March 18, 2018

Paying Down Debt vs RRSP Investment?

It has always been a dilemma of whether you should use any excess cash to contribute to your RRSP or pay down your mortgage.  The current economic equation has recently tilted in favour of paying down debts vs. building up assets but only for those people with a low tolerance for any investment risk.  The current interest earned from GICs, term deposits and government bonds remains pathetically low.  At current deposit rates of around 1%, it takes 72 years to double your retirement nest egg if you only earn 1% per annum.

Here is how to think about the trade off between paying down your mortgage versus saving in your RRSP.  Every dollar you don’t contribute to your investment portfolio will earn the mortgage rate you are paying on that dollar.  If your mortgage is costing you 3%, then every dollar you don’t invest but instead use the money to pay-down debt will earn the said 3%.  If you are paying 10-23% like on many credit cards, the argument to eliminate the debt is even stronger.

Of course, if your investments are invested aggressively under the expectation that they will earn more than the mortgage rate you are paying, then you can justify not paying down your mortgage.  After all, borrowing at 3% makes sense if you expect to earn much more.

To quote the Review of Financial Studies “Households with high interest debt have a reduced benefit to equity participation and in many cases should not own any stocks…repayment of outstanding debt almost always yields a higher rate of return than many of the safe (investment) assets.”

Look at both sides of your balance sheet at the same time.  Add up all your debts and compare the interest cost of all your liabilities against the interest you will be earning on your retirement investments.  If the former is greater than the latter, it is time to pay down some debt and forgo the investment plan contribution.  Oddly enough, not contributing to your RRSP might make you wealthier in the long run.

Colleen Saunders is a 25 year veteran in the mortgage industry serving Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga and Toronto and offering all mortgage related services such as 1st & 2nd mortgages, private mortgages and more.

To contact Colleen, please fill out the form on  or call 416-459-2406