How to Build a Diversified RRSP Portfolio


November 1, 2023


November 1, 2023


November 1, 2023

Saving for retirement through a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is typically a long-term commitment. To help secure your financial future, it helps to build a strong and diversified Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) portfolio.

Understanding the Basics of Diversification

“Don’t put all your eggs into one basket,” so the old saying goes. It may be a cliché, but this saying in practice can make all the difference in determining your financial future. In the investing world, diversification involves enlarging or varying your range of coverage across various assets and/or asset classes to reduce risk. If one security performs poorly, the other securities in the portfolio can offset potential losses. That provides a safety net for your portfolio over the long term. Diversification benefits investors in helping to mitigate potential volatility and losses.

Diversification is extremely important in a retirement savings plan (RRSP) portfolio. These RRSPs often represent a significant portion, if not the totality, of the retirement nest egg for many Canadians. It is important to ensure that your retirement nest egg is not overly exposed to the risks of a single investment or asset class. Indeed, this can mean the difference between a comfortable retirement and a later life consumed by precarity. So, RRSP investors should look to spread their investments to a variety of vehicles – from stocks and bonds to ETF portfolios made up of asset classes like technology, real estate, healthcare, commodities, and others.

The Pillars of Diversification

Diversifying your investments is not a one-size-fits-all approach. On the contrary, it requires an understanding of the pillars that contribute to a strong diversification strategy. Let’s determine what these pillars require and how we can use them to shape the structure of a resilient RRSP portfolio.

1. Asset Class Diversification

Asset class selection is one of the most important diversification fundamentals. This is often more important than picking the right security. A rising tide lifts all boats, as the old cliché goes, and this is illustrated when investors pick the right trove of securities in a successful asset class. For example, a focus on the real estate asset class will have likely netted investors strong returns over the course of the 2010s. The historically low interest rates of the 2010s favoured an equity-heavy strategy. However, rising interest rates favour capital preservation and a move to fixed-income investment vehicles.

Role in a Portfolio: Each asset class responds differently to market conditions. For instance, when equities might be underperforming, fixed income might offer stability, and vice versa. Having a mix ensures that your portfolio doesn’t rely heavily on the performance of just one type of asset.  In you go a step beyond the simple asset correlation example above, you can also consider the role of asset class diversification within equities; namely:

2. Market Risk

Diversifying across various equity asset classes, such as large-cap, small-cap, international stocks, and sectors, helps reduce overall market risk by leveraging their differing responses to economic conditions and market events.

3. Geographical Diversification

This involves spreading investments across various regions and countries. By not being tied down to a particular geographical market, investors can tap into the growth of other economies and hedge against local economic downturns.

 Role in a Portfolio: Different economies can have varied growth rates, monetary policies, and economic cycles. Investing in diverse geographical regions can allow investors to benefit from global growth opportunities while shielding their portfolios from localized economic downturns.

4. Sectoral & Industry Diversification

Here, investments are spread across different sectors of the economy, such as technology, healthcare, finance, or energy.

Role in a Portfolio: Just as different asset classes react differently to market conditions, different sectors can also have varied responses to economic changes. For example, during technological advancements, the tech sector might boom, while during periods of rising oil prices, the energy sector might see significant gains.

The Role of ETFs in Diversifying RRSP Portfolios

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) have emerged as one of the most popular and efficient ways for investors to allocate capital, including seeking diversification. Let’s explore the mechanics of ETFs and how they can fit into the strategy of building a robust and diversified RRSP portfolio.

The inherent structure of ETFs allows investors to gain exposure to a broad array of assets without having to buy each individual asset. This not only saves on transaction costs but also provides instant diversification with a single purchase. Plus, ETFs often come with lower management fees compared to other mutual funds.

Regular Portfolio Assessment and Rebalancing

Diversifying your RRSP portfolio is an important initial step, but it’s equally important to maintain that diversification. Over time, market conditions can cause the proportions of individual investments in your portfolio to shift, potentially deviating from your original investment goals. This underscores the significance of periodic evaluation and rebalancing.

The Importance of Periodic Assessment

Tracking Performance: Monitoring your investments’ performance helps identify assets that are over-performing or underperforming. Such insights are valuable in ensuring your portfolio remains aligned with your goals.

Reviewing Investment Goals: As personal situations evolve — be it nearing retirement, changes in income, or shifts in financial goals — it’s important to review and, if necessary, adjust your investment strategy.

The Process of Rebalancing

A rebalancing of your investments involves adjusting your portfolio back to your desired asset allocation. Investors who are saving for retirement will have a long-time horizon when starting out. Harvest ETFs seeks out industry leaders as a long term hold rather than pushing rebalancing as a core strategy.


1. Review your current asset allocation.

2. Compare it with your target allocation.

3. Make the necessary buy or sell decisions to realign your portfolio.

4. Frequency: While there’s no strict rule on how often one should rebalance, a common practice is to do it annually or semi-annually. However, you should also consider rebalancing if your asset allocation deviates significantly from your targets due to large market movements.

Considering Individual Risk Tolerance

While diversification is a universally accepted investment principle, it’s essential to remember that the ideal diversified portfolio will vary significantly from one investor to the next. The reason for this lies largely in an individual’s risk tolerance. Let’s unpack the concepts of risk tolerance, how it influences the construction of an RRSP portfolio, and why aligning it with financial goals is crucial.

Risk Tolerance vs. Risk Capacity

Risk Tolerance: This refers to an investor’s emotional and psychological comfort level with the potential ups and downs of their investments. It’s influenced by factors such as personality, past investment experiences, and the time horizon for the invested funds.

Risk Capacity: On the other hand, risk capacity is more objective. It defines the level of financial risk an individual can afford to take, considering their financial situation and future financial needs.

Tips for Building a Diversified RRSP Portfolio

Crafting a diversified RRSP portfolio is both an art and a science. It requires a blend of strategic thinking, a keen understanding of financial markets, and a clear vision of your retirement goals. Here are some actionable tips to guide you on this journey:

Start Early and Invest Regularly

The power of compounding cannot be overstated. Starting your investment journey early gives your money more time to grow. Moreover, the longer your horizon, the better positioned you are to weather market volatilities.

Consider setting up automatic contributions to your RRSP. Even small, consistent contributions can grow significantly over time.

Stay Informed About Market Trends and Potential Global Shifts

Rationale: The global financial landscape is in constant flux. Being aware of major trends and shifts can help you position your RRSP portfolio to capitalize on opportunities or mitigate potential risks.

Strategy: Regularly read financial news, attend webinars, or engage with platforms like Harvest Portfolios to stay updated on market insights.

Work with a Financial Advisor

Rationale: Building and managing a diversified RRSP portfolio can be complex. Professional guidance can ensure that your portfolio aligns with your retirement goals and adjusts as those goals evolve over time.

Strategy: If you’re unsure about how to start or adjust your RRSP investments, consider seeking the advice of a financial advisor. They can provide personalized guidance, ensuring that your retirement savings are on the right track.


Diversification stands as a cornerstone of prudent investment strategy, especially when building an RRSP portfolio designed to secure your financial future. As we’ve explored, there are multiple facets to achieving an optimal diversified stance, from understanding asset classes and geographies to leveraging modern tools like ETFs.

At Harvest Portfolios, with our comprehensive suite of ETF offerings and dedication to investor education, we are primed to be your ally in this journey. By blending the insights and strategies we’ve discussed with the robust investment solutions that we provide, you can build an RRSP portfolio that’s not only diversified but also aligned with your vision of a prosperous retirement.


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