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Retirement Planning

5 Ways to Get More from Your IRA

Now is the time to get stray retirement accounts shored up with a rollover—or start doubling down on saving in a new IRA.

Articles by Betterment Editors

By the Editorial Staff
Betterment Resource Center  |  Published: January 9, 2014

Maxing out an IRA account in January helps you earn as much as $705 more per year.

Automated investing with Betterment's low-cost, all-ETF portfolio helps you save time and money.

Now is the time to start thinking your IRA contributions. Remember, you can contribute $5,500 tax-free into your IRA each year ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older). If you’re unsure whether to use a traditional or a Roth IRA, you can learn more here.

Whether you’re opening a new IRA or rolling over an old 401k, here are five tips to make the most of your IRA.

1. Make more money.

Betterment analysis shows that funding an IRA in January—rather than December—can increase returns simply by being in the market longer. How much? If you maxed out your account every year in January, instead of December, since 1990 you would have averaged $705 more per year in returns.

2. Minimize your costs.

Choosing a low-cost investment is one of the smartest ways to improve your retirement prospects—the difference between paying an all-in cost of 0.31%, for example, and paying 1% for a mutual fund is enough to buy a small house—$162,000 over 30 yearsJust in fees. 

3. Roll over quickly.

An indirect rollover—or cashing out your old retirement account—is the fastest way to move your money from an old account into a new one at Betterment. Withdraw and deposit funds into your personal checking account, and then transfer the money to your new IRA within 60 calendar days of the distribution. Once you initiate a transfer into a Betterment IRA, it only takes two days or less to be fully invested in the market. Betterment automatically takes care of everything, including auto-deposits, rebalancing, and tax optimization—so you can grow your retirement savings with peace of mind.

4. Consolidate accounts.

Two retirement accounts of $50,000 at different providers are likely to cost more in fees than one $100,000 account. Another cost to multiple accounts: the time to rebalance and manage them in different places (or lost returns from not rebalancing at all.) At Betterment you can consolidate your accounts, and save time and money.

5. Say goodbye to target-date funds.

Target-date funds are a popular but simplified option for retirement investing because they are easy to set up and keep you on an investing path with an asset allocation that adjusts over time. The problem with these funds is they set your allocation based on solely on your target retirement date—rather than how much money you have saved. At Betterment, we offer the similar all-in-one concept, but with personalized advice based on your existing savings, your time horizon, and your contributions.

When deciding whether to roll over a retirement account, you should carefully consider your personal situation and preferences. The information on this page is being provided for general informational purposes and is not intended to be an individualized recommendation that you take any particular action.

Factors that you should consider in evaluating a potential rollover include: available investment options, fees and expenses, services, withdrawal penalties, protections from creditors and legal judgments, required minimum distributions, and treatment of employer stock. Before deciding to roll over, you should research the details of your current retirement account and consult tax and other advisors with any questions about your personal situation.

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