The following question is from Andrew:
I was wondering whether it is possible to set up an RRSP that includes direct ownership of stocks, bonds and ETFs, and if so, how to go about this. Most banks that I know of only organize RRSPs around mutual funds (with too-high MERs and low choice). Is it possible for a brokerage to set up an RRSP as well?
A self-directed RRSP at any of the major online brokerages will allow you to hold a mixture of stocks, bonds, GICs, mutual funds etc. Opening an account is a very simple process. For instance, TD Waterhouse allows you to open an account online or you can print out an application form, fill, and mail it in.
There are a few differences between the brokers that you should be aware of. Many, but not all brokers charge an administration fee if your account is smaller than a certain amount. The discount brokerage arms of the major banks typically charge very high commissions compared to some of their competitors.
Rob Carrick of The Globe and Mail ranks the online brokerages every year and last year’s rankings (available here) could help you to pick out the broker you want to go with.