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RRSP Basics: What you need to know


With the variety of savings account options available to Canadians today, trying to decide where to save your money can be tricky. Yet if you’re saving for retirement, a Registered Retirement Savings Plan is a popular option. Here’s what you need to know before opening an RRSP.  

What is an RRSP?

Registered Retirement Savings Account (RRSP) is a retirement savings account for Canadians. Your contributions are tax deductible and the income generated within the RRSP are tax-free. With a couple of exceptions (the Homebuyers Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan), taxes are deferred until you withdraw the funds, the idea being that if you wait until retirement to withdraw the funds you’ll be in a lower tax bracket than you were when you made the contribution.

Contributing to Your RRSP

Your RRSP contributions are capped at 18 percent of your previous year’s income, to a maximum of $24,930 for the 2015 tax year less a pension adjustment as noted on your most recent Notice of Assessment. You may make additional contributions if you haven’t used up all of your previous years’ unused contribution room (going back to 1991).

Think of an RRSP as an investment basket in which you can hold different types of investments. GICs, stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and even plain old cash may all be held in your RRSP.

Spousal RRSPs

For some families with spouses in different tax brackets, having the higher earning spouse contributing to a spousal RRSP for the lower earning spouse makes good financial sense. This results in a higher tax refund today and a lower tax rate at withdrawal, assuming today’s lower-taxed spouse is tomorrow’s lower-taxed retired spouse.

Homebuyers’ Plan (HBP)

The Homebuyers’ Plan allows first time homebuyers struggling to come up with a downpayment to make tax-free RRSP withdrawals of up to $25,000 to purchase a home. You will then have 15 years to make equal installment contributions back to your RRSP to replace the funds you withdrew under the program. If you miss a contribution, that year’s amount will be added to your taxable income for the year.

Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP)

Thinking about going back to school full-time to pursue a post-secondary degree or diploma? If so, withdrawing up to $20,000 from your RRSP under the Lifelong Learning Plan may make sense. You can make tax-free withdrawals of up to $10,000 each year to help cover education costs while attending an eligible university or college. You will then have 10 years to make equal annual installment contributions to your RRSP to replace the funds withdrawn under the LLP. If you miss a payment, the amount will be added to that year’s taxable income.


December 31 of the year you turn 71 is the last day you may contribute to your RRSP. After that, it’s time to start withdrawing from your RRSP. You do this by converting your RRSP to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), purchasing an annuity, or both. And remember, while the amount you’re required to take as RRIF or annuity payments depends on your age, your withdrawals will be taxable.

Note: You have until midnight February 29, 2016 to make your 2015 RRSP contribution. To learn more about RRSPs and how they can help you reach your financial goals, visit your local Meridian branch today to talk to one of our knowledgeable financial advisors. ​