February 9, 2016 11:48 am
Updated: February 13, 2016 12:20 am

RRSPs 101: 10 must-know things before the deadline

Financial expert Preet Banerjee explores some useful investing tips just in time for RRSP season.

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It’s RRSP season, which means most people will be scrambling to figure out if they should be contributing, what they should contribute and how to go about doing it. Here are 10 things you need to know about RRSPs before the Feb. 29 contribution deadline.

Start early

It may seem crazy to start thinking about your retirement plan when you’re still in your 20s but getting a head start definitely doesn’t hurt. At this age, you’re a lot more likely to have disposable income that won’t be missed so look into how much you are able to contribute and start saving now.

READ MORE: Debt vs. RRSP: What should Canadians put their money towards?

Shop around

Your local bank branch only has a limited number of mutual funds and GICs where you can invest your money. If you have a growing account balance and a good idea of the market, consider a self-directed RRSP. This allows you to select your own stocks, bonds, GICs or mutual funds to invest in giving you more control over how your money will grow.

Get the tax break

The reason everyone starts talking about RRSPs during tax time is because it’s a great way to put some money aside for the future while also enjoying a tax break. Reap the benefits of moving money aside and cutting down your overall payment.

READ MORE: Is your advisor telling you the whole story on fees?

Understand your timing

Just because you can pay your maximum contribution, doesn’t mean that you should. Take a look at what you made this year compared to what you predict your income to look like next year and think about whether it makes sense to contribute the maximum now or to carry some of it over to next year.

Keep an eye on your limit

Each year, your limit will go up. Pay attention to that and be strategic if you plan on making the maximum contribution each year.

READ MORE: 9 easy tips to save $5,000 in 2016

Automate

Instead of worrying about coming up with a lump sum at the end of the year, get automatic deductions taken from salary deposits. At the end of the year the money will already be invested and you won’t even have noticed its absence.

Always contribute

If you already have a pension plan through your work, you’re probably wondering why you should bother with RRSPs. Unfortunately, most pension plans do not cover the full cost of retirement and even top ups from CPP and Old Age security often leave you a little short changed. Contributing to your RRSP is like having a little nest egg – just in case!

READ MORE: The 7 deadly sins of financial planning

Carry over

If it doesn’t make sense for you to make the maximum contribution this year, carry it over to next year.

Don’t touch it

Resist the urge to make any withdrawals before retirement. Though “penalty-free” incentives like the Home Buyers’ and Lifelong Learning plans can be tempting, you will permanently lose the contribution room from making the withdrawal.

Watch it grow

One of the great things about RRSPs is that money benefits from accelerated growth within the account. Unlike a regular savings account (where interest is taxed each year), the funds are only taxed upon removal so as long as you leave them in there, they will grow unhindered.

Want to learn more? Click here for more of Slice’s financial tips. Also be sure to check out Robyn K. Thompson’s site Golden Girl Finance for up-to-the-minute RRSP tips and tricks. 

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