Mark Woodford dreams of spending his golden years away from Newfoundland's long, cold winters.
"I'd like to have a place in the south - hopefully near water and a golf course in Florida or Arizona," says the 45-year-old insurance agent.
With stock markets rebounding over the past year, he was happy to hand over a cheque to his financial adviser for his registered retirement savings plan (RRSP).
"I'm ready to get back into the game now," said Mr. Woodford, who parked half of his RRSP cash last year in a money market fund. "I was very nervous last year when everything was sliding, and it seemed to be a slippery slope that continued to get worse."
As the March 1 deadline nears, this RRSP season is shaping up to be more robust - albeit unspectacular - for the fund industry compared with last year, during the worst bear market since the 1930s.
The RRSP season will be better than last year. But it is not going to be one that gets many people in this industry excited, and that is because people are cautious. Dan Richards, Strategic Imperatives
In January, investors plowed $3.1-billion into long-term mutual funds, which invest in stocks and bonds, compared with net outflows of $195-million last year, according to the Investment Funds Institute of Canada.
"The RRSP season will be better than last year," said Dan Richards, president of consulting firm Strategic Imperatives. "But it is not going to be one that gets many people in this industry excited, and that is because people are cautious."
Many investors are still hedging their bets and sticking to conservative balanced mutual funds, which invest in both stocks and bonds, or fixed-income funds - the most popular categories in January -as opposed to the more profitable pure equity funds that generate higher fees for fund companies.
Mr. Woodford said his new cash for his retirement nest egg is being invested mostly in a Canadian balanced fund with a very small portion going into a smaller-company equity fund. "Last year, I left some money on the sidelines because of all the uncertainty," he said.
David Richardson, vice-president of RBC Global Asset Management, expects the bank will have a "very good RRSP season compared to last year," and in line with its best years from 2005 to 2007 and 1997.
"Last year, our long-term fund sales for February were $79-million, but we'll do more than $1-billion this year," Mr. Richardson said.
Bill Holland, chief executive officer of CI Financial Corp., which sells funds through financial advisers, said he expect long-term fund sales this RRSP season to be better than last year but not as good as 2007.
"When I look at the business that comes through the financial planning network, I think you have got pretty cautious investors," Mr. Holland said. "They don't have the same appetite for risk that they would normally have exhibited after a sharp rise in the market over a short period of time."
Last year, the S&P/TSX total return was a stellar 36 per cent, while the S&P 500 index rose 23 per cent.
Joe Riche, a financial planner with Riche Investments of St. John's, said that investor appetite for risk has increased, but agrees there is still caution among investors.
"We know the Canadian market peaked at over 15,000 points in June, 2008, and it bottomed in March, 2009," he said. "We are at the midpoint between those two so people are starting to feel that there is a bedrock beneath us."
Sheryl Purdy, an investment adviser with Calgary-based brokerage firm Leede Financial Markets, echoed that this year's RRSP season will better this year in terms of contributions than a year ago, but suggested that it was largely because investors are feeling more secure about their jobs.
"Last year's RRSP season was quiet ... I am finding that clients are not only contributing to their RRSP, but they are also opening a tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) and contributing to both," Ms. Purdy said.