Piggybank With Eyeglasses And Calculator On Wooden Table, TFSA, RRSP

Although nearly three-quarters of Canadians surveyed consider themselves somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to TFSAs, they’re still lacking key information that would enable better use of this investing vehicle, according a report released Wednesday by Toronto-based Bank of Montreal.

Specifically, the annual TFSA report finds that 34% of Canadians surveyed are still not aware that exceeding their TFSAs contribution limit will result in a penalty tax. Furthermore, almost half (42%) of survey respondents believe that contribution limits are linked to income. And 45% aren’t aware, or incorrectly identified, what investments are eligible to be housed within a TFSA.

“While the data is encouraging year over year, it shows us that there are still key knowledge gaps related to TFSAs and that Canadians could be using this valuable investment option more effectively,” says Ryan ffrench, director of term investments at BMO, in a statement.

“Speaking to financial professionals about their TFSAs and other investment options can help Canadians determine which are best for their individual goals, and how to best optimize their use,” he adds.

The majority of Canadians surveyed do, in fact, already have a TFSA account or intend to open one (82%); however, they’re unsure of how to maximize its potential. For instance, only 25% correctly identified the maximum annual contribution of $5,500 and 35% said they didn’t know the amount at all.

Canadians are allotting more money to their TFSA accounts than previous years, however. In this year’s study, Canadians said they contributed $4,989, which is up from last year’s $4,592.

“We are seeing consistent growth with Canadians’ average contribution amounts, however only a small group is maximizing the full benefits of their TFSAs,” ffrench adds. “Similarly to last year, we’re hearing the overwhelming reason for that is not having enough to invest more than they already are, but there are solutions to help and contribution options beyond cash for Canadians to be aware of.”

ffrench notes that Canadians should consider incorporating other types of investments, such as mutual funds, term investments and ETFs, which can be sheltered within a TFSA and potentially offer better returns.

The BMO TFSA Survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey between Dec. 21 and 28, 2017, with an online sample of 1,500 adult Canadians.