Skip to main content

Three things you should know about RESPs

A post-secondary education is an important asset for participating in a modern economy, but getting one can be expensive.

When you add up the costs of tuition, school-related fees, books, accommodation (if living away from home), transportation and various other items, a current four-year degree can cost $60,000 to $70,000. Factor in inflation over the next 18 years and the amount is even more daunting.

Saving for your child’s education is always a good idea, and one of the most effective ways to do so is through a registered education savings plan (RESP), which offers a number of benefits.

1. Your savings can grow tax deferred.

An RESP is a tax-sheltered investment account that allows you to contribute up to a lifetime maximum of $50,000. Funds in the account can grow tax deferred and, when it’s time to withdraw them, the earnings will be taxed in your child’s hands—typically at a much lower tax rate than yours.

2. Government grants can boost your savings significantly.

For the first $2,500 that you contribute to an RESP every year, you get a 20% grant, called the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG). That’s $500 in free money, up to a lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child.

And if you miss a year of contributions, you can carry forward unused CESG contribution room, to a maximum of $1,000 per year. That means you can make some of the missed contributions in a future year.

According to a recent government report, only 52% of children have participated in the CESG program. Whether it’s a lack of awareness or an issue with cash flow, many Canadian parents are missing out on generous government grants.

3. Opening an RESP is easy.

An RESP can hold any investment that’s eligible for a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP)—GICs, mutual funds, stocks, bonds—so you have many options. To open an RESP, all you need is your child’s social insurance number and an RESP application form from your financial institution.

Many financial institutions will allow you to set up a pre-authorized contribution plan to help you save regularly and automatically. With an MD RESP account, for instance, you can contribute as little as $25 per month.

Ideally, you would contribute $2,500 annually to maximize receipt of the government grants. But even if you can’t, small savings can still make a big difference in the long run.

Additional grants also available in some provinces

The Quebec Education Savings Incentive consists of an annual incentive payment to an RESP for an eligible beneficiary who resides in Quebec, to a maximum of 10% of RESP contributions (maximum payment of $250 in any given year).

On August 15, 2015, British Columbia introduced the BC Training and Education Savings Program (BCTESP), which provides a one-time grant of $1,200 per child to children who are RESP beneficiaries. At the time of application, the child and a parent/guardian must be residents of British Columbia. The child is eligible for the BCTESP grant from his or her sixth birthday until the day before the ninth birthday.