How To Withdraw From Your RESP

Dividend Earner

Dividend Earner

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You have been investing in your child’s RESP account for years, and now it’s time to start using the money to pay for your child’s education.

Between your contributions and the government’s grant to your child’s RESP, you should have a decent amount after over a decade of investing this money.

While withdrawing money may seem easy, withdrawing from an RESP account is probably the most confusing of all registered accounts.

My experience with RESP withdrawals over the last four years has taught me a few things worth sharing.

Understand The Money In Your RESP

Now that you have been depositing and investing money in your child’s RESP account, it’s time to understand what goes on inside.

Your RESP account contains two types of money. The simplest way to visualize it is to imagine two buckets.

  • Post-Secondary Education (PSE): This bucket represents your contributions and only your contributions. It does not include any profit from said contributions; it’s literally just the deposits, excluding the CESG grants. This section can also have other names, such as “Capital Withdrawal.”
  • Education Assistance Payment (EAP): This bucket represents the CESG grant from the federal government plus all the profits. Both of which are also tracked separately by the financial institutions. In a way, two buckets are making this one bucket.

Before we look at an example, know that you can always request the status of your RESP from your financial institution. I got the below breakdown from RBC Direct Investing.

PSETotal Contributions Available:$37,225.00
EAPGrant Remaining:$5,269.30
EAPPlan Income:$14,025.61
EAPTotal EAP Remaining (Grant + Income)$19,294.91
Total Account Value:$56,519.91

The numbers are significant as they represent the amount of money you can have access to within the RESP account for the various withdrawals you can do.

Filling Out The RESP Withdrawal Form

There are usually a few important sections on an RESP withdrawal form to fill out, and while they may differ in how they are outlined, they usually consist of similar instructions to track the following.

  • The beneficiary information (Name, institution, and part-time or full-time Student)
  • The total amount to withdraw (What “bucket” to withdraw from)
  • The purpose of the withdrawal (Education or not – more on this below)

Here are some short links to the forms.

It’s surprising to look at all the forms and see how different they all are. It’s the same principle, but yet, the forms are somewhat different in how to enter your withdrawal.

Proof of Enrollment

This is easy to do as your child simply needs to request this from their post-secondary school. Most students are set up with online accounts through the school and can navigate requesting proof of enrollment, which usually includes whether your child is full-time or part-time.

Best RESP Withdrawal Strategy

Due to how EAP needs to be used for education, I would withdraw all EAP first and then start withdrawing from your PSE. I made the mistake of balancing it or withdrawing the minimum … Then, one kid stopped after one year.

Next, the question of how much you have and how much you need per year becomes your next decision. With that said, you never know when your child may change plans, as such I suggest withdrawing as much as possible every year and just keep it in cash (more on this later).

There is no need to be sophisticated in the withdrawal strategy. If you keep everything invested and try to grow it, you can risk a market drop … If you play it safe in bonds or fixed income, you might as well just have it in cash and withdraw as much as possible.

While you can always transfer unused RESP to your RRSP, why not withdraw the maximum and put all the extra in your child’s TFSA instead of your RRSP?

As a note, the purpose of the RESP is to use it for education and not for the parents to splurge on a trip… I have read horror stories about this on Reddit.

Withdrawals From A Family RESP

A family RESP allows parents to pool the money contribution for all children and to leverage the money as needed over the years. However, the money is still allocated per child internally within the account (see table below).

In our case, the money was needed almost simultaneously, whereas other families may have other options which will change how much you might want to withdraw.

However, investing for five years is short in the investing world. It’s so short that few people would suggest going all in equities. I suggest still withdrawing the max you can and holding it in a separate account. You can still invest it in a taxable account if you want to or invest in your child’s TFSA account to keep it tax-free.

The reason for that is that once the money is withdrawn according to the rules, then you are no longer subject to paying back the CESG grant. This is a balance between staying invested to make more and having to deal with extra money in the account later on …

The idea of an RESP is to get the CESG grant, grow your money tax-free, withdraw it for education, and then put the extra in the child (beneficiary)’s TFSA account to continue to grow tax-free.

I added the last TFSA part as I think it’s the best money education a parent can also do. Not only do parents help with the cost of education, but they also kick-start the child’s investing mindset with the TFSA.

Family RESP Breakdown By Child

What you can see here is that Kid A has been leveraging Kid B’s PSE contributions. Since only a total of $23,500 was ever contributed to Kid A’s account, but $30,000 has been withdrawn so far.

  • Kid A is away, needs accommodation, and is taking longer than 4 years.
  • Kid B did one year and changed the plan.
Kid AKid B
Contributions Eligible for Grants:$16,000$16,000
Contributions Not Eligible for Grants:$7,500$7,500
Grants Received:$3,200$3,200
Grants Withdrawn:$3,200$1,141
Income Withdrawn:$40,800$4,858.71
PSE Withdrawn:$30,000$0

Converting RESP To RRSP Later

This is one option that can be used when there is money left over. In our case, our RRSP accounts are completely maxed out, and it’s not an option.

While it can be an option for some families, withdrawing the maximum is still better. Remember, as a parent, it’s not your money as it’s meant for your child’s education. That’s the decision you made by opening an RESP account.

Should you withdraw as much every year or as little and convert later?

In my opinion, use it to kick-start your child’s future. My instinct is telling me to withdraw as much as possible without penalties. Plan to use it and if not, you can then have your kids start their TFSA account.

Once you start withdrawing, it’s no longer the time to think of making more money from your investments; it’s time to withdraw as much as you can. The maxiumum I found without a letter explaining why is $24,000 annually.

The student portfolio model is perfect for that, and then you can build it to a $1M portfolio.

RESP Annual Withdrawal Limit

If you attempt to withdraw over $24,000 for one child, you will be asked to justify the withdrawal by explaining the education expenses. I have had to explain it once, that’s why I know.

$24,000 might seem high, but if you include rent, food, and commuting along with tuition, you can reach that amount pretty easily.

You will need to outline the following. Those are all needed to support a child going to university out of province for example.

  • Tuition cost for two semesters
  • Accommodation is usually one year’s worth of rent, even if they are home for 4 months. You typically sign a 1-year contract.
  • Utility costs such as mobile phone, heating, and internet.
  • Food and meals.
  • Commuting cost.
  • Book and school expenses. Include a computer if you need a new one, or headphones.
  • End of term flights. Residences are usually close outside of classes so it’s a fair cost.

Just be ready for some back and forth if you need more than $24,000 in one year.

Non Educational Capital Withdrawal

One aspect of RESP to be clear about is that you can withdraw your contribution at any point in time and for the full amount. However, if the usage is not for educational purposes, you will have to forfeit the grant along with it.

For example, if you want to withdraw $10,000 of your capital, the financial institution will give you back your $10,000 but also give the grant back to the government.

Depending on your withdrawals to date, you may need to work with your financial institution to understand what you can withdraw for non-educational purposes.

The government expects this money to be used to fund education. If you elect to withdraw for non education purpose, be ready to give back the matching contribution made by the federal government.

6 thoughts on “How To Withdraw From Your RESP”

  1. What’s the maximum per year if attending part-time?
    Can you really withdraw your contributions any time or just while attending post-secondary?
    There would be no need to repay the grant if you withdrew only the excess contributions above which the grant wasn’t paid anyway, right? If you had maxed to $50k per kid?

    • Thanks for your comment.

      I am not sure about part-time unfortunately.

      You can always withdraw your contribution but you have to specify if it’s for education or not.
      For education, you might have to justify the amount.
      For non-education, you will have to pay back some of the CESG grant except for the excess I would say.

      Double check with the financial institution and I suggest you get on the phone.

  2. This is a helpful article, thank you. I have a child going off to university next year, so I liked your approach on using the EAP first, along with the maximum permissible.

    That said, I’m wondering how taxation impacted your approach? Specifically, my understanding is that only the EAP plus income is taxable (in student’s hands, of course). So, let’s say you plan to withdraw the full $24,000, and assume it’s all EAP. Further, assume that your child will not have enough deductions to offset the $24,000 income (plus summer jobs, which tend to be deduction exempt for the most part). What would your approach be then?

    • Thanks for your comment Joe.

      There is potentially a tax amount to be paid. At which point, all of it becomes a guess as to future transfer to your RRSP which will be taxed as income or will it be depleted by the time your kid is done?

      My situation was a little different as I planned for 2 kids and now there is only 1 withdrawing and while I can keep it there for a while in hope our second kid will use it, I would rather deplete it if I could and have the money work somewhere else.

      As for the tax, since it’s part of education financing strategy, I would cover anything needed. In fact, you can use some of the $24,000 to cover it if you think it’s needed. I think it’s a fair expense to even justify more money to withdraw. I got to include that next time :)

  3. Al R.

    Your article is really good. I am about to enter this process this summer and fall. What is your experience with extraneous items such as clothing, and general spending money.

    I have invested the money for 18 years, in common stock, and now have 9 years of schooling saved up for two kids, and the youngest doesn’t start until 2028. I want to get as much as I can out each year. I stopped investing in common stock 3 years ago, and sold a bit along the way, so now have 3 years in cash, and short term GOC bonds.


    • Hey,

      Thanks for the comment. If you can do it, you can cover any cost you want. You don’t have to justify everything. Your child will have to file the return with the income from the RESP.

      The withdrawal strategy are twofolds; to let you avoid having to be left with money to transfer into an RRSP and to minimize the tax for your child, which can be a surprise and the tax still has to be paid.


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