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Saving for your future in Canada and sending money to your home country

By Royal Bank of Canada

Published May 10, 2024 • 10 Min Read

Newcomers move to Canada for better opportunities and a high standard of living. While they work hard to ensure financial stability for themselves, some newcomers also need to make sure their extended family in their home country is financially secure. According to the Ipsos 2023 Canadian Financial Monitor, 61 per cent of newcomers to Canada sent money to their home country in 2023, while 55 per cent sent money 1-3 times per year in the past three years.1

Newcomers send money home for many reasons. Whether you need to make up for loss of income you would have been providing your family, cover expenses for an elderly relative, support a younger sibling’s education or repay a loan from a family member, it helps to quantify your goal of sending funds home. You’ll need to balance that goal with the reality of your situation in Canada — and any personal goals you have for your future in Canada. It can take time for you to achieve financial stability in Canada: while salaries are higher in Canada than in many countries, living expenses are also higher, and it’s normal to need a few months or years before you can afford to send funds to your home country.

If your family situation requires you to send financial support abroad right away, it’s a good idea to set a certain amount aside for this purpose prior to immigrating to Canada.

Once you do find your footing in Canada, you’ll want to make sure that you are also saving for your own financial goals in Canada. If you hope to eventually own a home in Canada, you’ll need to save for a down payment. You may want to buy a car, save for your children’s education (or your own) or save to sponsor family members who wish to join you in Canada. You may also want to save to start a business or save for your retirement. It’s only natural to have financial goals for your new life in Canada, too.

Read on for some crucial strategies to help you save money in Canada while also fulfilling family commitments in your home country. 

Build a budget 

Before deciding how much and how often to send funds home, start by creating a budget. This will give you a clear picture of your income, your living expenses and how much you’d be able to set aside for your personal savings. 

Start with your income

When looking at your income, make sure you’re aware that your payroll comes with certain standard deductions, which may include the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), employment insurance (EI) and various pension and retirement plans, among others. If you have a secondary source of income besides your job, such as a small business, you’ll have to calculate and pay taxes for those earnings, as well. 

Calculate your personal expenses

Next, have a detailed list of your personal expenses, which might include your monthly rent or mortgage, groceries, travel costs, entertainment and other such needs. You can use a tool like RBC’s NOMI to help group these expenses into categories. Identify which expenses are needs and which are wants, and monitor your expenses and spending habits for a few weeks or months to determine if you need to make adjustments (for example, cutting down on the number of times you order in or dine out).

Set your savings goals

Now that you have a clear idea of how much you’re earning and spending each month, you should be able to determine how much money you plan to save each month. Those savings can then be split between different financial goals you have, including funds for your family back home, a short-term goal of having an emergency fund and longer-term goals for your life in Canada (such as saving for a down payment, retirement or education). Through automatic transfers to your savings account, you can set aside a fixed amount each time your paycheque is deposited, which ensures you’re not tempted to spend that money on unnecessary things. 

Prioritize your financial goals

It’s OK to have several financial goals, but remember you’ll only achieve those goals if you’re actively saving toward them. It may be helpful to think about how you want to prioritize them: if an unforeseen expense comes up and you have fewer funds than expected, which goal will you save for first, and which will you postpone?

Decide how much you intend to save for each goal and how often. It’s important to have a solid savings and budgeting plan in place before you decide how to send your funds back home. 

Prioritizing your financial goals, especially when you feel obligated to send money to loved ones can be tricky and sometimes emotional. If you need help navigating this decision, you can speak with an RBC Newcomer Advisor, who can help you make a financial plan that fits your situation and works toward your goals. 

Set expectations and boundaries

From the get-go, it’s crucial to give your family members back home a clear picture of what your life looks like in Canada. They can sometimes get the impression that because you will be earning a salary in a currency that is of a high value, you’ll be able to send large sums of money home. They may not fully understand the cost of living in Canada or be aware of your own financial goals. 

Therefore, it’s important to set reasonable expectations of how much financial support you’ll be able to provide them. Factor in the cost of living (which varies from one Canadian city to another), taxes (to be paid at the federal, provincial and municipal level) and educational or extracurricular activities for your children, which are important for their future in Canada. If you’re an international student, they should be made aware that paying your rent and taking care of your physical and mental health is a priority for you to be able to support them.  

While some new Canadians assume their pensions will tide them over after retirement, the reality is that CPP is unlikely to cover your entire cost of living in retirement. Relying solely on public pension benefits while budgeting is not a good idea. For example, consider these official figures: the average monthly amount received by those who started collecting their pension at age 65 in January 2024 was $831.92. This amount would cover only a fraction of the cost of living, so it’s important to save and invest for retirement throughout one’s career.  

Talking about money with close family members can be a sensitive issue, especially in some cultures. The healthiest way to deal with this topic is to have an open conversation about how much you can send home. Try to mutually arrive at an amount that works for both parties and prepare them for any unforeseen circumstances when you may not be able to send money for a while.

Invest in your future

So how do you make sure you’re setting yourself up for success in a new country? Begin with investigating and understanding the various savings and investment options available in Canada. Some of the key products to get you started are:  

  • HISA (High Interest Savings Account): A savings account with a higher interest rate than a regular savings account. This is a great option for short-term savings with minimal risk.

  • TFSA (Tax-free Savings account): A registered account that allows residents of Canada to grow their savings tax-free. Returns on investments held in a TFSA, (including interest, dividends, and capital gains) are non-taxable. The Government of Canada determines what the annual contribution limit is each year, and any unused room carries over to the following year.

  • RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan): A registered account that can hold different investment and savings products (including cash, GICs, stocks, ETFs, bonds and more). Contributions made to this account are tax-deferred and can be deducted from your taxable income when you file taxes the following year.  

  • RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan): A tax-sheltered registered plan designated for saving for your children’s post-secondary education or even your own. It can hold different investment and savings products, and the government matches a portion of your annual RESP contributions to enhance your savings.

  • GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate): An investment product that typically offers higher interest than savings accounts with minimal or no risk. CDIC insures your principal amount (up to $100,000) and, depending on the type of GIC you purchase, the bank guarantees all or a portion of your returns.

  • Bonds: Conservative fixed-income investments issued by a company or government. When you buy a bond, the bond issuer pays you interest for a specific time period and repays your initial investment when the bond matures. 

If you need help understanding what kind of savings plan suits you best, speak with an RBC newcomer advisor to help you make a financial plan that will work for your situation.

Navigate cost-effective remittance options

When deciding on an amount and a timeline to send funds to your home country, your next step is to determine the safest and most cost-effective way to do so.  In Canada, you can send international money transfers through banks, credit unions, money transfer services and peer-to-peer (P2P) transfer platforms.

Transferring money to a person in another country is known as sending a remittance. Basically, a financial institution in Canada will send the transaction details to a business or bank in your home country. That bank in turn will send the money to the receiver. The money can be sent as cash, directly to a bank account or as credit to a credit, debit or prepaid card. Here are a few criteria to keep in mind while choosing an option for international money transfers.  

  • Transparent fees and competitive exchange rates: Compare both the one-time fees and the exchange rates that each option offers — and calculate how much of your hard-earned funds will arrive to your family back home.

  • Speed of Transfer: Find out how quickly your funds will arrive as some options may take days while others are instant. Adapt your choice based on the urgency of your situation.

  • Security and Transparency: Make sure the option you choose is reliable. If it’s regulated by relevant financial authorities and if they use encryption, chances are your funds and personal information will be safe. If there’s a problem with transferring your funds, make sure you know how to file a complaint with your financial institution. 

  • Easy to use: Consider whether your chosen option is convenient and has a robust customer service team to assist you if a problem arises.

  • Seek out reviews: Ask for referrals and reviews from fellow newcomers who have used an option successfully and are happy with the services. 

RBC clients can send money internationally for $0. Learn More

Saving money for yourself in Canada while also sending money home to your family might seem like a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. By getting sound advice from a newcomer financial advisor and setting clear expectations with your loved ones about the financial support you will be able to offer, you can help sustain the financial health of your loved ones back home — and your new life in Canada. 

1. Ipsos 2023 Canadian Financial Monitor. “Understanding New Canadians.”   

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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Banking/ Digital banking Budgeting Family New to Canada Payments Personal Finance RESP RRSP Savings TFSA