What is an RESP?

An RESP is a powerful way to save for your child's or grandchild's post-secondary education. Parents, grandparents and friends can contribute money any time to an RESP – up to a lifetime total of $50,000 per child. These contributions are not tax deductible, but any investment income that’s earned within the plan isn’t taxed until it's withdrawn.

In addition to tax-deferred growth, the federal government will also automatically contribute a Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) of 20% of what you put in, up to $500 per year – to a lifetime maximum of $7,200 for each child. If your family income is low, you can receive an even higher amount. For details on these and other grants you may be eligible for, visit CESG.

Types of RESPs available:

Family RESP plans

  • You (the planholder) can name 1 or more children as beneficiaries (the person/people you’re saving the money for), but they must be related to you.
  • Beneficiaries must be siblings of one another to receive the CESG.
  • Children, grandchildren, adopted children and stepchildren are fully eligible.
  • If the eldest child doesn't go to post-secondary school, under certain circumstances you can transfer the grant money to other beneficiaries.
  • You don't have to split payments evenly among children.

Individual RESP plans

Anyone can open these plans – you (the planholder) don't have to be the parent or even a close relative of the person you’re saving for (the beneficiary). There are no age limits, so you can even set up an RESP for yourself or another adult.

In both types of RESP, the planholder fully controls:

  • How the money is invested
  • When, how much and how often the beneficiary gets payments.

For more information, please visit Canada Revenue Agency’s RESP page.

RESP grants and contributions

Understand the rules for contributing to an RESP, and find out about the government grants and bonds that can help you build your RESP savings.

Learn more about RESP grants and contributions

How much do I need to save for my child’s education?

Tuition, books, technology, transportation, room and board -- education expenses can add up. Estimate how much it will cost to send your child to school with our RESP calculator.

Give a child you love a head start on higher education

Whether they’re still in diapers or in those awkward tween years, our kids deserve the best we can give them – including help with their post-secondary education. A Sun Life advisor can show you how an RESP can help you save for university, college or an apprenticeship – and how you can add to your savings with free money from the government.

Talk to your advisor or find an advisor near you to get your savings started.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are educational assistance payments (EAPs)?

The payment a beneficiary receives from the interest earned by an RESP, plus any Canadian Education Savings Grant, provincial grants or Canada Learning Bonds is officially called an educational assistance payment and you will likely see it listed this way on the statement you’ll get from your RESP provider. EAPs are limited to $5,000 during the first consecutive 13 weeks of enrollment; after that you can request any size payment.

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Who’s who in an RESP?

Beneficiary: The future student who is being saved for.

Planholder: The person who opens and owns the RESP. Also called the subscriber.

Provider: The financial institution or other company that you set up an RESP with. Also called the promoter.

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What can you put in an RESP?

An RESP can hold a variety of investments, from fixed-income products to equity investments like mutual funds and individual stocks and bonds. A financial advisor can help you decide what combination of investments will work best for you.

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What is the maximum lifetime contribution allowed for an RESP?

You can contribute as much as you want per year to an RESP, but no more than $50,000 in total per beneficiary. (Neither government grants nor any investment growth in your RESP count toward the $50,000 limit, so there could be more than $50,000 in your plan by the time your child needs it.

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When is the RESP contribution deadline?

You can contribute to an RESP any time during the year. Government grants are applied by calendar year.

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Who can contribute to an RESP?

Most often, Canadians open and contribute to RESPs for their own children or grandchildren. Family RESPs (that cover more than one sibling) must be opened by a relative, but individual RESPs can be opened by anyone. And anyone – parents, grandparents, godparents, friends – can contribute to either type of plan.

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Are RESP contributions tax-deductible?

If you contribute to an RESP you won’t get a tax deduction, but when the student you’re saving for withdraws money from the plan for school, any investment growth in the plan will be taxed as that student’s income rather than yours – which can be a significant tax savings.

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Can you transfer money from an RESP to a RRSP?

If the beneficiary doesn’t use some or all of the money in the RESP, you can transfer up to $50,000 of your own contributions and the investment growth to your RRSP if:

  • All beneficiaries named in the plan have reached age 21 (so have presumably decided they won’t attend post-secondary school)
  • You’ve owned the plan for at least 10 years
  • You have contribution room in your RRSP

If the beneficiary doesn’t attend post-secondary school or you shut down the plan early, you must repay any Canada Education Savings Grants (CESG) or Canada Learning Bonds that have been credited to the RESP.

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Can you transfer money from one RESP to another?

You can transfer funds between RESPs if the beneficiary of the plan you’re transferring to is under 21 and is a brother or sister of the beneficiary of the plan you’re transferring from, or if you have a family plan that covers more than one sibling. Special rules apply to any Canadian Education Savings Grants (CESGs) or Canada Learning Bonds that may have been received, so speak to your financial advisor before making any moves.

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How much money does the government contribute to an RESP?

Regardless of your family income, the federal government will top up your annual contribution by 20%, up to $500 per year and $7,200 in total, per beneficiary. The program is called the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG). If your family income is low, the plan may be eligible for a bigger grant. Learn more about government grants and incentives with an RESP.

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How much do I need to put into an RESP?

The most you can put in an RESP in total is $50,000 for each beneficiary. (From birth to age 18, that’s an average of about $2,777 per year.) Government grants and investment growth may add to that amount. Will it be enough to cover tuition, books and supplies, room and board, transportation and other expenses? Get an estimate with our RESP calculator.

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How do you withdraw money from an RESP?

Contact your RESP provider. You will have to provide proof that the beneficiary is enrolled in a qualifying post-secondary educational program, and you may have to provide receipts for expenses such as books and laptops. Payments from the interest earned by an RESP, plus any Canadian Education Savings Grant, provincial grants or Canada Learning Bonds (the educational assistance payment) are limited to $5,000 during the first consecutive 13 weeks of enrollment; after that you can request any size payment. You can withdraw as much of your own contributions to the plan as you wish at any time.

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