope to make your withdrawal.
You can also consider whether you’ll use key TFSA benefits such as being able to recontribute withdrawals, and not having withdrawals count as taxable income for government benefit purposes.
Need help getting started? An advisor can help put together a solid plan that suits your financial goals and needs. They can also answer questions you may have about TFSAs, RRSPs and your personal finances.
Most advisors now offer to meet Clients virtually by video chat. Find an advisor today.