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No money, broke, can’t afford to invest.

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Fewer Canadians plan to contribute to their registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) this year, according to a new survey.

Forty-three per cent of respondents to a poll conducted for Bank of Montreal said they intend to make a contribution to their RRSP by this year's March 3 deadline, down from 50 per cent last year.

Among the reasons provided by Canadians who don't plan to contribute to their RRSP this year:

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  • Short of the cash needed to make a contribution – 37 per cent
  • Other expenses that take precedence – 33 per cent
  • Putting a priority on other investments – 11 per cent

On the other hand, the study found more Canadians are getting a head start on their RRSP contributions this year.

More than one-third – 35 per cent – of those polled said they have already socked away money in an RRSP before the March 3 cutoff date, compared with 30 per cent at this time last year.

"It's reassuring to see that many Canadians are being pro-active by contributing to their RRSPs well ahead of the deadline," said Caroline Dabu, vice-president and head of BMO Wealth Planning Group.

"However, according to Statistics Canada the total unused RRSP contribution amount is estimated to exceed $1-trillion by 2018.

"So we encourage everyone to contribute and contribute as early as possible to avoid the difficulties of having to come up with a large lump sum at the last minute."

Of those who have already put money into their RRSP this year, 64 per cent have contributed at least $2,000 and 40 per cent at least $5,000, the survey says.

Close to two-thirds – 64 per cent – of Canadians have an RRSP, down from 67 per cent at this time last year, according to the poll's findings.

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One-third reported that they usually contribute the maximum amount allowed.

Last year, Canadians contributed an average of $3,544 to their RRSPs, says the report.

In terms of regional differences, Quebeckers in the survey had the lowest rate in the category of having already contributed -- 29 per cent -- while Ontarians and British Columbians had the highest rate at 41 per cent.

Of those expecting to contribute to an RRSP before the deadline, those in Atlantic Canada showed the lowest rate at 35 per cent, while respondents in the Prairies had the highest at 49 per cent.

The poll indicates that Quebeckers have the lowest rate of RRSP ownership, at 53 per cent, compared with 81 per cent in the Prairies, 69 per cent in B.C., 68 per cent in Ontario, 65 per cent in Alberta and 60 per cent in Atlantic Canada.

The survey was conducted by Pollara using an online sample of 1,003 Canadians 18 years of age and over, between Nov. 18 and Nov. 22, 2013.

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