Everything You Need to Know About RRIFs
Written by Jim Yih
Most Canadians choose a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) as their retirement income option. A RRIF is a comfortable transition because of its similarity to an RRSP. A RRIF provides a high level of control over the investments in your retirement plan, the advantage of tax-free growth of assets within the plan, as well as maximum flexibility in establishing an income stream. RRIFs come in a number of shapes and sizes.
The first decision is income
The first thing you will need to determine is how much income you need or want. This decision will have the greatest impact on the longevity of your money. If you spend too much too fast, you will run out of money. Even if you don’t need or want the extra income, you have the minimum income rules to contend with.
You can tailor your income to your needs, subject to minimums imposed by the federal government. If you need steady monthly, quarterly, or annual income, it’s available. If you require a large lump sum for a major purchase, travel, or some other purpose, that’s available too.
RRIF withdrawal rules
This table outlines the minimum withdrawals on RRIFs established after 1992, as set by the government. Before age 71, the minimum percentage payout is worked out in the following way: 1÷(90 – your current age). RRIF minimums were once again changed in 2015
So if you’re 65, your minimum withdrawal would be 1÷(90-65)=4%. With a $100,000 RRIF, that amounts to $4,000. Once you reach age 69, the following schedule applies:
2015 and later
1992 to 2015
The second decision is what to invest in
Financial institutions offer plans that can hold Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), mutual funds, cash, or other financial instruments. Alternatively, you can establish a self-directed RRIF to include a combination of individual securities in your plan, such as stocks, bonds or Treasury bills (in addition to the investments mentioned above).
Related article: Advantages of a Self-Directed RRSP
RRIFs offer investment flexibility. You can hold the same investments that are eligible for an RRSP. Shares of Canadian corporations, corporate and government bonds, Canada Savings Bonds, Treasury bills, mortgages, GICs, term deposits, covered call options, warrants, rights, and mutual funds that invest in eligible securities are all qualifying investments. You can also hold a limited percentage of your RRIF in foreign investments. Just like an RRSP, a RRIF lets you retain control over your investments, rather than handing over your money to a third party.
The longevity of your RRIF is simply based on how much money you make in investment return and how much you take out for income. It does not take a lot of mathematical know how to figure out that if you earn more money than you withdraw in income, the RRIF will grow.
Related article: Retirees should be more conservative with their investments
For example, if you invest in a GIC RRIF at 6% and you take out the minimum (4.76%) at age 69, your RRIF should grow by 1.24%. At age 72 given the same investment return, the minimum is now 7.48%. This means your RRIF will deplete in value by 1.48% (7.48%-6.00%).
What will happen to your RRIF when you die?
You can leave your remaining RRIF assets to your heirs upon your death by designating the proper beneficiary. Not all other retirement income options provide for this. Naturally, your desire to provide an estate for your spouse, beneficiaries or charities may have an impact on how you set up your RRIF. While this may or may not be an issue, income and investments should remain the priorities.
RRIFs are flexible
One of the benefits of the RRIF is the flexibility you have in dictating income. These are some common types of RRIFs.