Planning ahead: Preparing for retirement

Hand putting Coins in glass jar with retro alarm clock for time to money saving for retirement concept

Most Canadians aspire to having a happy and comfortable retirement. Achieving this goal requires proper financial planning and wise investment decisions. One of the commonly used investment vehicles to achieve this goal is a registered retirement savings plan. However, the question remains if this traditional investment method still holds merit.

It’s that time of year when we contemplate our financial future and decide whether to invest in an RRSP. Contrary to popular belief, the RRSP season doesn’t start in late winter. Ideally, it’s best to start making contributions within the first 60 days of the new calendar year.

What is an RRSP and how do they work?
An RRSP is a government-registered retirement savings plan in Canada designed for individuals to contribute funds with the specific aim of saving for their retirement. Advantages of investing in an RRSP include:
Tax-deductible contributions,
The option to make early withdrawals for a first home purchase,
Compounded growth, and
The flexibility to convert an RRSP to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) for structured periodic payments as early as age 55.

An RRSP must be opened before the age of 71 as stipulated by the Canada Revenue Agency. The annual contribution limit for RRSPs is set at 18% of the previous year’s earned income or a maximum dollar limit, whichever is lower. For 2024, the maximum contribution limit is $31,560. Exceeding this limit by more than $2000 will result in a 1% per month tax penalty on the excess contributions.

Withdrawals from your RRSP before turning 71 years of age will incur withholding tax. The exact rate of tax depends on your province of residence. It is important to note that early withdrawals must be declared as income on your tax return and they will be taxed at your marginal tax rate. Additionally, withdrawals from an RRSP can result in permanent loss of the contribution room.
Starting RRSP contributions early in life can help you leverage the power of time and compound interest. This means that your investments have more time to grow, potentially resulting in a more substantial retirement fund. Additionally, early contributions allow you to take advantage of tax-deferred growth, which means that you can reduce your taxable income now and enjoy the benefits of tax-sheltered growth until retirement. Ultimately, starting an RRSP early can help you lay the foundation for a more secure retirement. Use the ASC’s RRSP calculator to see how contributing often and early can benefit your retirement plan.

What types of RRSP options exist for investors?
If you are considering opening an RRSP account, it’s crucial to know the available options to make an informed decision for your financial journey. Essentially, you need to decide whether you want to invest individually or in collaboration with others.

Individual RRSP: An individual RRSP is registered in your name, providing exclusive ownership of the investments and associated tax benefits. This option is ideal for those seeking full control and ownership over their RRSP portfolio. Consider choosing a self-directed RRSP if you prefer to make investment decisions on your own. With a self directed RRSP, you have the flexibility to purchase and sell various qualified investments, such as GICs, bonds, mutual funds, and more. However, keep in mind that commissions on transactions apply, similar to a non-registered brokerage account. Additionally, an annual administration fee may be applicable. Learn more about the different types of investments available to you.

Group RRSP: A Group RRSP is a retirement savings plan that your employer offers. It may come with some enticing benefits, such as matching contributions – which means your employer will contribute to your RRSP too, essentially free money for your retirement savings. Additionally, you may also enjoy lower management fees on the investments held within your RRSP, and the convenience of automatic contributions directly from your pay cheque.
Spousal RRSP: A spousal RRSP is an account designed to benefit couples by allowing income splitting during retirement. Contributions made by the higher-earning spouse generate tax deductions, while withdrawals are attributed to the lower-earning spouse, potentially reducing overall tax liabilities.

Each option caters to specific needs and preferences, providing flexibility in aligning your RRSP with your unique financial goals. Consulting with a financial advisor can further guide you in making an informed choice tailored to your circumstances. Additionally, it’s worth exploring other tax-advantaged accounts like Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA). TFSAs prove advantageous, particularly for those with income taxed at lower rates or anticipating increased income in the future. To learn more about financial planning and investing basics, visit

Damilola Ibirinde
Advisor, Investor Awareness & Education
Alberta Securities Commission
Suite 600, 250-5th Street SW, Calgary, AB, T2P 0R4
Phone: 403.355.1504
Fax: 403.297.6156