Money & Policy

3 New Tools to Grow Your Retirement Nest Egg

These online services can help you choose and manage investments

The right tools can make investing for retirement easier by helping you manage particular investments or your entire portfolio. Here’s a look at three services that do just that:
Annuity Review 
Millions of new and would-be retirees find themselves holding — and trying to decipher — variable annuities. Annuity Review analyzes variable-annuity contracts (and any supplemental riders) and explains, in plain English, how your annuity works and how to get the most out of it.
The service does well at helping buyers understand the basics of their annuity contracts, such as investment restrictions and the impact of excess withdrawals. It was developed by Mark Cortazzo, a senior partner at Macro Consulting Group, a financial advisory firm in Parsippany, N.J.

(MORE: How to Make Your Retirement Money Last)

“They have been able to point out things about my clients’ annuity contracts that I…would not have been able to figure out, even after scouring the prospectus for 10 hours,” says Dana Anspach, the founder of Sensible Money, a registered investment adviser in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Anspach also is a contributor to MarketWatch’s Retirementor section.)
Cost: $199 for an analysis of as many as three contracts; each additional contract is $49.
Wealthfront Inc.’s software-driven investment management “basically replicates what the larger registered investment advisers do with their rebalancing/trading software,” says Michael Kitces, publisher of the Kitces Report and director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group, a wealth-management firm in Columbia, Md.
Wealthfront, whose chief investment officer is Burton Malkiel, author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street, will craft a diversified, low-cost portfolio for you and rebalance your investments automatically as necessary. If your account is $100,000 or more, the service also will help you harvest tax losses — that is, use your investment losses to offset taxes due on investment gains and income.

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Wealthfront, based in Palo Alto, Calif., uses only Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) when managing your money, not individual securities or mutual funds.
Cost: None for the first $10,000 of assets under management. On amounts over $10,000, a monthly advisory fee is charged, based on an annual rate of 0.25 percent of your assets. There are also fees embedded in the ETFs the service buys for your portfolio.
Betterment, like Wealthfront, offers low-cost portfolio-management services. And it can help transfer your retirement savings from a 401(k) or other accounts into an Individual Retirement Account in as little as 60 seconds.
The New York-based registered investment adviser has a team of representatives who can help answer questions about IRA rollovers. And if need be, a rep will “join a call with [your] existing provider” to smooth the process, says Joe Ziemer, Betterment’s communications manager.

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There are no fees or minimum balances for the IRA rollover service, but the account that’s created will be subject to Betterment’s regular fees. Like Wealthfront, Betterment uses only Exchange Traded Funds when building your portfolio.
Cost: A management fee of 0.15 percent to 0.35 percent annually, depending on your balance, plus the ETFs’ fees.

Robert Powell is a MarketWatch Retirement columnist. He has been a journalist covering personal finance issues for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @RJPIII.

By Robert Powell
Robert Powell writes about retirement issues for MarketWatch.com and produces the Retirement Weekly subscription newsletter.@RJPIII

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