Smart Beta

Fads and fashions have always been part of the financial markets. Around the turn of the century Internet-related stocks were regarded as reliable instruments for growing and preserving wealth. During the early 2000s, real estate was the instrument of choice for savvy investors. Today “Smart Beta” is the mantra of legions of securities salesmen who claim that broad-based low-cost index funds are sub-optimal and that better results can be obtained by biasing portfolios toward a number of characteristics that promise higher returns. There is no universally accepted definition of “Smart Beta.” What most people using the term have in mind is that it may be possible to gain excess (greater than market) returns using a variety of relatively passive investment […]

What Role Should Bonds Play in Your Investment Portfolio?

According to a recent report by the Bank of International Settlements the amount of global debt passed an ignominious milestone last year, rising from $70 trillion in mid-2007 to over $100 trillion by the middle of 2013. Global borrowing has soared since the financial crisis as central banks suppress interest rates to spur growth and corporations take advantage by raising capital at low cost. This matters because yields on investment grade bonds are near all time lows. The investment returns for those bonds over the next 10 years will almost certainly be lower than over the last 10-30 years. Putting today’s bond market into context “Don’t fight the Fed!” is surely sensible advice as the Federal Reserve has skillfully, tenaciously […]

The Reason Offer Letters Don’t Include a Strike Price

A common frustration we often hear with offer letters from startups is the absence of an exercise price for the options being granted. Many people interpret this missing information as an intention by the potential employer to obfuscate. This is not the case. Only a board of directors — not the management team — can technically grant options and set their exercise prices, which is why your offer letter should say that your future employer will recommend your proposed offer  at the next board meeting. Boards typically only grant options when they meet, which for private companies can be anywhere from once a month to once a quarter depending on the company’s maturity. A 409A Is Needed to Set Fair […]

Introducing the Wealthfront Single-Stock Diversification Service

When LinkedIn went public in 2011, the company had about 1,500 employees. Traditional private wealth managers were ubiquitous on campus in their efforts to sign-up the 50 to 100 early employees and executives who met their firms’ multi-million dollar minimums. Unfortunately, that was of little help to the 1,400 other employees at the company looking for support. At Wealthfront, we believe everyone deserves sophisticated financial advice. Today, we’re launching the service I wish the entire LinkedIn team could have had access to back in 2011. Introducing the Wealthfront Single-Stock Diversification Service. This service will help solve a critical problem for many that work at public technology companies: How to best diversify concentrated holdings in your company’s stock. Such holdings are […]

The Math Behind the Single-Stock Diversification Service

At Wealthfront, we pride ourselves on combining world-class investment expertise with great engineering. So when we first set out to build the Single-Stock Diversification Service, building a product with unparalleled ease and convenience in solving a tricky client problem was not enough. Making recommendations to clients requires solid research and math. So, before we wrote our first line of code, we began looking at the two key questions faced by clients with large single-stock positions: Should I sell my single-stock position and diversify? If I am to sell, when and how should I do it? Should you sell your single-stock position? Many clients who speak to us about their single-stock position express some hesitancy in selling their company’s stock. After […]

The Automated Investment Service for Everyone

Wealthfront is the world’s largest and fastest-growing automated investment service (AIS). With more than $800 million in client assets under management, Wealthfront offers the most tax-efficient and low-cost index fund-based solution for long-term investors on the market. Having grown more than 700% since the start of 2013, Wealthfront now provides service to clients across all 50 states and Washington, D.C., with client accounts ranging in size from $5,000 to over $10,000,000. Wealthfront is on the leading edge of a much larger trend, one catalyzed by a new generation of younger investors. There are 90 million people in the millennial generation with an aggregate net worth of more than $2 Trillion. They have grown up with software and lived through two […]

Improving Tax Results for Your Stock Option or Restricted Stock Grant, Part 3

Wrapping It All Up: Tax Strategies In this third and final part to our series on the taxation of stock options and restricted stock units (RSUs), we’ll outline some strategies you can use to achieve better tax consequences. While the list below is definitely not comprehensive, it does cover some impactful strategies. Remember that — based on the various types of taxes described in Part 1 of this series — through good tax planning, you may be able to achieve a 19.6% improvement in your federal taxation rate. This improvement represents the difference between the federal ordinary income tax at 39.6% and the long-term capital gains rate at 20%. Early-Stage ISO Exercise and Hold While this may seem like it […]

Improving Tax Results for Your Stock Option or Restricted Stock Grant, Part 2

Applying the Tax Law to Common Employee Stock Situations In the first part of this three-part series, we discussed the four main taxes relevant to individuals. Now we’ll apply that knowledge to show what taxes would be incurred in five common situations faced by employees who work for venture-capital-backed companies. 1: Angel Investment or Founder Stock For many start-up companies, the first money in comes from angel investors or the founders themselves in exchange for preferred and common stock, respectively. In exchange for cash, investors (perhaps through a limited partnership) and founders receive shares of stock. The capital gains holding clock starts with the purchase of these shares, and it stops upon disposition of the stock. The shareholder realizes a […]

Improving Tax Results for Your Stock Option or Restricted Stock Grant, Part 1

Silicon Valley is again abuzz with stock option fever (and the option’s cousin, restricted stock units) due to several years of very successful local IPOs — but along with financial success often comes anxiety about taxes. To help assuage its clients’ fears, Wealthfront has asked me to write a three-part series that outlines what tax rates apply to individuals, how different types of stock options and restricted stock units (RSUs) are taxed, and some strategies to achieve improved tax results. Part 1: An Overview of Personal Tax Rates If you’ve already filed your 2013 tax returns, you may have noticed that your tax rates went up quite a bit from 2012. This is likely true if you reported income in […]

Wealthfront Named ETF Strategist of the Year

Today I am proud to announce that Wealthfront has been named the “ETF Strategist of the Year” by ETF.com (formerly IndexUniverse), the world’s leading authority on exchange-traded funds. We are especially gratified to be chosen for this award from among all investment management firms that use ETFs, not just new entrants. At Wealthfront, we strive to build a world-class investment service and we’re proud to have assembled an unparalleled investment team led by Burton Malkiel. Over the past year, we added asset classes, released an improved and more diversified investment mix, delivered different asset allocations for taxable vs. retirement accounts to improve after tax returns, and launched the Wealthfront 500. In short, we aim to relentlessly improve our service to […]