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The Money Management Newsletter: Retirement Income Planning
You may be able to unlock your LIF, LIRA or LRIF account in a financial emergency

If you live in Ontario, you may be able to unlock a locked-in account which contains money transferred from your pension plan for certain expenses in times of serious financial hardship.

According to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), the regulator of pension plans, LIF, LIRA or LRIF account unlocking is a last resort and must be reserved as an alternative in particular circumstances when there is no other sufficient source of money. You cannot withdraw from your account for a trip to Europe, for example.

What is a locked-in account?

In general, any money transferred from an Ontario-registered pension plan into a locked-in account must remain "locked in" and can only be used to provide retirement income. There are three types of Ontario-regulated locked-in accounts:

  • Locked-in retirement account (LIRA)
  • Life income fund (LIF)
  • Locked-in retirement income fund (LRIF)

When can I unlock my account?

Application for special access to these accounts may be made, using the appropriate FSCO unlocking form, in the following situations:

* You are facing specific types of financial hardship, such as the inability to pay your rent or mortgage.
* You have an expected income of $28,066.67 or less (for 2006). This amount changes every year.
* Your life expectancy is two years or less, in the opinion of a physician licensed to practice medicine in Canada.
* You are at least 55 years old and the total value of the funds in all of your locked-in accounts is less than $16,840 (for 2006).

Is there a fee for unlocking my account?

Yes. To partially offset FSCO's administrative costs, successful applicants will be charged a fee equal to two per cent (minimum: $200, maximum: $600) of the amount the applicant is entitled to withdraw.

More information about unlocking your account, downloadable forms, and guides to filling them out are available on FSCO's website at


Please note new age limit (now age 71, changed in 2007 from 69

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