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I am an American citizen about to start a temporary three-year position in Canada. It's possible but unlikely that I will settle in Canada permanently.

Will I be required to contribute to a retirement fund?

If I leave, what are my options for taking the money in any such funds with me back to the US?

I understand that there are two main retirement accounts towards which an employee can direct contributions: TSFAs and RRSPs, which are roughly like the Roth and Traditional IRAs in the US. I also understand that there is the OAS and the CPP, but that these are pretty different than social security in the US, and in any case they aren't really under your control.

(Note that my question is related to this one but very distinct.)


EDIT: According to this page, it sounds like it's possible to get CPP money early, and that you can get some money so long as you've made a single contribution. Is that right? Cold I really work for in Canada for 3 years and then get 3 years' worth of CPP mailed to me in the US when I retire?

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You are not required to contribute to a TFSA or an RRSP. Nobody contributes to OAS, it's a program to provide benefits to old people for them to be "secure". The only fund you MAY contribute to is CPP. If you're being paid a salary by a Canadian employer they will deduct some money from your salary (and add more money of their own) as CPP contributions.

Ignore the getting of CPP early or late, since that's just a 5 year shift not related to "ok, I'm leaving the country, send me my pension." Your issue is more "can I collect when I no longer live there?" Plenty of Canadians retire outside of Canada (the warmth of Florida lures many of us) and collect their CPP. There is even a page about the mechanics of getting your pension in another currency.

That said, CPP is a very small pension. If you work for 40 years at more than $50,000 a year and wait till age 70 to collect you will still get less than $1000/month. Working for less time, less than that salary, or taking it before you're 70 will all reduce it substantially.

Probably more relevant to you, you can have your Canadian years counted as American ones thanks to a Social Security Agreement between the two countries.

  • An extremely thoughtful and thorough answer! Thank you so much. – Jess Riedel Sep 10 '14 at 14:22

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