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RRSP vs TFSA. Which is better for you?

TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account), RRSP (Registered Retired Savings Plan), TMATC (Too Many Acronyms to Count)…

Ok, we might have made up that last one. But with RRSP season just around the corner, it’s important to be informed on the different savings products available to sock away money for the future. Today we break down what savings product to use, and when.

All about TFSAs.

A TFSA is great because it can be used for short-term savings, like emergency funds, as well as longer term savings like retirement. The beauty of a TFSA is that you can withdraw money from it (tax-free) at any time.

TFSAs can also hold investments. Since many capital gains made on investments within the TFSA remains tax-free, they can be useful as a longer term saving strategy.

All about RRSPs.

RRSPs, on the other hand, were created with the goal of creating a comfortable retirement for you. In other words, your long term goals. Any income (interest) you earn is usually tax exempt as long as it remains in the registered plan. When the money within that portfolio is withdrawn, you’ll start paying tax.

RRSPs are more specific in that they are designed not only to help you save for retirement, but also to help with a new home purchase or your own education. And you can use your contributions over the course of the year to reduce your taxes.

What’s better to invest in – a TFSA or RRSP?

The great thing about RRSPs and TFSAs is that the aim of both is to create a savings plan that works for you.  That being said, they’re both a little different in terms of how they benefit you.

Whether it’s for retirement or for a big purchase, it’s good to weigh which option is best for your current situation while also considering the needs of your future self.

Which one’s best for you.

Here are a few things that differentiate the TFSA and the RRSP.

Age limit.

You can contribute to your RRSP until the end of the year in which you turn 71. On the other hand, there’s no maximum age limit to open or hold a TFSA, and no deadline for your contributions.

However, there’s no minimum age for starting an RRSP, given you have an income. Meanwhile, you can’t open a TFSA until you’re at least 18 years old.


TFSA contributions are not tax deductible, while RRSP contributions – within limits – can be deducted to reduce your taxable income in the year that you make the contribution. The reason there’s a rush to make your RRSP contribution by the contribution deadline (this year it’s March 1) is to ensure a tax break from the previous year. TFSA contributions don’t offer the same immediate tax break.

However, an RRSP shelters your income only temporarily from the tax man. When income is withdrawn – even if it’s years down the road after being converted to an RRIF – it’ll be taxed. With a TFSA, that income remains tax-free even when you withdraw it.

Long vs short term investing.

As previously mentioned, RRSPs are great for saving for long-term (retirement) because most people are in a higher income tax bracket during their working years. So an RRSP will shelter income during those high tax bracket phases of your life. Plus, it’ll allow you to pay the tax when you’re in a lower tax bracket.

A TFSA is often touted as a short-term savings account because there’s no tax consequence for withdrawing.  Just keep in mind that the true power of the TFSA comes when funds are allowed to grow tax-free within the account due to compound interest. So do your best to leave as much of those funds as you can alone for a good, long while.

Contribution limit.

The maximum amount you can contribute to your TFSA in 2018 is $5,500. Any contributions that surpass your contribution room can be subject to tax; however, any unused TFSA contribution room can be carried forward to future years.

On the other hand, you’re able to make a more sizeable annual contribution to your RRSP – 18% of your previous year’s earned income (less any pension adjustments) up to the maximum contribution limit of $26,230 in 2018. Like the TFSA, your unused contribution room can be carried forward to future years. But don’t forget about the March 1, 2018 contribution deadline.

Still can’t decide between a TFSA and RRSP?

Answer a few simple questions here and we’ll help by recommending which investment is best for you. Keep in mind that both of these accounts have limits to how much you can contribute in a calendar year.

If your mind is still flip-flopping over different acronyms, don’t worry. Money matters can confuse the best of us.  A financial advisor can walk you through all that you need to know, and give you a hand picking out the right investment to get you on track for your goals.  Give them a shout.


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Coast Capital® Savings Credit Union provides service and advice related to deposit, loan and mortgage products. Coast Capital Financial Management Ltd. provides service and advice related to insurance, segregated funds and annuities. Worldsource Financial Management Inc. provides service and advice related to mutual funds. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments. Please read the Fund Facts before investing. Mutual funds are not guaranteed and are not covered by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) or by any other government deposit insurer. There can be no assurances that the fund will be able to maintain its net asset value per security at a constant amount or that the full amount of your investment in the fund will be returned to you. Fund values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated.