How to open a RRIF for retirement income

A Registered Retirement Income FundRegistered Retirement Income Fund A plan that holds your retirement savings and provides income after you retire. It works like an RRSP in reverse because you withdraw money instead of saving. There are rules about how much you can withdraw each year.+ read full definition (RRIFRRIF See Registered Retirement Income Fund.+ read full definition) is an accountAccount An agreement you make with a financial institution to handle your money. You can set up an account for depositing and withdrawing, earning interest, borrowing, investing, etc.+ read full definition that can give you a steady income in retirement.

On this page we answer:

What’s a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF)?

A Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) is an account you open when you transfer money from your Registered Retirement Savings PlanRegistered Retirement Savings Plan A plan that lets you save for retirement while lowering your income taxes. You choose how you want to invest your savings. You don’t pay tax on any money in your account until you take it out.+ read full definition (RRSP). Transfers from other registered plans like pensionPension A steady income you get after you retire. Some pensions pay you a fixed amount for life. Others save up money for you while you are working. You use that money to create income after you retire.+ read full definition plans and DPSPs are allowed under certain circumstances.

You can open a RRIF with financial institutions such as banks and trustTrust An account set up to hold assets for a beneficiary. A trustee manages the assets until the beneficiary reaches legal age.+ read full definition companies, credit unions and caisses populaires, insurance companies, mutual fundMutual fund An investment that pools money from many people and invests it in a mix of investments such as stocks and bonds. A professional manager chooses investments that match the fund’s goals for risk and return. You can redeem your fund units at any time.+ read full definition companies, and investmentInvestment An item of value you buy to get income or to grow in value.+ read full definition firms.

You must convert your RRSPs to a RRIF before the end of the year you turn 71 years old — although you can do so earlier.

Once the RRIF is set up, you can’t make any more contributions to the plan. However, you can have more than one RRIF.

Once your RRIF is set up, you must take out a minimum amount each year. This amount increases as you get older. There is no maximum withdrawal limit.

5 reasons to consider opening a RRIF

Opening a RRIF can be a helpful step in your retirement planning. You could convert your RRSPRRSP See Registered Retirement Savings Plan.+ read full definition to an annuityAnnuity A contract usually sold by life insurance companies that guarantees an income to you or your beneficiary at some time in the future. An annuity is a contract with a life insurance company. When you buy an annuity, you deposit a lump sum of money, and the insurance company agrees to pay you a guaranteed…+ read full definition. Or you could withdraw money from your RRSP which would count as taxable incomeTaxable income The amount of income you have to pay tax on, after tax credits and deductions.+ read full definition. But a RRIF can be a useful place for your money because:

1. Your savings grow tax-free while in your RRIF

You won’t pay any taxTax A fee the government charges on income, property, and sales. The money goes to finance government programs and other costs.+ read full definition on investment earningsEarnings For companies, it’s the money they make and share with their shareholders. For investors, it’s the money they make from their investments.+ read full definition when you convert your RRSP to a RRIF. Your money will continue to grow tax-freeTax-free Money that you do not pay tax on.+ read full definition as long as it stays in the RRIF. You only pay tax on the withdrawals you make.

If you take out more than the minimum amount, you’ll also pay withholding taxWithholding tax Tax that comes off your pay or other income and goes to the government before you get any money.+ read full definition.

2. You have a variety of investment options

As with other registered accounts, you can decide how to investInvest To use money for the purpose of making more money by making an investment. Often involves risk.+ read full definition your money once it’s in the RRIF. It can hold the same kinds of investments as an RRSP, including GICs, mutual funds, ETFs, segregated funds, stocks and bonds.

3. You have flexible RRIF withdrawal options

While there is a minimum amount you have to take out from your RRIF every year, there is no maximum amount. You can:

  • make regular monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual withdrawals.
  • change the amount and frequency of your withdrawals if your needs change.
  • take lump-sum withdrawals if you need extra cash.

You can decide how much money to withdraw from your RRIF each year — as long as you meet the minimum withdrawalMinimum withdrawal The smallest sum that you can take out of an account or investment at one time.+ read full definition requirement.

4. Minimum RRIF withdrawal amounts can be based on your spouse’s age

If you have a spouse who is younger than you, you can use their age to calculate the minimum amount you have to take out of your RRIF every year. The lower the age, the lower the minimum amount and the less income taxIncome tax A charge you pay based on your total income from all sources. The Canadian government and your province set the rate.+ read full definition you’ll pay on the withdrawals. This can be a good strategy if you have other sources of income and want to leave your money in your RRIF for as long as possible.

5. Your spouse can inherit RRIF tax free

If you have a spouse, you can name them as your beneficiaryBeneficiary The person(s), institution, trustee or estate you choose to give money, property or other benefits when you die. You may name beneficiaries in your will, insurance policy, retirement plan, annuity, trust or other contracts.+ read full definition to inherit your RRIF tax free. It won’t be included in your final income tax return. If you name your spouse as “successor annuitantSuccessor annuitant A spouse or common-law partner who you name as the sole beneficiary of your RRSP or RRIF. The plan will pass to your surviving spouse, and payments may continue without any break. You can only name your spouse or partner as your successor annuitant.+ read full definition”, they can take over your RRIF and automatically start receiving payments from it after your death. The value of your RRIF will also not be included in your estateEstate The total sum of money and property you leave behind when you die.+ read full definition for calculating probate fees.


If you’re over age 65 and don’t have a company pension plan, withdrawals from your RRIF may qualify for the pension income amount.

What are the different types of RRIFs?

There are five types of RRIFs. The type you choose depends on the investments you plan to hold.

1. Guaranteed interest RRIF

You can invest in GICs and Canada Savings Bonds. They pay fixed rates of interest over the termTerm The period of time that a contract covers. Also, the period of time that an investment pays a set rate of interest.+ read full definition that you choose. You can open this type of RRIF at most financial institutions.

It may be a good choice if you:

  • have a low tolerance for risk.
  • want to protect your principalPrincipal The total amount of money that you invest, or the total amount of money you owe on a debt.+ read full definition.
  • want a safe, steady income.
  • are willing to accept lower growth.

In general, the longer the term of the GIC, the higher the interest rateInterest rate A fee you pay to borrow money. Or, a fee you get to lend it. Often shown as an annual percentage rate, like 5%. Examples: If you get a loan, you pay interest. If you buy a GIC, the bank pays you interest. It uses your money until you need it back.+ read full definition. It’s worth shopping around to compare interest rates.

2. Mutual fund RRIF

You can choose from a variety of mutual funds — ranging from conservative money marketMoney market Low-risk investments that mature in less than three years and are very easy to turn into cash. This includes short-term GICs, bonds, and treasury bills.+ read full definition funds to more aggressive funds that invest in equitiesEquities Another word for investments in the stock market.+ read full definition. You can open this type of RRIF at most financial institutions.

It may be a good choice if you:

  • are looking for higher returns.
  • are comfortable with more risk.

3. Segregated fund RRIF

Segregated funds are similar to mutual funds. You open this type of RRIF at an insurance companyInsurance company A company that sells insurance products. Some companies sell only life insurance. Some sell only property insurance. Others sell all types of insurance.+ read full definition. The key difference is that the insurance company guarantees between 75% and 100% of your original investment if you hold your investment for a certain amount of time — usually 10 years.

It may be a good choice if you:

  • want to grow your savings faster than with GICs.
  • do not want to take on as much risk as with mutual funds (mutual funds do not guarantee your principal).

You’ll pay higher fees for these funds than for mutual funds. This is to cover the cost of the insurance protection.

Some insurance companies now offer a “portfolioPortfolio All the different investments that an individual or organization holds. May include stocks, bonds and mutual funds.+ read full definition RRIF.” This combines a mix of GICs and segregated funds in a single RRIF.

4. Self-directed RRIF

You can hold many kinds of investments in a self-directed plan. Self-directed RRIFSelf-directed RRIF A retirement plan that you use to create income after you retire. You can choose from a wide range of investments or work with an advisor. There are rules about how much you take out each year, and you don’t pay tax on the money that stays in your plan.+ read full definition’s can include: GICs, mutual funds, ETFs, segregated funds, stocks and bonds. You open this type of RRIF at an investment firm.

It may be a good choice if you:

  • want a wider range of investment choices.
  • are a knowledgeable investor.
  • feel comfortable making all the investment decisions yourself.
  • want to be able to change the investments you hold in your RRIF as your needs change or the markets shift.

5. Fully managed RRIF

If you have a lot of retirement savings or a complex financial situation, consider a fully managed RRIF. A professional money manager will create and manage a custom portfolio to fit your financial goals and situation. This process is known as discretionary investment management.

You’ll have access to a similar range of investment optionsOptions An investment that gives you the right to buy or sell it at a set price by a set date. The buy right is termed a “call” option, and the sell right is termed a “put” option. You buy options on a stock exchange.+ read full definition as with a self-directed RRIF. You can open this type of RRIF at many financial institutions, but there is usually a minimum amount required to qualify.

It may be a good choice if you:

  • have a complex portfolio.
  • have built up a lot of retirement savings.
  • Are more comfortable with a professional managing your investments.

How do you open an RRIF?

There are six key steps to open your RRIF:

1. Review your investment strategy

When you convert your RRSP to a RRIF, it may be a good time to reconsider your investment strategy.

For example:

  • If you retire early and expect you’ll need income for 20 to 30 years in retirement — you may want to allocate some of your RRIF to investments with higher growth potential over the long term. This could be in equity mutual funds, ETFs or stocks. However, these investments also have higher risk.
  • If security is your main concern after retirement — you may want to put more of your money in guaranteed investments like GICs or fixed-income investments like government bonds.

Plan and monitor your RRIF investments carefully. If you lose money investing, it can be difficult to make up for these losses if you’re no longer working.

2. Shop around to compare fees and plans

You can set up a RRIF at most financial institutions, investment firms and insurance companies.


  • What are the fees?
  • Are there penalties to change the withdrawal frequency?
  • Can you make extra withdrawals at any time?
  • What investment options are available?

3. Choose a RRIF and financial institution

You don’t have to open the RRIF at the same institution where you hold your RRSP. If you want a variety of investment options and are comfortable making investment decisions, talk to investment firms about opening a self-directed RRIF. If you have a large amount of retirement savings and would like your RRIF to be managed by a professional money manager, ask about a fully managed RRIF.

4. Choose a beneficiary and successor annuitant

Decide who you want to inherit your RRIF savings. If you don’t choose a beneficiary, your RRIF will become part of your estate when you die, and it may be subject to income tax and probate fees.

If you choose your spouse as the beneficiary, you can also name them as the “successor annuitant”. That means they can take over your RRIF and receive your payments automatically after your death.

5. Plan your withdrawals

You must take out a minimum amount each year. You can choose regular monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual withdrawals.

Make sure you will have cash available when you need it. You want to avoid any penalties for cashing in an investment early or selling investments at a time when they have lost value.

For example, if you have a guaranteed interest RRIF, stagger the terms of your investments. That way, you will have money maturing each year. If you have a self-directed RRIF, hold some investments that are easy to turn into cash like short-term GICs or money market funds.

RRIF is designed to provide you with an income stream from your RRSP throughout retirement.
Try our calculator to estimate withdrawals from your RRIF in retirement and see how long your savings will last.

6. Review and sign the contract

Read all paperwork carefully. This includes the application form and your RRIF contractContract A binding written or verbal agreement that can be enforced by law.+ read full definition. Make sure you understand the fees and rules for withdrawing money from your RRIF.

Plan your investments so you have cash available when you need it. Try to avoid paying a penalty for cashing in an investment early or selling investments at a time when they have lost value.


A Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) can be an important part of your retirement plan. When opening and managing your RRIF, keep in mind:

  • You must convert your RRSP to a RRIF no later than the year you turn 71.
  • You must take out a minimum amount from your RRIF each year based on your or your spouse’s age, but there is no maximum withdrawal limit.
  • You can hold investments in your RRIF, as you would have in your RRSP. Your savings grow tax-free while in the RRIF.
  • You can name your spouse as a beneficiary of your RRIF tax-free.
  • There are multiple types of RRIFs available. Choose the one that is a good match for your risk tolerance and expected time horizonTime horizon The length of time that you plan to hold an investment before you sell it. This may be a brief period of time or span as long as decades, depending on your financial goals.+ read full definition for using income from the RRIF.
  • Know the fees for the different types of RRIF plans before choosing one.
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