Every year thousands of Canadians rush to make a last-minute Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution before the inevitable deadline.

How do you know the decisions you are making are right for your financial future?

Consider these RRSP strategies

Step One: Contribute Early

Make your contribution as early in the year as possible. Tax-deferred compounding makes those early dollars grow dramatically. Early in life, and early in the calendar year; both make a positive difference.

Step Two: Contribute the Maximum

Take advantage of compounding and get the maximum tax break by contributing your limit. In respect of the 2020 tax year, you can invest up to 18% of your previous years earned income, to a maximum of $27,230, less your pension adjustment or past service pension adjustment. Remember, while you can “carry forward” any unused contribution room to subsequent years (until age 71), you can never replace the lost growth opportunity. Contact CRA directly to obtain your Notice of Assessment.

Step Three: Invest Monthly

Many investors find it easier to reach their annual RRSP maximum by making contributions every month. You may find it easier to have the RRSP contribution automatically deducted from your bank account each month, or you may choose to belong to a Group RRSP and make your RRSP contribution by payroll deduction through your employer. Remember, it’s a good idea to increase your monthly contribution if your income rises, and be sure to keep up with inflation.

Step Four: Contribute to a Spousal RRSP

A spousal RRSP allows the spouse with the higher income to contribute to an RRSP owned by the lower-income spouse. The spouse with the higher income takes the immediate tax deduction, but the money in the RRSP should be taxed in the other spouse’s hands, usually at a lower rate, when it is withdrawn later into retirement. This is an excellent way to income split in retirement and reduce your combined tax rate.

Step Five: Diversify

Different types of investments react differently to economic events. By diversifying your portfolio and holding various types of investments, you protect yourself against the day-to-day fluctuations in any one category. To achieve long-term growth you should diversify. Some investors limit themselves to fixed-income investments. The biggest danger with conservative type investments is inflation which can erode your purchasing power. If this sounds like you, consider a small amount of diversifying into growth-oriented securities – such as equities and equity mutual funds – to earn returns that can protect you against inflation and provide long-term growth potential.

Step Six: Resist the ‘dip’ into your RRSP

Usually there is nothing to prevent you from accessing the money in your RRSP – but consider the consequences before you do so. First of all, withdrawals attract tax at your marginal tax rate. Tax withholding at the time of the RRSP withdrawal may be as low as 10%, or as high as 30%, but you should determine how much more tax you’ll have to pay when you file your tax return. Secondly, you cannot restore the lost contribution room. The amount you can contribute to an RRSP in your lifetime is limited and a withdrawal erodes some of this potential.

Special circumstances can help you access money in your RRSP without these consequences. The Home Buyer’s Plan and Life Long Learning Plan allow tax-free withdrawals with the ability to re-contribute. However, even in these plans there is no ability to replace the tax-deferred growth that was lost when you made the RRSP withdrawal.

Step Seven: Consolidate your Investments

If you are the type of investor who doesn’t want to spend a great deal of time managing several plans, you may want to consolidate your investments into one portfolio. Yes, you should have a diversified portfolio of investments working for you, but you can usually combine them under one RRSP umbrella. This strategy also means you will get one consolidated statement, which may make it easier to track your plan.

Step Eight: Designate a Beneficiary

Consider who should be designated to receive the plan assets in the event of your death. Without a designated beneficiary, the account will go through your estate and be subject to probate and other fees. You should talk to us about the tax and other consequences of designating a beneficiary to your RRSP. Who you appoint as beneficiary is also very important, as there are different rules depending on if it is a spouse or other party. This strategy does not apply in Quebec.

Step Nine: Get Expert Help

We are here to help you make the right long-term investment decisions. Together, we should review your plan at least once a year to make sure that it is still on track with your long-term goals.

Step Ten: Have a Plan

Investing, whether in an RRSP or non-registered, is part of a financial plan, but it is important to clearly understand that investing alone is not a plan. If we have yet to work together to build your personal financial plan, call or email us today to get the ball rolling towards achieving your retirement and other financial goals.