LIRAs and LRSPs
A locked-in retirement account (LIRA) and the similar locked-in retirement savings plan (LRSP) are investment accounts for retirement with funds transferred from an existing pension plan. If you have a pension plan with your current employer and happen to either leave or be laid off, your pension can be transferred to an LIRA or LRSP. The difference between these two accounts and a regular RRSP is that RRSPs can be cashed in at any time, while the LIRA and LRSP cannot. Another key difference is that once funds are transferred from a pension plan to a LIRA or LRSP, you will be unable to make further contributions. The purpose of an LIRA or LRSP is to hold your former pension funds and keep them locked in for you or your surviving partner.
When can I access these funds?
Funds held in a LIRA will only become available when the account holder turns 55. At this age, funds can be either partially unlocked (moved to an RRSP and withdrawn) or converted into a life income fund (LIF) or locked-in retirement income fund (LRIF).
LIFs and LRIFs
A Life Income Fund (LIF) allows you to control investments within the account. However, your withdrawals are subject to minimum and maximum annual amounts. Since any funds in a LIF are essentially your pension, ideally funds should last the remainder of your life. A locked-in retirement income fund is similar to a LIF in the sense that you decide how to invest and are subject to minimum and maximum annual withdrawals.
Despite the regulations that these accounts have, it is possible to unlock the funds earlier. Withdrawal of funds is only recommended in serious circumstances such as suffering a critical injury or financial hardship. Although there are still ways to unlock the funds in a LIRA or LRIF, but an application must be made to the governing body to request the funds be unlocked.
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