RRSP vs. TFSA

Not sure whether to put your savings in an RRSP or a TFSA?

These charts from Sun Life can help you compare the two and decide what's right for you. And, contributing to both also has its benefits. Here’s what you need to know.

Not sure whether to put your savings in an RRSP or a TFSA?

These charts from Sun Life can help you compare the two and decide what's right for you. And, contributing to both also has its benefits. Here’s what you need to know.

RRSP & TFSA Basics: How it works

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:

  • buy your first home,
  • go back to school and
  • split your income with your spouse.

Find out how you can use an RRSP to achieve your financial goals.

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.

Find out how you can use a TFSA to achieve your financial goals.

Contributions towards an RRSP and a TFSA

Question RRSP TFSA
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.

Taxable benefits of an RRSP and a TFSA

Question RRSP TFSA
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.

Opening an RRSP and a TFSA & how it affects your government benefits

Question RRSP TFSA
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.

When might a RRSP or TFSA be right for you?

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. 

Want to learn more about RRSPs and TFSAs?

Comparing RRSPs and TFSAs: Which one meets your needs and goals?

View this graphic to see how each one can impact important stages in your life.

RRSP vs. TFSA

RRSP vs. TFSA

Life doesn’t have to be a marathon or a sprint.

To help you invest and save money at your own rhythm, we’ve mapped out two routes: RRSP and TFSA. Both have their perks, but which best suits your life’s journey?

On your marks, get set, go!


Looking for your dream home?

Borrow up to $35,000 from an RRSP for a first down payment if you’re a first-time home buyer.

Use TFSA funds for a down payment or make mortgage payments at your own pace – without worrying about tax.


Want to settle down?

You don’t want a tax hit when you’re just starting off. So try to avoid RRSPs withdrawals until you’re further down the road – like after you retire.

Say “I do” to growing your money in a TFSA. Make tax-free withdrawals to pay off a wedding, honeymoon, or couples vacation.


Trying to start a family?

Start building your nest egg while taking care of your family. Keep your RRSP contributions going.

Make TFSA withdrawals to help cover new baby expenses and the cost of raising children.


Planning to travel?

You’re better off using TFSA to save for travel. That way, you can avoid a huge tax hit.

Save up money tax-free in a TFSA and use it to fund your solo, family or couples travel plans.


Returning to school?

Got the itch to go back to school? Borrow up to $10,000 per year from your RRSP with the RRSP Lifelong Learning Plan.

Use your TFSA funds to pay tuition fees, then carry forward unused contribution room to save money after graduation.


Getting ready for retirement?

As you approach retirement, max out your RRSP contributions each year.

Continue to grow your money in a TFSA and pull funds when you’re ready to retire.


Starting retirement?

Save money in your RRSP until age 71. When you retire (at 65, 71, or whenever), there’s a good chance your income (and tax bracket) will be lower. This means you’ll pay less tax when making RRSP withdrawals.

Want or need to keep working a bit longer? There’s no maximum age limit for you to contribute to a TFSA. Use your TFSA as a source of retirement income whenever you want.


Planning on leaving a legacy?

RRSPs give you flexibility to transfer funds with little or no tax to a qualified beneficiary. This way, you can leave your loved ones with some financial protection after you die.

Your TFSA earnings remain tax-free even after death. Plus, you can name a beneficiary on almost all TFSA accounts. This way, you can leave money to your loved ones outside of your will.

 

 

Need help figuring out what’s right for you?

An advisor can help put together a solid plan that suits your goals.