I plan to retire in 15-20 years... what kind of investments should I consider holding in my RRSP? I don't like very risky investments, but I also don't want to be too conservative.

  • The question is how much money do you need in your retirement lifestyle that you're planning for? Determine that, then you can figure out how far you have to go to reach it. If you're short then you'll need to modify your plan. – Steven Leggett Mar 14 '14 at 19:33

I would highly recommend the book "four pillars of investing" by William J Bernstein. This is by far, in my humble opinion, the best text on asset allocation. In short, you will need a variety of equity investments, some bonds, and even some cash (or money market funds).

Assuming you are designing your retirement income via a combination of financial vehicles, I would put the least tax-efficient investments (think fix-income products and other that are being treated the same way by CRA) in RRSP and others in non-registered accounts (you are only taxed on 50% of your capital gains and can use past losses to reduce future tax payables).

If you are just starting out, putting everything in RRSP is not a bad idea either. You can always transform your portfolio (i.e. across multiple accounts) as you have more money to invest.

The key here is to make sure you have the right mix of asset classes that will best balance risk and return for you unique situation, and annual re-balance to make the ratio stays true. For example, if you can get to your retirement goals with a mere 3-5% annualized growth in your portfolio - I would go 70% bonds, 20% equity (in large cap ETFs), and 10% cash/MMF now and shift it into heavier emphasis on bonds as your get closer to your retirement. If you need 5-9% growth to retire, you would want to do 60% equity (in large cap ETFs), 30% bonds, and 10% cash/MMF (I don't advise 70% equity right now, as the market is still volatile, and depends on who you listen to, this mess might go on for another 10 years or so, which is too close to your retirement). If you need more than 10% of growth to get to your retirement, you will have to either re-assess your retirement goal or go all-in on equity - WARNING, just as my poker analogy suggests, you are gambling if you are doing all equity, but it's the only way you can get >10% annualized return over 10-15 years timeframe.

If any of the above sounds confusing to you even after you read the book, please do engage a fee-only financial planner (i.e. not those that gets paid commission when they sell you something) to help you map it out.

Hope this helps,


First you need to figure out your risk profile and determine your percentage of equity vs bonds. Since it sounds like your fairly young, you may want to lean heavier on the equity side.

My rule of thumb is to treat all of your accounts as a giant portfolio. Having said that, if you do decide to hold bonds, make sure to hold it in a tax deferred or tax exempt account (RRSP/TFSA). If you have the contribution room, then continue to hold them within the RRSP/TFSA, but if you dont', then Canadian equities are fairly tax efficient in a non-registered account.

Hope this helps!


Diversification is the most import principle in investing. Diversify your capital in your RRSP is broad as possible.

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