Thirty-four percent of Canadians have withdrawn money from their RRSPs before retirement, according to a poll by BMO Financial Group. The study examined the reasons behind Canadians’ decisions to make these withdrawals and their concerns about the consequences.

Read: Better ways to invest RRSPs

On average, Canadians have withdrawn $15,908 from their RRSPs. One-third have paid back the money, but 25% expect they will never pay it back.

Top reasons for making RRSP withdrawals include:

  • buy a home (25%)
  • pay off debt (21%)
  • help pay living expenses (21%)
  • cover costs after an emergency, such as a car accident or house flood (15%)


Too few contributing to RRSPs: poll

What new tax brackets mean for your clients

The study also found that, of those Canadians who have made an RRSP withdrawal, the majority (84%) said they only did so as a last resort. Three quarters said they were very concerned about the potential consequences of this decision, including:

  • loss of retirement income (79%)
  • withholding tax on the cash at the time of withdrawal (77%)
  • not being able to save effectively for retirement (77%)
  • loss of contribution room in the future (62%)

Regional Breakdown

Region % who have made
an RRSP withdrawal
Average amount
withdrawn from RRSPs
% who have paid back
the money withdrawn
Top reason for making
an RRSP withdrawal
National 34 $15,908 33 To buy a home
Atlantic 40 $8,509 34 To help pay living expenses
Quebec 30 $12,622 42 To buy a home
Ontario 35 $17,092 30 To help pay living expenses
Alberta 32 $16,538 35 To buy a home
B.C. 33 $24,100 28 To buy a home