Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Cash-strapped Canadians give RRSPs a pass

Of the more than half of Canadians not contributing to an RRSP, a lack of available funds was cited as the top reason.

More than half of Canadians did not make a RRSP contribution this year and the main reason was, not surprisingly, a lack of funds.

A survey released Thursday morning by the Bank of Montreal found that 52 per cent of Canadians said they had not or did not plan to put money into their registered retirement savings plans before the Feb. 29 deadline. Another 10 per cent of those polled said they did not know or would prefer not to answer.

The RRSP participation rate of 38 per cent was essentially unchanged from the previous two years, despite the current market volatility.

Story continues below advertisement

Among those who did not make a contribution, 61 per cent cited a lack of funds as the reason, 14 per cent said they already had enough money for their retirement, 9 per cent pointed to a lack of confidence in the economy and 4 per cent did not think it was important to make a contribution.

Canadian households are struggling with record debt loads, leaving them with little money to invest in things like retirement.

"Many Canadians are financially stretched and saving for retirement often gets pushed down on the list of financial priorities," said Tina Di Vito, the head of BMO's Retirement Institute.

Still, she urged people to make regular contributions to their RRSPs, regardless of the amount. "You'll be surprised how quickly your nest egg will grow over time," she added.

Mutual funds were the investment of choice this RRSP season with 59 per cent of Canadians investing in them. A quarter, 25 per cent, invested in GICs, 22 per cent invested in equities, 12 per cent in bonds and 6 per cent in ETFs.

The BMO study also found:

  • Men were more likely to have contributed to an RRSP than women, 41 per cent versus 34 per cent
  • Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the highest proportion of those who contributed to an RRSP
  • British Columbians contributed the highest average amount in the country, at $6,703
  • Canadians contributed an average of $4,670 to their RRSPs this year, up from $4,538 last year

The BMO survey was completed online from Feb. 21 to 23, 2012, using Leger Marketing's online panel, LegerWeb, with a sample of 1,500 Canadians. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to