Click on the link above to see Statistics Canada’s latest accounting of RRSP contributions. Turns out the median contribution in 2011 was $2,830. This is not a huge median contribution but up from the previous year by a bit. Twenty four percent of tax filers contributed to an RRSP in 2011. That’s not what I would consider a big percentage. So what else are people doing to prepare for retirement? Of course a certain percentage of taxpayers contributed to registered pension plans. Just over 6 million contributed to pension plans, public and private sector (other than the CPP). That means that a quarter of Canadians have a pension plan or RRSPs to help them survive in their retirement years. That’s it! We know that Canadians are also saving less and around 50% of Canadian households would be in significant financial trouble if they missed just one paycheque. Doesn’t look good for us.
I write this because the TV ads for RRSPs this time of year make it seem as though everybody contributes to RRSPs and what’s wrong with you that you don’t. Their aim is to use the old tried and true strategies of shame and guilt to increase RRSP business. First we get urged to spend because if we don’t the economy will go for a crap. If we haven’t got the money to spend, we need to borrow and the Bank of Canada has made it easy to do that so we dutifully borrow more and more money to buy things, things that we depend on to give our lives meaning. Now we get berated for not saving enough and we hear on the radio that Canadians are further in debt than ever before. Shame on us! We don’t spend enough and we don’t save enough! We borrow too much and we’re not productive enough. We must be completely responsible for the poor performance of the economy. We’re so fickle and untrustworthy. Poor government, just trying to do what it can to help us out even though we’re hardly worth the effort.
The banks and the government along with their very well paid public relations firms have been playing us like a violin. Maybe it’s time for all of us to really try to figure out what’s going on out there and to stop taking on the load of shame and guilt they want us to carry so that we blame ourselves for the problems in the Canadian economy and don’t look elsewhere, like at the banks and the government themselves.