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TFSAs vs. RRSPs—One Is Winning the Savings Popularity Contest

TFSAs vs. RRSPs—One Is Winning the Savings Popularity Contest

Business journalist and television host Bruce Sellery is on a mission to help people get a handle on their money so they can live the life they want. In his talks, Bruce is an essential guide for those who could use a spoonful of sugar when it comes to the medicine of managing their money.

When it comes to savings, the classic RRSP has been losing ground to its newer cousin the TFSA. Bruce Sellery explains why in his regular MoneySense feature that answers readers’ financial questions:

The RRSP marked its 50th-anniversary last year —but it looks like its Golden Age has already passed. While the RRSP still has more contributors than the TFSA, its lead is narrowing. According to StatsCan, the number of RRSP contributors aged 25 to 54, “declined by 16% from 2000 to 2013, from five million in 2000 to 4.2 million in 2013.”  The dollar amounts are on the decline as well. RRSP contributions hit $30 billion in 2000 but fell to $22.5 billion by 2013.

A part of that decline can be blamed on the Tax-Free Savings Account, which was introduced in 2009. StatsCan says there was a slight decline in RRSP use over the last few years and that, “coincided with an increase in the number of individuals who contributed to a TFSA, from 2 million in 2009 to 3 million in 2013.”

Why does the TFSA have a leg-up?  Flexibility is one thing. The RRSP was designed for retirement savings, while the TFSA works well as a place to save for retirement and anything else—a dream vacation, a new car, or a house down payment.

The other big factor affecting both the RRSP And TFSA is Canadians’ debt levels. Way back in 1980, StatsCan says the ratio of household debt to personal disposable income was 66%. Today, that number hovers around 171%. So it is not hard to understand that Canadians are having a tougher time saving, given the massive amount of debt so many are burdened with.