Many Canadians withdrawing RRSP funds for daily expenses

By Staff | February 8, 2017 | Last updated on September 15, 2023
2 min read

Between not saving for RRSPs and making early withdrawals, Canadians are in a financial bind.

Only 46% of Canadians plan to contribute to RRSPs this year, reveals part one of a BMO survey, but that figure paints only half of the grim picture.

Part two of the survey reveals that 38% of Canadians have withdrawn RRSP funds this year, before age 71 — an increase of 4% from last year.

It gets worse.

Although purchasing a home remains the top reason Canadians make early withdrawals (30%), other reasons are to pay for living expenses (21%), to pay off debt (18%) or to pay for emergencies (18%).

On average, Canadians have withdrawn $17,213 from their RRSPs this year, an increase of $1,305 from last year.

Read: Why Canadians aren’t contributing to RRSPs

Although 75% are very concerned about the consequences and 73% say they’re familiar with the tax penalties or the rules for repayment under the homebuyers plan, 19% don’t expect to pay the funds back.

The failure to pay back funds is potentially also expressed in the results from a Mackenzie Investments poll. That poll finds a similar percentage of Canadians — 21% — have negative feelings (anxious/worried or confused) 30 days out from the RRSP deadline, which would certainly be expected for those without funds to contribute.

And advisors continue to make a difference, as confirmed in an earlier Mackenzie poll and reaffirmed now, 30 days from the deadline. While only 36% of Canadians say they’re confident heading into RRSP season, that figure jumps to more than 50% for those with advisors.

Read: Navigate RRSP attribution rules

Here’s the national breakdown of Canadians who withdrew funds early:

Region Percentage of Canadians who have made an RRSP withdrawal before age 71 Average amount Canadians have withdrawn from RRSPs Top reason for making an RRSP withdrawal
National 38% $17,213 To buy a home (30%)
Atlantic 48% $25,485 To make a large purchase, other than a home (22%)
Quebec 39% $17,231 To buy a home (23%)
Ontario 35% $16,593 To buy a home (31%)
Prairies 33% $10,546 To pay off debt (27%)
Alberta 41% $12,524 To buy a home (38%)
B.C. 44% $21,538 To buy a home (38%)

The BMO survey was conducted online by Pollara in December 2016, with a sample of 1,500 Canadians. The margin of error is ± 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. staff


The staff of have been covering news for financial advisors since 1998.