Canadians contributed less to their TFSAs last year, BMO survey finds

People put less money into their TFSAs last year, a new survey from Bank of Montreal suggests, and they had a good reason for doing so: they didn't have enough money to do it.

Average contribution was $4,592 last year, down from $5,531 the year before

Canadians put less money into their TFSAs last year, according to a new survey released by BMO Thursday. (Getty Images)

People put less money into their TFSAs last year, a new survey from Bank of Montreal suggests, and they had a good reason for doing so: they don't have enough money to save.

The results were eye-opening. The average person polled said they put in $939 less into their tax-free savings accounts in 2016 than they did in the year before.

The average contribution among those who made a contribution in the polling group last year was $4,592 last year, down from $5,531 the year before.

Some 15 per cent of those polled said they didn't make a contribution last year.

The bank commissioned polling firm Pollara to survey 1,500 Canadians online between Dec. 14 and 19 and ask them questions about their tax-free savings accounts.

Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population, but the bank says the polling sample was weighted using the latest census data to be representative in terms of age, gender and region.

Ottawa limits the amount that a tax-filer can put into their TFSA in any given year. For 2016, the limit was $5,500. In 2015, it was $10,000, but unused space gets carried over, so it's possible to put in more than the annual limit in any given year as long as there is unused space from previous tax years.

Among those who contributed less, 43 per cent said it was because they didn't have enough money to invest, and 36 per cent said it was because they needed the money for other things.

Average contributions weren't even across the country either, as B.C. residents put in the most, on average, at $5,898, with people in the Prairie provinces contributing the least, at $3,220.

And on average, those polled said they expect to contribute even less this year — $4,325 — so the trend may continue.

While the trickle of money may be slowing, Canadians nonetheless still have more in their TFSAs overall this year than they did last year.

Among those polled, the average TFSA was worth $17,328 last year, up from $17,133 in 2015.

More than three million Canadians have opened a TFSA since the accounts were created in 2009, and Statistics Canada recently reported there is more than $16 billion in them over all.


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