Tag Archives: 401(k)


7702 Retirement Plan? There’s No Such Thing

A growing number of insurance companies and independent financial advisors have been selling “7702 Plans,” sometimes referred to as a “7702 Private Plan,” for retirement. On Google alone, a query for “7702 plan” results in almost 1.5 million pages of matches. This is fascinating, largely because there is no such thing as a 7702 plan. A vehicle for selling life insurance If you go to one of the thousands of websites, you’ll find a description of something that sounds like a 401(k) or IRA, but is based on life insurance. The page will explain that unlike traditional retirement plans like 401(k) and IRA accounts, “life insurance retirement plans” have no limit on contributions or size, and no requirements for withdrawals […]

High Income? Here’s How You Open A Roth

First made available to investors in 1998, Roth IRAs introduced a whole new structure for tax-deferred saving. Until then, investors could make tax-deductible contributions to traditional IRAs and 401(k)s. Roth accounts allowed tax-free distributions. Many of our clients want to take advantage of both ways of saving for retirement. The problem: Roth accounts have income limits. In 2013, single filers making more than $127,000 in adjusted gross income, and married couples making more than $188,000, are not allowed to contribute to Roth IRAs. The question: If I – or my spouse and I – are above the income limits for Roth IRAs this year, can I still Roth? The answer, fortunately, is yes…if you know how. Option 1: A Roth […]

The Case Against Maxing Out Your 401(k)

2012 IPOs: High Expectations, No Assurances

Most every personal finance blog I have ever read recommends maxing out your 401(k) contribution. They tell you to “just do it” – contribute as much as you can, as early as you can. I couldn’t disagree more. Forced savings I believe most bloggers (and many financial planners and low-quality investment advisors) recommend maximizing 401(k) contributions as a way to enforce a savings discipline. They believe that without automatic deductions, people won’t save at all. Our readership tends to be more disciplined and intelligent than the average personal finance blog readers, so I don’t think they need such a brute force recommendation. For our clients and readers, we emphasize transparency, rational decision-making and the use of mathematical tools. We recognize […]

When A Roth 401(k) Trumps A Traditional 401(k)

The New Year’s Day tax deal (also known as the fiscal cliff legislation) made headlines in the retirement world because it included new rules to make it easier for employees to convert existing traditional 401(k) plans to Roth 401(k) plans. Over the past six years, an increasing number of companies have begun to roll out Roth 401(k) options for their employees. Many people now have the simple question: “When does it make sense to choose a Roth 401(k)?” Before we answer that question, you should understand the key difference between a Roth 401(k) and a traditional 401(k). With a Roth, you’ll pay taxes on the money you invest now, but no taxes when you withdraw the money at retirement. In […]

Why Your 401(k) Plan Sucks

A recent study found that the average fee on a 401(k) retirement plan was an appalling .93% of assets. The fees in the most expensive 10% of plans were even more shocking: 1.72% of assets.  That’s huge in an environment where most people hope to earn annual returns of 6% before fees. The average 401(k), meanwhile, offers 15-20 choices of funds, which have higher expense ratios than those you would find if you were buying through a brokerage for your IRA. A typical lineup: Many actively managed mutual funds, a handful of passively managed index funds, and very few ETFs. If you’re an educated investor, this sounds familiar. You always suspected you were paying a lot in fees, even though […]

How Target Date Funds May Mislead Investors

Q: I have a target date fund in my 401(k) plan. Can I rely on it to keep me rebalanced? (This question came from a young investor attending a seminar given by Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff at New York University). Because target date funds are specifically sold as a way to keep people rebalanced as they head toward retirement, you would think the answer would (and should) be an unequivocal “Yes.” The answer, unfortunately, is an unequivocal “No.” As with all investing products, you need to look under the hood of the investment before you can decide if the asset allocation and expense ratio suits your own risk tolerance and financial plans. Assure yourself the Target Date Fund (TDF) is […]

Why ETFs Are A Good Choice For Your 401(k)

This question was posted on Quora, where Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff answered it in shorter form. Here’s a link to that thread. The answer to this question comes down to two issues: passive investing and fees. Many academic studies have shown that on average, net of fees, index funds have outperformed actively managed mutual funds over long periods of time. Between 1982 and 1991, less than one in 10 mutual fund managers beat the market on an after-tax basis, according Robert D. Arnott, who co-authored some of the best-known research on the subject. Researchers found a similar pattern in the 1990s, according to a paper Arnott wrote with co-authors Andrew L. Berkin and Jia Ye. There are some mutual funds […]

Preventive Medicine for One Young Doctor’s Growing Portfolio

Amy Batterstein, 25, has a one-word refrain: Save! Though the West Coast medical student has adopted a few other choice philosophies that govern her financial life, the one at the top of the list is simple: Don’t spend it all. Ms. Batterstein only earns about $25,000 a year from a part-time job and as a medical student, but she still manages to invest $1,000 a month – which she puts into a Vanguard S&P 500 index fund. “I do not check my balances frequently. I do not want to convince myself to make frantic decisions,” says Ms. Batterstein, who also established a $50,000 cash account for herself during the two years before medical school, when she worked as a consultant. […]

People in Their 20s & 30s: Become a Savvy Investor

People in their 20s or 30s, you face some of the biggest challenges and the biggest opportunities of any investor. (See Preventive Medicine for One Young Doctor’s Growing Portfolio). If you have a solid income stream, you face a bewildering array of demands on your money. You may want to save to buy a house; you probably have college loans to pay off; and you’re already thinking about socking money away for “big ticket” items in your future like cars, vacations and kids’ college! One crucial realization you’ll have as a young investor is that different goals will require different investment vehicles. Key Investment Vehicles The Rainy Day Fund There’s no clear consensus among experts as to exactly how much […]