If you've ever been chastised for not taking advantage of employer-matched RRSP contributions, which could effectively double your savings for free, then imagine the incredulity behind the lack of uptake on the potentially much larger savings afforded to those who are eligible for a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).
Forget dollar for dollar matching from your boss. How about $3 from the government for every $1 contributed?
It's possible to receive up to $90,000 from the federal government into an RDSP and for those families who are struggling to the point of not being able to make a contribution to earn the generous over-matching, they can qualify for a special bond which can put up to $1,000 into their account per year, up to a maximum of $20,000 over a lifetime. This is known as the Canada Disability Savings Bond.
By various estimates, more than 80 per cent of the 500,000 Canadians eligible for these accounts have yet to open one. That amounts to billions of dollars of unpaid grants and bonds potentially left on the table.
There are two main reasons why more accounts aren't being opened.
With the general level of financial literacy being so poor, understanding a complex program like this take a very long time. Varying types of tiered benefits based on income levels is confusing. Integration with specific provincial support programs is no walk in the park either.
But confusion doesn't just fall onto the subscribers. I've heard countless stories of people who've had to jump through the equivalent of flaming hoops in order to get accounts set up at the largest financial institutions in the country. The program is new and complex for frontline staff as well, which means there have been a lot of fumbles in handling the RDSP.
The hassle of learning and navigating the opening of an account is worth it, however. A decent online resource to start that battle is RDSP.com. While they have a partnership with one specific banking partner, information on that site provides the basics should you prefer to use a different provider.
Given the headaches, perhaps it would be tough to liken the low uptake to turning away free money. But learning about and using an RDSP, if you or someone you know is eligible for one, is certainly a great return on investment.
Preet Banerjee, a personal finance expert, is the host of Million Dollar Neighbourhood on The Oprah Winfrey Network. You can read his blog at WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com and follow him on Twitter at @preetbanerjee.