Unlocking LIRAs: How to get money out of your pension

Unlocking LIRAs: How to get money out of your pension

If you left a company with a pension before retirement, chances are you had to move the money into a Locked in Retirement Account (LIRA). That’s because both the federal and provincial governments do not permit you to convert your pension into cash.

LIRAs are designed for accumulation of money that originated from a pension plan. People who leave employers with either Defined Benefit Plans (DB) or Defined Contribution Plans (DC) can move their pension funds into LIRA where they can self manage their asset (with or without the help of a financial advisor).

LIRAs do not allow for lump sum withdrawals and there are no options to create income. If you want income from your LIRA, you will have to either transfer to a Life Income Fund (LIF) or a Life Annuity. Typically the need for income from happens when your retire.

How can you get money out of a LIRA?

This is one of the most common questions I get. So many people, especially in tough times are trying to access these funds for use.

Back in 2008, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced changes to allow Canadians easier access to their Locked-in retirement accounts (LIRA). Prior to 2008, it was very difficult for Canadians to access their own pension money because the rules were designed with the intent of trying to ensure lifetime income. As a result, there were restrictions in place preventing people from spending their pension funds too quickly.

Generally speaking the only way to get money out of your locked in accounts is to retire. In most cases, the earliest age you can access pension money is age 55 (Some situations allow for access to funds before the age of 55 – see below).

When you need income, you have two or three options depending on the province you live in. You can Transfer to Life Income Fund (LIF), a Life Annuity and where applicable a Life Retirement Income Fund (LRIF).

Exceptions to allow you to unlock your pension money

You cannot access pension funds prior to 55 years of age except for a few exceptions:

Different provinces mean different rules

Pension rules can be pretty complicated and confusing because every province has it’s own set of laws. Here are some resources for the different rules for difference provinces:

  1. Federal – Federal Pensions (includes Yukon, NWT and Inuvik)
  2. BC – British Columbia Financial Institutions Commission (FIC)
  3. Alberta – Alberta Finance Unlocking rules
  4. Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Unlocking rules
  5. Manitoba – Manitoba Finance Unlocking rules
  6. Ontario – Financial Services Commission of Ontario Unlocking
  7. Quebec – Refunding LIRAs and LIFs in Quebec
  8. Nova Scotia – Nova Scotia exceptions to locked-in pensions

Access to small amounts

Amounts held in a locked-in contract are considered to be too small to provide a useful pension if the dollar value of that account falls below a set level. In most cases, that level is 20% of the Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings – YMPE. For the year 2017, the YMPE is $55,300. This means that any LIRAs with less than $11,060 can be unlocked. Again, there can be some slight variations depending on the pension rules for different provinces.

  • For example, if you are over the age of 65, some provinces allow pensions less than 40% of the YMPE ($22,120) to be unlocked.
  • For individuals 55 or older with total holdings in federally regulated locked-in funds, up to 50% of YMPE ($27,650) will be able to wind up their accounts or convert to a tax-deferred savings vehicle with no maximum withdrawal limit, such as a Registered Retirement Income Fund or a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).
  • The threshold for small holdings will increase with the average industrial wage.
  • Be sure to check the rules for each province to understand the details of how a small pension is defined.

Shortened life expectancy

If you have a terminal illness or a disability that is expected, in the opinion of your doctor, to shorten your life considerably, then your LIRA or LIF may be unlocked. Your doctor must provide the shortened life opinion in writing. Also, you may not withdraw the funds unless your pension partner consents to giving up his or her entitlement to a joint and survivor pension. Most pension jurisdiction will require a doctors note or some medical evidence as well as a spouses consent to unlock the pension funds for shortened life expectancy. Ontario goes one step further and defines a shortened life expectancy as your life expectancy is two years or less.

Becoming non-resident of Canada

If the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) determines that you are a non-resident of Canada for tax purposes, and confirms this in writing, then you may unlock your LIRA or LIF. Once unlocked, the funds may be transferred into a regular bank account or transferred into an investment account that is not subject to the Act. You do not have to wait until age 55 to access those funds, nor do the funds have to be paid out in a set manner. Taxation still applies on withdrawal. Most pension jurisdictions will require some proof of non-residency like confirmation from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and some time requirement like 2 years of non-residency before unlocking the pension is allowed.

Financial hardship

If you are facing a situation of financial hardship, you may apply to release of some or all of the funds in your LIRA or LIF. Each pension jurisdication can have different requirement for what financial hardship means:

  • Federally, no permitted withdrawals are allowed under financial hardship when expected income is 75% of the YMPE (i.e. $38,325 for 2013) or higher. Those with high medical or disability-related Costs can also apply for unlocking under the financial hardship rules: The amount of medical expenditures up to a maximum of 50% of the YMPE (i.e. $25,550 in 2013) provided that medical expenditures exceed 20% of expected annual income.
  • Ontario, for example, has 4 categories of financial hardship while Alberta and BC have 5 categories.
  • Manitoba does not recognize financial hardship as a reason to unlock pensions.

50% Unlocking

The 50% unlocking does not apply in all jurisdictions. If you live in Alberta or you have a Federally regulated locked in account, you may qualify to unlock up to 50% of your holdings and transfer them to an RRSP where there is no restrictions on withdrawal. This can only occur at the time when you are moving money from a LIRA to a LIF or Annuity.

For pensions in Ontario, you can transfer out 50% of pension funds that are in a Schedule 1.1 Life Income Fund into a RRSP or RRIF.

In Saskatchewan, effectively, 100% of the pension can be unlocked since the entire LIRA can be moved to a RRIF with spousal consent. Once the money is in the RRIF, pension restrictions no longer apply.


As you can see, Pension legislation can be pretty confusing because the rules are not uniform across the country. the rules apply based on the origin of the pension plan and not necessarily where the individual lives or where the funds reside. If in doubt, seek help from a qualified professional.

Other related articles

Unlocking Pension Funds due to Financial Hardship Rules

Learning about Locked in Retirement Accounts

Federal rules for unlocking (OFSI)

Rules for unlocking pension funds (Alberta rules)


  1. george

    i will turn 71 in march2012 …how long do i have to convert my lira ?

    • Jim Yih

      You have until Dec 31 to convert to a LIF or annuity. Also check the unlocking rules in your province.

  2. Brian

    My question is about your exception #2, what province follows the unlocking rule that says, if the LIRA is less than 20% of YMPE (ie $9,440) at any age (eg under 55) the small amount can be withdrawn? I spoke with FSCO and they indicated this was not an option in Ontario.

    • YoYo

      Yes, I called also and they say this is not an option. You ave to be 55, please check the facts before publishing false information

    • Stephen

      FSCO clearly misunderstood you. You can indeed unlock under YMPE in Ontario if your balance is low enough.

  3. Eric

    i have downloaded the file regarding Instructions for Completing Form 6
    It does not mention my reason for needing the money.
    Revenue Canada has sent a letter stating my spouse and I owe 10,000, yet there is no catagory
    for me to chose stating revenue canada will proceed with legal action for this money owing
    can i just state in writing why i need thee money and attach it to the form?
    can you please respond through my email listed above
    and thanks very much.

  4. Eric

    im in ontario

  5. greg

    Can I start withdrawing from my locked in pension at age 55
    It was a company pension that was transfered to the bank

    • Patti

      Greg, did you ever find out anything about our LIFS (locked in at the bank) I can’t beleive this happened when I transferred it- I thought I could draw from it right away & so far all I have received is $3780 last June & will again this June. How do you live off that?

      • Catherine

        Hi there I am 28 and worked for a company for 5 years, I was laid off due to covid 19. My savings of $15k is locked in a DCPP at sunlife. After 2 years with the company I am entitled to take all the contributions with me. Is there anyway I can turn this DCPP into a Lira then to RRSP so I can withdraw and take advantage of the home buyers plan? I only have about $10k in RRSP, so the money from my old pension plan is oh so necessary for me to afford a downpayment on a home in my province of BC.

  6. Patti

    I would also like to know when I can withdraw my locked in pension. I will be 59 in June. I worked for the BC government & had my pension transferred to the bank-in a RRIF account.

    I never realized I could access some of my funds at the age 55. My first draw of $4000 was last July @ 58 years old which is hardly a living. I received a notice saying this year at 59 I would receive my draw of $3800 this coming July.

    I wonder why I did not receive a retro payment last year back to age 55. This would have been $12000? I should have been given those payments all along if I knew about it.

    Is there a better way of having my money managed? I don’t think this is right. I look forward to hearing back from you.


  7. Jan

    I am a non-resident of Canada living in the USA. I moved 4 years ago. I have a DB Pension through Suncor Energy and need to decide what I will do with it. I read above that I can withdraw it and it will be taxed. I think we want to just withdraw it and break all ties with Canada. Will I receive the amount of money in the plan less 25% withholding tax? And do you think this is a bad move. We just want to not have to worry about having any Canadian accounts in the future. Your advice is greatly appreciated.

  8. Roberta

    I am 62 years old, I have an investment in Lira-Lock-in a little over $100,000. I am not working and suffering financial heartship. I would like to get access to some cash, and I would like to put some of the funds to work in Stocks, Trades, and what ever else that I can make my money work for me. My advisor do not want me to take from it for the exception of monthly withdrawal. I am not pleased with that. What steps should I take to request my funds. Please respond!

    • John Chan

      Hi Roberta,

      If you’re in financial hardship then you can apply for withdrawing from your LIRA. Individual stocks and trades can be high risk for losing your money. That maybe the reason why your advisor is opposed to it even though the potential for gains is tempting. Your advisor should have explained to you why sticking to your monthly withdraw and the portfolio your LIRA is invested in the is best fit for you. IF you feel you understand the explanation but still aren’t satisfied then you can get a review from a different advisor. The risk you are open to at this point is that you may come across an advisor that will tell you what you want to hear just to get you as a client. A good advisor will say the hard things even if it means disappointing the client and risk losing them.

  9. Patti

    I was told I do not and cannot have access to my LIRA pension until I am 65 years old. The only way would be if you could prove hardship or you were terminally ill & you would need Dr’s verification. I take mine once a year a small amount compared to what I feel I should be able to take out. This is for my BC Govt pension and our beloved Gordon Campbell put a 6% only per year cap on our pensions in LIRA’s-I am sure he is taking alot more than 6%. Oh well such is life of the poor.

    • Roberta

      Thanks for the reply.

  10. farrah zeman

    Did you know that factors like your age, gender, and marital status will impact your buyout from GM in their lump sum pension buyout plan? Understanding the factors involved and the impact they have on your options are crucial to making the right choice for your family. The best way to ensure you make an educated choice is to consult with a qualified financial planner.

  11. Russell

    I cash in a lira under financial hardship to pay revenue Canada. Which I now know the couldn’t have me do. However my question now is am I know able to make any money this tax year? How will that effect what I did as under financial hardship you have to show zero income. Now I have an opportunity to make some money. What can I do and what are the Ramifications .

  12. lemon


    I have federally regulated pension. Now I am unemployed will I abe able to use portion or all of it towards downpayment of buying a home?

  13. Jason Wheeler

    Hi I have a DCPP that is locked in. I live in Newfoundland and was wondering if I could access my money. I’m 42 years old. Thx

  14. Jeff deBoer

    I’ve taken my money out of a B.C. pension plan, now it is in a Alberta bank as a lira. I’ve got a costing to buy back time in my current pension, but the bank says it can’t transfer the funds, due to differences in B.C. and Alberta pension laws. Can this be true? Is there anyway to make this transfer possible?

  15. Patti

    The most frustrating move I ever made was taking my govt pension & putting it into my bank. As with everything the govt has to even be involved in our pension money. I don’t know what or if anything can be done-I figured I worked long and hard and I would be entitled to the retirement income I paid into-not so. I feel I have signed over my pension money back to the government. It’s not fair but it’s what it is. Hope you have better luck.

  16. Michael

    I’m 46 & have a federally regulated pension plan. Working for over 20 years I have a nice little egg. Last year my home flooded & lost everything. Do you know if I’d be able to access some of my locked-in RRP under the financial hardship guidelines? Would I be able to use a portion of these funds to either rent or make a down payment on another residence. I deal with I have all my holdings with GWL if that matters. I really need some advice…Thanks Michael

    • Paul Lambe


  17. Michael

    Hi just left message regarding my home being flooded I also rec’d no compensation from either level of GOV’t or the insurance company. Thanks again Mike

  18. Patti

    Does anyone know why my locked-in GIC’s I have had in my bank from my government pension would turn into RRIF’s this quarterly June to Sept?? What is a GIC & what is a RRIF’s?


  19. François

    Thanks Jim – very informative article.

    I’m still curious about the 55-year rule before funds can be moved from a LIRA — I am retiring at 44 with 25 years of service at my company (federally-regulated DB plan) so although I am eligible for pre-retirement pension, because of my age I can also commute the value of my DB plan to part-LIRA, part-cash.

    If I’m eligible for a monthly pension, shouldn’t I also be able to move $ from LIRA to LIF? Or are the pension plan rules now irrelevant after commuting?


  20. dj

    Well all i can say,get good advise ! get all the doc’s from your PPA (2nd time will cost you a fee) ,read them ,take them to CGA who is up to date on pension law an pension tax. Now get CFP who has a track record with pensions like yours. Don’t be cheap – pay the fees for good advise ,even if your a DIY investor ,pay for good advise on this pension stuff.

  21. KK

    I am only 60 yrs of age, If Alberta provincial LIRA in one investment account … can I split it into three or four separate accounts and only unlock one account at a time to put 50% in RRSP and 50% in LIF, instead of unlocking the whole LIRA account at one time

  22. finance company

    Retirement pension is really very valuable for candidate and this act LIRA( Life Retirement Income Fund)is very very good for those who takes a benefit of retirement pension..

  23. Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle

    I have to put money in my company pension to qualify for the very small yearly match but there will be less than $16,000 in the account when I retire.

    My hope is to take it with me when I go. I had hoped to do a straight withdrawl in my first year or retirement and that would be my income for the first year. I will have to come up with a new plan.

    If I leave it in the pension plan they tell me I will receive less than $2,000 per year. I guess that would cover my car insurance or my long term health care insurance.

  24. Canadianbudgetbinder

    Lots of great info here Jim thanks for sharing. We have a LIRA that is managed by an advisor and were not aware of most of what you talked about in your post except for the only way to get the cash is to retire.

  25. Bernie Cosgrove

    I have a locked in LIF with the Federal Government. It came from a Military Pension. Is there any way I can get this money? I would like to buy a house and there is more then money in my LIF to cover the down payment. I keep getting told there is nothing I can do to unlock it/use it.

    • Paul Lambe


    • Adam

      Does the military have your pension in its plan? Did you find out any info on this ?? Province wouldn’t matter if it is a federal pension. I’m trying to do the same thing and they said I had a year to transfer it into my personal lira with whom I want. Let me know.

  26. JM

    As a non-resident I can collapse a LIRA and 25% tax is withheld. If I file a tax return as a non-resident can the LIRA amount be included as income and possibly some or all the tax recovered?

  27. Alex

    I have about 30k from a University pension locked into a LIRA in Alberta. I’m planning on moving to the UK so I know I can claim it as a non resident, but I’d really like to have some of it to help the move. If I move it into an RRSP, can I withdraw 50% before being able to prove I’m no longer a resident? Tax law is soooooo confusing. Thanks for any info provided. Cheers.

    • mel

      es the bank is correct, i am a fa and ab and bc regulations are very different.

  28. ian

    I have a small LIRA (23K). It came about from an audit that I did on my DB plan. The DB plan allowed for a small extra contribution-3 percent of salary to be used for DB enhancements.. My employer matched this on a 1.5 percent basis (all monies should have been going into an ACP account to purchase DB plan enhancements). Three mergers later I discovered that my contributions have not been matched or a number of years. It seems the only option that my employer had was to deposit missing money in a LIRA-which they did.

    Fast forward 8 years. I am about to start my DB pension. I will be using the ACP monies to buy enhancements to the normal form of pension.

    Question: Will I also be able to the balance in this LIRA account towards the purchase of these DB enhancements-in this instance joint survivor rights.

    I have asked my former employer’s pension folks this question and am waiting for a response. I do not have a great deal of confidence in this group so hence this question to you.

    Thanks for your time Jim.
    PS: I really like the website!

  29. Shaun

    I have a complex lira question
    My fiancé is currently going through divorce and will be receiving lira as part of settlement. 23000 is from a lira In alberta and 6000 from a lira in Manitoba. We currently live in alberta. How can we unlock or move this into an rrsp account to use towards a home buyer credit?

  30. martin

    Why is there a locked and an unlocked portion amount in my corporate DB pension?

  31. John

    I have $150,000 in a Lira. I lost my job 10 months ago and now I have nothing left to live on. Rent, car payment, bills, is there anyway to unlock?? I was able to unlock 25,000 as financial hardship a while back but now I am just about broke and have nothing other than my Lira. Is there anyway to unlock this now. I am under 55 years old.

    • Michael Eckensweiler

      Yes I was in the same position.Was able to unlock for the past 5 yrs between $20,000.00 & $25.000.00 depending amount of gov. Ont disability. program less the tax

  32. Jamie Taylor

    I have a locked pension fund with Carpenters union local 27 Toronto Ontario I am no longer a member I was wondering if it is possible to transfer the fund to another investment something that is not locked that will pay dividends and also withdrawal some cash for it.

    • martin h

      Jamie: You’ll have to leave it in the locked portion for the time being. @ retirement, you can unlock up to 50% (transfer 50% into a rrsp)

  33. Sergio

    Hello, I am trying to have my LIRA and/or LRSP unlocked under the small amount approach. both are under 20% of YMPE … however my bank does not know what form to use, as in what CRA form. I am under age 55, however, due to it being under 20% from what I understand I can access this money.

    Can somebody please assist me in locating the needed info/form?? Thanks in advance

  34. josh

    I have some questions.

    I have a RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLAN – LOCKED-IN from the Canadian forces (31,000$)
    Is this just a locked in rsp or a lira?
    What can I do to unlock my funds before the age of 50?

    • Paul McAllister

      Hi Josh,

      The CF Pension Plan can be transferred into a LIRA under federal jurisdiction. A LIRA and a Locked in RRSP are one in the same. I have helped a few members transfer their pensions from the CF and other organizations into self-directed LIRAs, and even help them make their money grow.

      • Adam

        Paul, help me get mine the hell out of there and into my own personal
        Bank!!! I contacted them and they said I had a year to do it.. but I never got the mail caused I moved away from the province I was in. What can you do.

  35. dj

    Funny that Jim doesn’t respond to any comments on this post,ok he did once but maybe he’s just using this blog to troll for poeple who want to be under his advisment for 2% aum 🙂

  36. Martin H

    The simple course of action to everyone’s comments on Jim’s blog is go see your own financial advisor or go find one that you like and is trustworthy (shameless plug – like myself)
    Dj: Jim does not work for free. Do you work for free? Appreciate the info he shares please.
    Lastly, giving out answers to comments/questions for people is downright dangerous if the advisor does not know the respective person’s financial situation. That’s common sense.

  37. Francois

    Agree with Martin,
    I actually booked a phone consultation with Jim and spent a couple of hours obtaining custom tailored advise based on my personal situation — money very, very well spent!

    • Jim Yih

      Thanks for the kind words Martin and Francois.
      All the best!

  38. Jim Yih

    Hey DJ, thanks for commenting. Unfortunately for everyone, it is very difficult for me to answer questions via the web. I have a full time business (not managing people’s money for 2% AUM) putting financial education programs in the workplace trying to help people with information, and not selling products. Retire Happy is designed to help people with free, unsolicited information. I hope some of the information has helped you.

  39. bill

    I am 42 years old and have 2 LIRA’S. I have a high amount of debt to the point I am considering a consumer proposal. I just started a 3rd LIRA with the new company I am working for. I live in Ontario. I have done a lot of math and feel that if I had access to about 40 percent of my LIRA’s I could do much better in the long run. The interest I pay monthly is very high. I have tried to work with banks but all they do is keep me treading water. I am just curious if there is a way I could cash out any of my current LIRA’S.

  40. martin h

    Bill: If you were in the GTA, might be able to help more. But how I’ve helped my clients was by accessing this site to get the forms.

  41. Mr. Finance

    I have a $50,000 in a LIRA. I want to take some try and get access to any amount as I want to buy a home with it. I understand I can’t utilize the HBP, any suggestions of ways to get access to some funds?

    • Ted

      I live in BC. I have a LIRA of approx 130000. I’m 60 in a cpl months and fully retire in Aug 2021. What’s the maximum amount I’ll be able to withdraw monthly from my LIRA?

  42. Peter

    Hello Jim,
    Many years ago I worked at a company for 5 years that had a DB Plan along with my own contributions into the plan.
    I am eligible for a monthly pension of $858 at age 60 from this Plan. (I just turned age 60).
    Or I can transfer the commuted value of $107,000 into a self-directed LIRA + receive another $52,000 of registered funds in Excess Over the Tax Limits subject to a 30% withholding tax.
    I am considering transferring all the monies into a self-directed LIRA and invest it in a very secure investment that would pay me 8% annual on a monthly basis.This would provide me with a cashflow of approx $958 vs $858 and name a beneficiary for the full principal vs just the balance of a 10 year guarantee.
    Which do you feel is the better option?

    • Martin Hutnik

      Hi Peter,
      Well can’t argue against those numbers Peter. Not to mention, you can unlock half of the LIRA’s funds(assuming your from Ontario). However, as a professional that is in an advisory role, I’d be immediately skeptical of that 8% return figure based on your description. Not speaking for Jim, but it would be dangerous in my opinion to give advise in a decision as serious as this, without seeing the entire “picture”.

  43. james

    hey look iam 50 yrs old and i have a pension throught the labouers hall local 92 in edmonton ab am i able too transfer that monies too anouther locked in account they say i must be out of work for 2 yrs to do this . is there any other way ? thks

  44. Francois

    Just a clarification for anyone still in a company registered pension plan (RPP) and considering leaving: you can actually transfer the locked-in portion of your commuted value to a Life Income Fund (LIF) immediately, regardless of age, and start drawing income — subject to the yearly minimum and maximum. You do NOT have to transfer to a Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA) and wait to retirement age before moving to LIF. Actually, per the income tax act a LIF meets the definition of a LIRA, hence the possibility to move your commuted value to one immediately.

    This is something that was not clear to me, and apparently not to many since two financial advisors who advised me never mentioned that option. The ‘unlocking’ options were mentioned (financial hardship, small amount, shortened life expectancy…) but not the fact that I could start drawing income immediately from a LIF without having to unlock even though I am only 44 years old.

    Perhaps this information can be valuable to someone else in my situation…



  45. Dave

    BC’s bill 38’s regulations are expected in draft form this summer. Among other things they will prescribe the unlocking of funds involved in hardship cases. Have you heard any rumours as to the framework for this.
    FICOM is tight lipped. I have a $40,000 LIRA that would help me avoid bankruptcy. I spoke to the Superintendent of Bankruptcy’s office and they were out of the loop as a stakeholder during the draft stage. I would rather a Trustee assess my assets/debts and level of hardship instead of the bank. Why should I pursue bankruptcy or a consumer proposal when I could pay my creditors by unlocking my LIRA. In my case I have another significant pension outside of my LIRA.

    • Andrew

      Hi, I have $66,000 in LIRA funds under the federal jurisdiction. I live in Alberta and am ccurrently unemployed. I am carrying about $22000 in debt and would greatly appreciated any advice. Thanks!!!

      • Mike L

        Financial Hardship Unlocking should work if you are unemployed!

  46. Darren G.

    I got terminated/forced to resign from my job. I got a notice saying my commuted amount I can transfer into a LIRA is 38,900. I am 42 years of age and live in Alberta. I don’t think I will find a job close to that in the near future. Will struggle in the near future. Guessing I will transfer into a LIRA with TD bank. Is there any way I can gain access to anywhere from $5000-$8000 of these funds in the rather quick near future??

  47. Ironic

    Apply under the financial hardship section. I used it when I was out of work for over a year.

  48. Dan


    I have over $60K in a Lira and will be turning 53 in about a month. Can I transfer 50% of this lira into a LIF and cash out 50%.


  49. Martin Hutnik

    Transfer 50% to a LIRA and 50% to a RRSP. What you do with the RRSP and how you withdraw is between you and hopefully a capable Financial Planner.

    • dan

      So I can transfer 50 % to an RRSP or withdraw at age 53 in Ontario, Canada?

  50. Payem

    I’m leaving a Government Job and they want to transfer my pension into a LIRA account. I’m in my 30s and would like to use my first time home buyers plan with some of my LIRA funds. IS there anyway to do this? If not, is there a better alternative to putting it into a LIRA account with a big 5 bank and getting charged a high MER?

    • Paul McAllister

      Hi Payem, you can’t use the LIRA for the Home Buyer’s Plan directly, but you may be able to use Jim’s methods above to take some of the funds out of the LIRA to use towards the home purchase.

  51. victoria

    My husband is getting his pension put into a locked in rrsp account can we access some for a downpayment on a house?

  52. LISA

    HELLO MY name is Lisa and Im looking for information on unlocking my LIRA ITS with GREAT WEST LIFE and I live in MANITOBA Im in a Finacial Crisi and could really use the money Please help me thanks so much

  53. Cecelia Reilly

    First, I love your articles. Now, my question. I have a small locked I RRSP (under $20,000) and am 55 years old. I have debt that could be paid off by this RRSP.
    I am able to retire from my gov’t employer in 2. 5 years with a comfortable pension. I also have a child about to enter university, for whom I have 1 year of funding in cash, assuming I would ‘pay as he goes’ for the other years. As a result, I will stay with my employer for another 4 years in total (plan thusfar). I also have potential for some other small income when I retire.

    a)can I unlock my locked in RRSP?

    b)is it subject to income tax?

    c) will it be cash or some other device?

    c)it it worth it?

  54. Tammy

    I already took out maximum on my locked in pension fro hardship, can I take out more for hardship? I’m in Alberta and I was told all province have different rules…

  55. bob

    Ok Jim could you recommend an Adviser in toronto ,who is really up to date on,DPP transfers to LIF

  56. Paul McAllister

    I can help anyone who would like to use pension funds in a locked-in retirement account or RSP to invest in arms length mortgages. My clients are typically earning 12% per year which is an amazing rate. TFSA can be used as well.

    • Dave

      ****** FRAUD ALERT ******

      • Paul McAllister

        There was nothing fraudulent about that post.

  57. Frank

    I need to decide whether to unlock part or all of my Lira now. I’m 55 and no longer employed. My income comes from my savings and some investments, is about 20,000 /year, and includes my RRSP withdrawals that should last me until I’m 65 years old. Should I convert my LIRA now or later to avoid paying the least amount of taxes? Would I be taxed on any LIF income?

    • Paul McAllister

      Hi Frank, you will be taxed on LIF income. I recommend investing what you can now to grow your savings so they will last longer.

  58. Josh

    Hello I’m looking to withdraw some money from my lira to puts towards a down payment on a house does anybody now if this is possible I’m 38 years old and this would be my first house

  59. Andrew

    I just left a company with about $20,000 in Pension money with Sunlife (Ontario). The funds were in a DCPP, then converted into a LIRA. I made a request to transfer the funds out of Sunlife and into my new company’s GROUP RRSP with Manulife (New company also has a DCPP). I now see the money has been transferred to the RRSP, does this mean the funds are unlocked?? and would I be able to use the funds in the near future as a down payment under the first time Home Buyers Plan? Please help!?

  60. Paul McAllister

    Hi Andrew,

    They may still be locked in. You could call Sunlife and ask them.

    If you need help finding a good mortgage for your needs, let me know. I’d be glad to help.

  61. John

    Hello Jim

    First of all this is sure nice that you are doing this for so many people. Below are my facts and I was hoping you could assist me on accessing my BC pension without a 25% withholding tax.

    1- I am a non resident and have the form from the Govt of Canada confirming
    2- I have been given the option from BC pension to withdraw lump sum
    3- I have started the process on the NR5 form
    4- I am a resident of Bangladesh
    5- I am Canadian and have an account in Canada.

    My hope is that I can get the reduction down to 15% and then through my taxes receive more of this back. IF they will take 25% , I don’t see the benefit in receiving the lump sum.

    Again, thanks for what you are doing and I would love to hear back from you !
    Warm Regards

  62. John

    1. I am in the midst of a divorce, if I transfer some of my locked in defined contribution pension to my spouse, if the amount is low enough (Saskatchewan) can she take the money out right away. (ie. if I only transfer 11,000 or less)

    2. I will also transfer to her a portion of my defined benefit plan (50k), does this impact #1 above.



  63. Rob Jones

    Thanks for the informative article. I now have a LIRA being managed by an investment advisor but would like to start self-managing it moving forward. Once I begin self-managing, what can I invest the money in? I’m looking to put some of it in online crowdsourcing/startup investments – will this be possible or do I have to stick to traditional investment channels (e.g., publicly-traded companies/saving account/ETFs/etc)? Thanks!

  64. Paul McAllister

    Hi Rob,

    You can invest in private (exempt market) funds as well. Or invest in mortgages which is what I do with my LIRA and help others do the same. I make 12% annual interest investing from my LIRA, RRSP and TFSA.

    • EL

      Hi Jim/Paul,

      I am 60year old and is holding Locked-in RSP. If you make 12% annual interest investing from the LIRA, RRSP and TFSA. May I ask if you have a strategy to withdraw this interest you have gained? Do you need to follow a fix percentage to get the money out of it when you reach 71year old?

      • Tony Leo

        El, beware of scam artist. I will be very cautious if someone said he helps clients to make 12% annual. You cannot take more than the max. withdraw in LIRA under normal circumstance. However, you can take any amount out from your RRSP subject to tax. For you TSFA, you can take out money (I don’t know if there is a limit) without paying tax. Good luck……

  65. Shirley

    Is it possible (in Manitoba) to convert a LIRA to a LIF, then unlock 50% to a PRIF, then convert the LIF back to a LIRA?


    • Lisa

      Did you ever get an answer for this question? If so what was it?

  66. debra

    Hi Jim;
    I am an AB resident recently moved (companies) the DB plan into a LIRA; I have another 15 yrs of full time employment before retirement. Is there a greater (tax savings) benefit to keep the funds in the LIRA until retirement or move (50%) of the LIRA funds in my RRSP account?

  67. Carole

    I’m from New Brunswick and I have a locked in pension with an investor. It is a little over $13K. I would need it for a down payment on a house, but he’s telling me it’s locked in and I can only get out approximately $2K this year. is there any way I can transfer this into something else to be able to take it out.

  68. The Dan


    Cole’s notes on my LIRA situation.

    Took my Trades pension and moved to a LIRA with company XYZ.

    Returns have been terrible.

    I’m about to turn 50 living here in Edmonton,AB. Still employed so can’t claim hardship.

    Can I withdraw LIRA from company XYZ and transfer to my self-directed RRSP with TD Waterhouse?

  69. Paul

    Dan, you can transfer your LIRA to a self-directed TD Investments LIRA. It would be a separate account from your RRSP, but would work the same way.

    • The Dan

      Thanks for your info Paul, much appreciated!

  70. Tanya Hamel

    If like to know in what cases would my LIRA be exempt from being divided on marriage breakdown?
    My lira is regulated by Newfoundland.
    And what exactly conditions would be considered to have a shortened life expectancy?

  71. Charissa Lavoie

    Can i transfer my locked-in rsp to a rrif? And if i did would it still be locked in?

  72. RandomReader

    SK link is broken

    • Mr J

      Can I pull out my union pension if I’m unable to work.. I got diagnosed with rheatiod arthritis I’m 36 years old

  73. Lisa

    I live in Manitoba I have a mutual fund at a bank I will be 55 in January but need half my funds now due to heart issues I can’t work. In Manitoba we can’t use the “hardship” excuse and I do get a percentage of it once a year it was transferred to the bank when my x husband and I got divorced. He is now 62 and is spending his. I really need to unlock half of mine which would be approximately 8000.00. can I do this if I talk to my financial advisor at the bank? Anyone n this situation?

  74. Lesley

    Hello. I live in Alberta,now, but worked in Regina for 6 years. I locked in my pension, when I quit my job. The LIRA, was ‘ held’ in Ontario, although I worked in Regina. Now that I live in Alberta, and am 51, I really need access to some of that LIRA. Can I transfer it to an RRSP, in ALberta? How does this work?
    Thank you.

  75. Duane Lockyer

    I retired a couple of years ago and took a lump sum for my pension, that is locked in. I am 55 years old now, how much can I get from my pension per month, or year. I live in newfoundland.

  76. Hyun

    Hello Kim,

    I have question of withdrawal from my LIRA account.
    I recently transfer portion of fund (10K) from my previous company group retirement plan to my bank LIRA account. When I open the LIRA account, there is withdrawal option of small amount. I think it is under around $11,000.
    I still have $16K fund on my previous company Locked-in RPP after I transfer $10K to my LIRA.

    Is it possible to withdrawal $10K from My LIRA account under small amount rule? I am living in Alberta and the LIRA and Group RPP is under Alberta fund.

    Please let me know.

    Thank you,

    • hyun

      Hello Kim,
      By the way, I am under 55 year old.

      Thank you,

      • hyun

        Sorry Jim,

        I said Hello Kim.. but it is mistake.

        I know you are JIM..^^

  77. Tim

    I am set to retire in 3 years. I have a LIRA from my time in the Ontario Government. I currently live in BC.
    Q1: Do I have to follow FSCO rules when withdrawing my LIRA/LIF?
    Q2: How are the minimum and maximum withdrawal amounts calculated? When are they issued?
    Thank you,

  78. Cindy

    Good Day, How do I unlock a mutual fund locked RRSP in Alberta under financial situation that doesn’t fall under any of the 5 options provided?

  79. corinne

    Hi, thanks for great information. Do you have to have RRSP contribution room available in order to transfer un-locked LIRA funds to an RRSP? (It’s an Alberta LIRA and I do not have any available RRSP contribution room).

  80. Ryan

    “For pensions in Ontario, you can transfer out 50% of pension funds that are in a Schedule 1.1 Life Income Fund into a RRSP or RRIF.”

    I can’t find any information from any FI I’ve researched as to what a Schedule 1.1 LIF is, or if they offer one. FSCO is not much help at defining what this is either. Can you offer more insight on this?

  81. Jojo

    I’m 52 years old, I live in Ontario and left my job in January because of disability, my company give me a choice to transfer my pension out to a LIRA, I talk to my banker and my insurance agent, anyone know which one is better?
    When I turn to 65, do i have to transfer my LIRA to LIF? can i transfer to my RRSP? what’s the different?

  82. Joe

    I have a LIRA that I need to transfer from a union pension, but I’m under some time constraints in regards to transfer as have to do within the next 30 days. I am able to transfer to my local bank as a LIRA. but my back has very limited investment products and the brokerage account that I do want to transfer into I can’t do in time because of mailing times for forms to go back and forth.
    My question is if I transfer from union pension to local back LIRA, can I in the future transfer from bank LIRA to Brokerage LIRA or is one time limit for transferring LIRAS?

  83. Jason Vaz

    Hi Jim;

    I have a Saskatchewan pension that I transferred to a RRIF in Ontario. Is there any way possible to unlock this money as I am not working due to the pandemic and I understand Saskatchewan pensions are hard to unlock?
    Please let me know

  84. Liss

    Hello, if I start withdrawing any funds from my RRSP, would that mean that my RRSP contribution room will increase? I may need some contribution room some time later. Thanks!

  85. Michelle

    I found that I have a LIRA in Canada, I now live in the US, but I am still a Canadian Citizen. They sent me a Termination Statement, since the company I was with (25 years ago) no longer exists. What are my options? No one seems to have a clue what I can/can’t do with this money. Thank you!!

  86. Sam

    I am 63 yrs old and lives in Ontario. I want to retire. I have a LIRA approx. $400K and other RRSP and TFSA plus Non registered accounts. I only have $25K RRSP room and My spouse has $30K RRSP room. My question is that if I unlock the LIRA and 50% put it in my personal RRSP and some % to spousal RRSP. How it will be taxed in the year of unlocking the LIRA?

  87. Melissa Rogers

    Hi There
    .My husband has a CIBC LIRA and he would either like to transfer the LIRA to an RRSP or Cancel the LIRA. HE worked hard for this money and he would like access to it. we did not agree to have half locked when he retired.

  88. Allan Robichaud

    I have 150k in my lira. I’m a disabled retired veteran but only 38 years old. I have a disability pension for life and do not need anything for retirement. I’d sure like to pay my mortgage off with this money.

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