This past week in one of my business courses that I teach we were going over the different types of registered savings accounts that Canada offers and one of my students asked me a very interesting question:
“So Mr. Prevost, what you’re saying is that if someone puts in $2500 into their RESP account, the government will just give you $500?”
“Yup, pretty much.”
“So then this is definitely the best way to save for university or college?”
“As far as I’m aware, that is the case”
“Then why do I have the money I made from my summer job sitting in a savings account? Can I put it in my own RESP?”
The Best Way to Save for School
I had to think about it at first, and I looked it up just to make sure, but the answer is that you definitely can contribute to your own RESP. You can open an RESP account naming yourself as the beneficiary at almost any financial institution. Rather than go over the minutiae of RESPs and why they are a great idea, I’ll point you in the direction of our RESP article series, as well as recommend the thorough resource by Mike Holman that is aptly titled: The RESP Book. Suffice it to say that if you are looking to save your own money in order to go to college, university, or many other specialized programs, the RESP is the route you want to go. This is especially true if your family is not on track to max out the $7,200 lifetime Canada Education Savings Granted (CESG) that the federal government will simply kick in (see our articles for more details). Why save for school in a basic savings account when you could be getting free money from the government just to use an RESP instead? If you realized this at a young enough age (I remember putting aside a little bit of my cheque as early as grade 9 – little did I know an amount which seemed so large at the time would last exactly one round of shots at the bar years later) you could even take advantage of low-risk interest-free investing in basic products such as bonds.
How Impressive Would Having Your Own RESP Sound?
The more I thought about and the more we talked about the benefits of contributing to your RESP, the more cool little spin-offs I found. For example. What would look more impressive on a scholarship application, or in a job interview than explaining that you contributed to your own RESP? I know that if I was responsible for administering a scholarship I would be thoroughly impressed by a student who took enough initiative and was organized enough to have sought out the best way to fund their post-secondary studies.
Imagine answering the usual BS interview questions:
“Please explain a time in your life when you set a goal for yourself and took steps to make it happen”
“On your resume you wrote that you were responsible and organized. Please detail a situation where you have put those two qualities to good use.”
How much of a homerun could you hit with answers surrounding the fact that you took it upon yourself to get acquainted with a savings plan that most Canadian adults don’t even comprehend? It would be pretty impressive indeed, and you could spin it so many different ways.
A Select Few…
While most high school students will probably gag at the thought of saving money in an RESP, it is definitely a cool option to have, and one that I would recommend taking advantage. It still floors me how few Canadians in general use these products to secure an education for a special young person in their life (it definitely doesn’t have to be your child in order for you to contribute). How empowering would it feel as a young student to know that you were saving and getting support from the government to do so? Not to mention all the benefits of getting acquainted with savings habits, registered savings plans, and even investment basics at a young age!
(Image from digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net)