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How Do Spousal RRSPs Work? Contribution and Withdrawal Rules

The Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is a powerful tool for Canadians to save for their retirement. However, there is an upper age limit tied to RRSP contributions – age 71. When you turn 71, you can no longer contribute to your RRSP, and you’re required to convert your RRSP to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF).

But does this mean that the potential benefits of RRSP contributions are over when you reach this age limit? Not necessarily. Those over 71 can still benefit from contributions, primarily via a Spousal RRSP.

RRSP Age Limit and Its Implications

RRSP rules state that you must convert your RRSP to an RRIF by the end of the year you turn 71. From this point onward, personal RRSP contributions are no longer allowed, regardless of any unused RRSP contribution room you might have.

While this age limit may seem stringent, it is essential to remember that the RRSP contribution limit carries forward even after age 71. But how can you make use of this contribution space even after turning 71?  

The Spousal RRSP Option

While you can’t contribute to your own RRSP past age 71, you can contribute to a Spousal RRSP if your partner is younger and has not yet reached their 71st year.

This is an opportunity for couples with an age gap. If one partner is over 71 and has an RRSP contribution room, but can’t use it personally and is earning income, they can contribute to a spousal RRSP using the younger partner’s age as the determining factor.

High-Income Earners Working Past 71

This strategy is advantageous for high-income earners still working after turning 71. Contributing to a Spousal RRSP can provide a tax deduction, reducing the income tax for the high-income earner. This can continue until the younger partner reaches the RRSP age limit of 71.

Navigating the Spousal RRSP Rules

While this may seem like an attractive strategy, make sure you know the specific rules around Spousal RRSPs. Standard RRSP contribution rules apply, which means income can be attributed back to the contributing partner if Spousal RRSP withdrawals aren’t properly planned.

Remember that if your spouse withdraws funds that you contributed to the spousal RRSP within 3 years of your contribution, you will face the tax consequences.

The RRSP age limit doesn’t have to be the end of your retirement savings journey. Leveraging the Spousal RRSP strategy can provide avenues to continue contributing and enjoying tax benefits, even after reaching the RRSP age limit.

Everyone’s financial circumstances are unique, so planning carefully with your advisor is key when deciding on the right path. Remember, strategic financial planning can make all the difference.


  • W. Christopher Kovalchuk, MBA
    Chris began his professional career in 2016, as a financial analyst, in the Financial Technology Credit/Lending sector. He earned his MBA, part-time, from Concordia University in 2019. Chris has been a member of Claret since 2018 working in trading & research and recently moved into the role of Associate Portfolio Manager.

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