Group RRSPs (GRRSPs)
Group registered retirement savings plans (GRRSPs) are essentially RRSPs that are set up by employers. These can come with benefits such as contribution matching (sometimes referred to as a “top up”) and automatic payroll deductions, so your contributions are handled for you on an ongoing basis. If a GRRSP with contribution matching is available through your employer, this should be the first place you invest for your retirement. Note that amounts you contribute to a GRRSP count against your annual RRSP limit.
What kinds of investments can I hold inside my RRSP?
There’s a wide variety of investments you can hold inside an RRSP—and you don’t have to stick to just one, or even two. Depending on your investment horizon (the amount of time until you need to draw money from your RRSP in retirement), risk tolerance and other personal factors, using a mix of low-risk savings accounts and GICs for safety, along with perhaps some exchange-traded funds and even individual stocks for growth, can offer diversification.
Note that not every kind of investment can be held in an RRSP. Non-qualified investments include: Investing in businesses in which you hold an interest of 10% or higher, precious metals that are not gold or silver, commodity futures, private holding companies or private foreign corporations, your own debt, and personal property.
The most straightforward way to save your money is to put it in a savings account. While this will yield a lower interest than other forms of investment, it is also a no-risk decision. What’s more, you can always decide to take the accessible cash you have in your RRSP and use it to purchase other investments within the same RRSP accounts down the road. So, if you are still trying to sort out which investments are best for you, you can walk into any major bank or financial institution tomorrow and start deferring your taxable income right away.
Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs)
Guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) are another very low-risk investment that you can set up within an RRSP at any bank or financial institution. GICs offer a guaranteed rate of investment on predetermined terms. You could buy a 1-year GIC that would pay, let’s say, a 1.0% rate, or a 5-year GIC that would pay 2.0%. One main drawback is that interest earned on GICs is usually subject to tax rates that can be as high as 50%. When GICs are held within an RRSP, however, they are sheltered from those taxes.
Professionally managed mutual funds are a popular choice offered at major banks and financial institutions for RRSP investments. Mutual funds are made from a variety of investments that are bundled together in one fund. This makes it easier for your investments to be diversified and, therefore, offer less risk than when compared with investing directly in the stock market. Professionally managed mutual funds do, however, incur management fees that can be as high as 2.0% per year.
Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are relatively new to the investment scene in Canada, but are an excellent choice for people interested in exploring a self-directed RRSP that gives you more control over your investments. ETFs are collections of stocks and bonds that are designed to track the stock market over time. So, as the market goes up over time, so does your investment. When the market dips, however, you will also lose money. ETFs are a good option for those who can tolerate some risk and are not considering withdrawing money from their RRSPs in the short term. Robo-advisors that calibrate your investments with a computer algorithm rather than a professional advisor are great options for saving on management fees with ETFs. Consider firms such as Questwealth*, BMO’s SmartFolio and Wealthsimple, among others.
Stocks and bonds
Self-directed investors who want to buy individual stocks and bonds can certainly hold those investments in an RRSP as well. Stocks, in particular, tend to be more volatile investments and should be geared toward people with a higher tolerance for risk who are comfortable taking a long view of maximizing their investment. You can either work with a conventional broker or use an online broker to manage your investments on your own.