BMO’s Annual RRSP Study: National Attitude Shifts On Retirement As Average Amount Held Increases by 21 Per Cent Since 2016


BMP released it’s annual Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) study, revealing that the amounts Canadians are holding in their RRSPs has increased. Those surveyed also contributed higher amounts before this year’s March 1 deadline.

The average amount held in RRSPs nationally is $101,155, a 21 per cent increase from 2016 ($83,635). The study highlights both national and regional average amounts held:

Amount Held 
















Millennials Outpacing Baby Boomer Counterparts 
The report also showed that Millennials have posted solid growth in amounts held compared to Boomers:

  • Millennials continue to hold higher amounts over time, accounting for the highest percentage increase with 87 per cent since 2016 ($28,821 vs $15,377 in 2016)
  • Accounts held by Boomers saw a 30 per cent increase over the same period ($178,664 from $137,360 in 2016)

“While balances typically rise due to contributions and asset appreciation, it is important to note Canadians of all generations are saving for retirement despite financial priorities and market volatility,” said Robert Armstrong, Vice President, Multi Asset Solutions, BMO Global Asset Management. “It is encouraging to see a national shift in the attitude and approach to retirement – especially amongst Millennials surveyed.”

Contributing to their RRSPs before the deadline is also top of mind for Canadians surveyed, with 62 per cent having already done so or are planning to do so. Those who have already contributed put in an average of $5,247 in 2018.

Withdrawals Down, Amount Withdrawn Up
The frequency of RRSP withdrawals has decreased by one third since 2017. However, Canadians who decide to dip into their retirement savings before age 71 are taking out larger amounts. The 2018 national average withdrawn was $25,779compared to $20,952 in 2017.

“Buying a home remains the top reason for withdrawing funds according to those surveyed,” added Mr. Armstrong. “While they are taking a concentrated look at retirement investments and saving for their futures, Canadians continue to take advantage of the federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan through RRSP withdrawals.”

The program allows first-time home buyers to withdraw up to $25,000 tax-free from their RRSPs to purchase or build a qualifying home. The withdrawal must be repaid to the RRSP over a 15-year period.

Investment Styles
While Canadians continue to plan for retirement amidst market volatility, those surveyed consider themselves ‘cautious’ investors, preferring the ‘play it safe’ label. Canadians are not confident in their investing know-how, with 42 per cent surveyed identifying themselves as ‘not knowledgeable’, and 29 per cent labelling themselves as ‘newbie’ investors.

“With 71 per cent of people identifying themselves ‘cautious’ investors, a major opportunity has presented itself for Canadians to connect with investment advisors to seek out best options,” said Mr. Armstrong. “While the markets may seem uncertain, investors at all levels can receive tailored advice to help them structure their retirement savings and to ensure their investments are growing.”

The Ninth Annual BMO RRSP Survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey between November 30 and December 5, 2018, with an online sample of 1,518 adult Canadians. Data has been weighted using the latest census information to be representative in terms of age, gender and region. The margin of error for a probability sample size of 1,518 is ± 2.5% 19 times out of 20.