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It doesn’t take much to have an above-average TFSA.

The average value of a tax-free savings account in 2022 is $32,234, according to estimates based on data from Canada Revenue Agency. Total contribution room alone since 2009 introduction of TFSAs amounts to $81,500. As much love as there is for TFSAs, we’re not even close to maximizing their benefit.

It’s an expensive world we live in, between home ownership or rent, daycare, vehicle payments and other monthly costs. But having a TFSA of average size or better is an achievable goal. To see where you stand now, consult our chart of average TFSA accounts values for all ages.

TFSAs are brilliantly simple – that’s why people love them. You contribute money with after-tax dollars and from then on, your relationship with the CRA is done as long as you don’t overcontribute. Money you add to a TFSA and your investment gains are sheltered from tax while they accumulate in your account, and on withdrawal.

Uses for a TFSA are infinite. Set up a high rate savings account TFSA for the down payment you plan to make on a house this year or next. Stocks or exchange-traded funds are ideal for long-term wealth building, say for retirement. TFSAs can also be used for the kind of aggressive investing people have been doing in the pandemic.

Keep your own personal TFSA strategy in mind when evaluating how the value of your account compares with others in the same age group as you. If you have a savings account TFSA, low interest rates will limit growth potential. That’s the quite reasonable price you pay to keep your house down payment money or household Plan B fund for emergencies safe from the ups and downs of stocks, and even bonds.

If you’re an aggressive investor, particularly over the past two years, your TFSA balance should compare well with the average. Six-figure TFSAs, and even some million-dollar accounts, are out there.

The latest CRA data on the fair market value of TFSA accounts, including contributions and investment gains, covers 2019. I estimated current numbers by applying the annualized growth rate in TFSA account values over the previous several years to the 2019 data.

The account numbers that stand out most are for the under-20 group. You need to be 18 to start a TFSA, and yet account holders in this group have an estimated $3,446 put away. Grade them an A-plus for initiative and foresight.

Average TFSA account values rise for people in their 20s and 30s, but not by anything dramatic. That’s easily explainable in light of the cost of buying a home and starting a family. In fact, it’s inspiring to see millennials with TFSAs increasing their contributions at all.

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Traction for building a TFSA seems to begin in your mid-40s and then continue on through the decades. People aged 75 and up have really latched onto TFSAs – their average balance is close to double the national average.

Avid use of TFSAs by seniors is smart. Money withdrawn from a TFSA will not affect eligibility for the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income people. At the other end of the income spectrum, money can be withdrawn from a TFSA without triggering a clawback of Old Age Security benefits. The clawback currently starts with income of $79,054 reported for the 2020 tax year.

Yearly maximum TFSA contributions began at $5,000 in 2009 and have gradually risen to $6,000, with a $10,000 limit in place for 2015 alone. The average amount of unused contribution room for all TFSA holders in 2019 was $37,883, so not making full contributions is normal. Even the 75-plus group has an average $23,218 in unused room.

Maxing out your TFSA is ideal, but not necessary to build serious wealth over a lifetime. A good starting goal is to meet or beat the average TFSA value for your age group. If you have the means later on, you can backfill your unused room.

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