Helping you understand what sets these two savings options apart
With so many savings options available, it can be challenging to find the right fit for your needs.
Registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) are two popular savings vehicles. Both options are government registered and provide tax-advantaged savings.
What savings vehicle will work best for you depends on a number of factors, like your age, income, tax rate and future cash flow needs. Understanding the differences and benefits of both options will help you make the best decision for you, now and in the future.
The registered savings benefit
When you put money into a registered or non-registered account, it’s like planting a seed to grow a tree. Income generated from investments held within a non-registered account is usually taxed every year. Gains in the value of investments held within a non-registered account are also taxable when sold. It’s like pruning the tree, slowing some of its growth.
This isn’t the case with money held within an RRSP or TFSA, and the difference can quickly add up. This characteristic of registered accounts can help your money grow faster – it’s like watering the tree. The unique tax treatment of RRSPs and TFSAs, and the benefit of compounded growth, can mean a significant difference to your investments over time. Let’s take a closer look.
Contributions to an RRSP give you an upfront tax benefit. You’ll receive a tax receipt for the contribution amount which can offset your income when filing your annual income taxes. It’s almost like paying yourself twice; you pay into your savings plan for your future and you get an immediate tax break.
Any gains in the value of the investments in an RRSP are tax deferred. You’ll only pay income tax on this money when it’s withdrawn from your RRSP at a later date. If you wait to withdraw money from your RRSP until retirement, you’ll likely pay lower taxes because your annual income may be less than when you were working.
Unlike RRSPs, TFSAs don’t give you an upfront tax benefit. TFSA contributions are made with after-tax dollars. Any increase in the value of your TFSA is tax free. You won’t pay any taxes on money you withdraw at a later date.
RRSP Tax Benefits
Narrator: You’ve probably heard a lot about RRSPs,
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Narrator: Like how they’re not worth it if you have to pay tax once you’re retired?
Description: Text “RRSPs aren’t worth it if you have to pay taxes.” appears.
Narrator: But that’s not entirely true.
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Narrator: A lot of people might focus on the taxes that come with an RRSP –
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Narrator: but don’t worry, it’s better than you think.
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Narrator: If you make annual contributions to an RRSP,
Description: Money falls into an egg, sitting in a nest.
Narrator: you may pay less tax at the end of the year,
Description: A calculator appears. Paper is printed from calculator that reads “Less tax.”
Narrator: Which helps you save money year to year.
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Narrator: Now let’s fast forward a bit – if you’re retired and ready to make regular withdrawals from your RRSPs, your income will likely be lower,
Description: A clock hand moves forward in time. A beach chair unfolds. One coin falls into frame, bounces the chair and rolls out of frame.
Narrator: Which means your tax rates will be lower on those withdrawals –
Description: The coin continues, and bounces over a calculator.
Narrator: so you won’t be paying as much tax as you might think.
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Narrator: So who said RRSPs aren’t worth it if you have to pay tax when you’re retired?
Description: Text “RRSPs aren’t worth it if you have to pay tax” appears.
Narrator: Learn more about how you can benefit from an RRSP.
Description: Text “Learn more about how you can benefit from an RRSP.” appears with Freedom 55 Financial logo and legal lines.
Until what age can you contribute?
- Must be 18 or older.
- Valid social insurance number required.
- Must be a resident of Canada.
- You can make contributions every year, regardless of age.
Annual contribution limits and deadlines
You can contribute up to $26,010 or 18 per cent of your earned income for 2019, whichever is less. The RRSP contribution deadline for the 2018 tax year is Mar. 1, 2019. Contributions made after this date will result in a tax receipt for 2019.
You can contribute a maximum amount of $6,000 for the 2019 tax year. There’s no deadline for contributions to a TFSA.
Unused contribution room
Did you miss a contribution opportunity in a previous year? Don’t sweat it – you can carry RRSP contribution room forward until you’re 71 and you can carry TFSA contribution room forward indefinitely. On January 1 of each year, your contribution allowance for that year resets. You can make a contribution for the new tax year, and you can catch up on unused room.Footnote 3
What’s best for me?
There’s no hard and fast rule on which type of savings account is better. Both RRSPs and TFSAs are good choices for long-term savings, but there are a few key factors to consider when making a decision:
- If you’ll need to withdraw money in the near future, a TFSA is better suited for meeting short-term goals.
- If you’re able to maximize contributions to both account types, this generally makes more sense than putting money into a non-registered account.
- If you must choose one option, consider whether your total annual income is likely to increase or decrease over time.
- If you expect your income to increase, it may be a good strategy to contribute to a TFSA now, when you’re paying less income tax.
- Contributing to an RRSP later when you’re earning a higher income may give you a bigger upfront tax receipt at that time.
The sooner you start contributing to an RRSP or TFSA, the greater the growth potential. Your tree has more time to grow. Your financial security advisor or investment representative can work with you to help determine an approach that suits your situation best.
Learn more about the different ways to save using an RRSP or TFSAOpens in a new window.
Find out ways to use your RRSP or TFSA savingsOpens in a new window for more than just retirement.
The information provided is based on current laws, regulations and other rules applicable to Canadian residents. It is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication. Rules and their interpretation may change, affecting the accuracy of the information. The information provided is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for advice in any specific situation. For specific situations, advice should be obtained from the appropriate legal, accounting, tax or other professional advisors.