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Should you roll over your 401(k)? Do you qualify for a Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA? Learn more about your retirement plan options, tax considerations and hidden fees.



How do I know my financial advisor is doing the right thing?

How do I know my financial advisor is doing the right thing? The recent significant drop in world financial markets has created a lot of anxiety – especially among people new to investing. In times like these, investors who outsource the management of their investments can’t help but wonder if they chose the right person or firm to manage their money. The challenge is it’s really hard to tell who is doing a good job when markets decline. The financial press is saturated with two false promises: the promise that there are people who can reliably beat the market, and the promise that there are people who can reliably protect you from a downturn. Despite overwhelming research to the contrary, […]

Your 401(k) May Not Be the Best Way to Save for Retirement

The Wealthfront blog has always made a commitment to focusing on data-driven, actionable advice. Sometimes the data challenges conventional financial advice. In this post, we look at the gospel that 401(k) accounts are the best way to save for retirement. As we will explain below, a significant number of investors could even be better off saving money in a taxable, automated investment account with direct indexing and tax-loss harvesting than they would in a 401(k). For many of you, particularly those who have long advocated for the benefits of 401(k) accounts, this might be hard to accept. However, the data clearly shows that the potential drag from high fees in 401(k) accounts and the powerful tax-deferral benefits of newly available […]

Not Everyone Wants to Manage Their Own Investments

One of the biggest lessons I teach my MBAs at Stanford Graduate School of Business is to not project their tastes onto others when evaluating a business idea. That’s very hard advice to take because human nature leads us to think others must share our views. A product or service’s success doesn’t depend on whether you like it. Rather it depends on whether the target audience – of which you may not be a part – likes it. This insight was critical to my and my Benchmark partners’ success as venture capitalists. And yet, I constantly see this mistake made when people talk about the investment industry. It might surprise you to learn that approximately 75% of US individuals prefer […]

How Often Should You Check Your Portfolio?

At Wealthfront, we’ve put an incredible amount of time and effort into making our web site and mobile applications informative and easy-to-use. Login to your Wealthfront account and you have a world of information at your fingertips. You can see your overall account value over time. You can view your overall portfolio returns and the returns of the individual ETFs that comprise your portfolios. You can see even where we harvested losses, and chart your projected returns over time. Our teams of designers, engineers and content creators have examined every detail to make the experience as seamless as possible. It is simple, beautiful, and information rich. Which is why it pains me to say this: You shouldn’t look. Despite all […]

Why Do Automated Investment Service Portfolios Differ?

The rise of automated investment services like Wealthfront is redefining how people invest their money. The combination of strong academic financial research, software, and exchange-traded funds has allowed firms to offer optimally designed portfolios at extraordinarily low costs. But while most of the major automated investment services, including Wealthfront, base their portfolios on Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), the portfolios that they create for people are very different. How could this be? As I explained in What Long-Term Return Should I Expect? (and in-depth in our investment methodology white paper), MPT is very sensitive to the inputs that go into it. Different estimates around the volatility, correlation and expected return of each asset class – the key inputs into an MPT […]

Three Financial Issues to Consider When Getting Married

While it is often said that no two things are more certain than death and taxes, marriage can bring a measure of uncertainty to your taxes as well as your finances. Questions have arisen among Wealthfront’s clients about how tying the knot — a milestone in many people’s lives — can impact your financial obligations to the government, and potentially affect how you structure your finances. With this post, we share a few points on this topic. Keep in mind, however, that finances and taxes can vary greatly depending on an individual’s or a couple’s specific situation, and what state they live in. We recommend consulting a qualified accountant or tax attorney. In fact, we have written a couple of […]

What Long-Term Return Should I Expect?

One of the most common questions posed to our client services team is “What is the expected long-term rate of return I can assume if I invest in a diversified portfolio?” Based on return estimates derived from the market (not Wealthfront’s opinion), an optimally diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds is expected to generate an annual long-term pre-tax  return of 4% – 6%, depending on how much risk you are willing to tolerate. It should be noted that the returns achieved over the past two years were much higher, but as you know past returns are not indicative of future returns. Returns Are Almost Impossible to Predict Some of you might be disappointed with this expected long-term return. I wish it […]

When Should You Consider a SEP-IRA?

If you are a self-employed contract worker or sole-proprietor, there’s a retirement account you may not have heard about that’s worth considering: the Simplified Employee Pension IRA or SEP-IRA for short. The key advantage of the SEP-IRA is the high annual maximum contribution limit, which at $53,000, is much higher than the $5,500 cap associated with a traditional IRA ($6,500 if you’re over 50). What Is a SEP-IRA? The SEP-IRA was created in 1978 to provide a tax-advantaged retirement plan for small businesses. Contributions to the SEP-IRA are made by a small business into an account for the benefit of an individual, typically the sole employee. SEP-IRA accounts are available to small businesses ranging from sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, S-Corporations […]

Never Rollover If You Can Transfer

You might have heard the IRS is limiting the frequency with which you can rollover IRA accounts in 2015. Starting January 1st the IRS will limit you to only one IRA rollover per calendar year. You will now face steep penalties if you attempt more than one rollover  per year. However most people don’t realize there exists a superior alternative called an ACATS or electronic transfer. You will still be allowed unlimited transfers per year, but not all investment firms will accept an electronic transfer. A Rollover is Very Different From a Transfer Most investors think a rollover is the only way to transfer an IRA to another brokerage firm. When you request a retirement account rollover, your account’s current […]