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Managing Your Investment Goals

Making sure your goals continue to reflect your specific investment objectives over time is important. Learn how to manage your investment goals.

Articles by Betterment Editors
By the Editorial Staff Betterment Resource Center Published Sep. 01, 2018
Published Sep. 01, 2018
5 min read


What is the difference between a goal and a legal account?

We aspire to help you build a personalized financial plan based on the specific investment goals you’re trying to reach. Within each of your taxable legal accounts, you can set multiple goals, each with a different time horizon and target amount.

Legal Account Types

  • Taxable
    • Personal Taxable Account
    • Can contain multiple goals
  • Joint Taxable Account
    • Can contain multiple goals.
  • Trust Taxable Account
    • Can contain multiple goals
  • IRA
    • Traditional IRA
    • Roth IRA
    • SEP IRA
    • Inherited Traditional IRA
    • Inherited Roth IRA
  • Betterment For Business 401(k)
    • Betterment For Business Traditional 401(k)
    • Betterment For Business Roth 401(k)

Learn about the different tax treatments of various legal accounts.

Taxable Goal Types

Taxable accounts do not have any contribution limits or income restrictions. You can contribute to and withdraw from a taxable account at any time.

  • Retirement Savings—for those saving for retirement.
  • Retirement Income—for retirees potentially making withdrawals.
  • Safety Net—for growing an emergency fund.
  • Major Purchase—for a specific future expense, such as a house or vacation.
  • General Investing—for investing for the future but with no set time horizon.

What is a Safety Net goal?

Our Safety Net goal is intended to help you save and invest funds that can be used for a future emergency or unexpected expense. Your emergency fund should contain enough money to cover your basic expenses for a minimum of several months.

Rather than keeping your emergency funds in cash, which may lose value to inflation over time, we’ll invest your funds into a moderate-risk portfolio. The allocation of stocks and bonds we use in a Safety Net goal is 15% stocks and 85% bonds.

Can I have a goal without a target amount or date?

Our “General Investing” goal does not require a defined target date or amount. By default, we’ll select an allocation appropriate for your age, with a maximum of 90% stocks and a minimum of 55% stocks. You can always adjust the specific allocation yourself.

However, keep in mind that goal-based investing can work better when you designate timelines and target amounts, so that we can advise you on what you’ll need to do so you can keep saving and growing your money.

How can I make changes to a goal?

Once you’ve set up your goals, make sure that they continue to reflect your real life goals is important to keep doing over time.

If you need to make changes to a goal, such as updating the end date or the target amount, you must be logged in from a web browser rather than the mobile app. Select the goal from the menu on the left, then click “Goal Settings”. You’ll see an option that says “Edit Goal” on the drop-down menu.

For each goal, you can change:

  • Goal name—what you choose to call a goal.
    • You cannot edit the name of an IRA.
  • Goal type—the purpose of your goal.
  • Goal term—the amount of time until you expect to use the funds.
  • Target amount—how much you’d like to have saved by the end of the term.
  • Target allocation—the ratio of stocks and bonds in the portfolio.

Day trading means buying and selling the same security on the same day. Due to day trading rules, you may only make up to one allocation change in a legal account per day. These restrictions are mandated by Regulation T of the Federal Reserve Board and FINRA Rules.

Can I transfer between goals?

Transferring Between Goals

You can easily transfer assets from one goal in a legal account to another goal in the same legal account—once per day.

Transfers between investing goals, or between investing and Cash Reserve goals, generally take 1-2 business days to fully complete.

Transaction Timeline Table

You won’t be able to transfer between a taxable account and an IRA. Due to IRS rules, contributions to an IRA account must be made in cash. Here at Betterment we do not have any cash accounts or cash holding options. Therefore, transferring funds from a taxable goal into a Betterment IRA must be completed by initiating a withdrawal to your linked bank account. We’ll sell your taxable ETFs and deposit the proceeds in your bank account within 4 to 5 business days. Then, you can initiate a new cash deposit into your IRA.

On a web browser:

From the menu on the left, select the goal you wish to transfer from and then click “Transfer or rollover.” From the drop-down menu, select “Transfer to another goal.”

From the mobile app:

Select the goal you want to transfer from, and then choose the “Transfer” option. You’ll then see “transfer to another goal.” Note that both the old goal and the new goal must be open already in order to transfer between the two.

Transferring Between Legal Accounts

Currently, you can only transfer between goals within the same legal account. The following account types are defined as “legal accounts”:

  • Personal Taxable Account
  • Joint Taxable Account
  • Trust Taxable Account

If you want to transfer funds between multiple legal accounts, please email us at support@betterment.com for more details.

Can I sync my external accounts to my goals?

Syncing your outside investment accounts—such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and taxable accounts held at other institutions—helps us give you better investment advice.

In addition to investment accounts, you can also securely sync debt accounts, such as mortgages and loans. This helps you see your overall financial picture, putting you more in control of your wealth. Your synced account data is updated automatically, every day, so you’ll always know where you stand.

To sync your accounts, you must first either sign up or log in. On the home page after logging in, scroll down to the “Other External Accounts” and click “Sync New.” Search for your firm, making sure you choose the firm name and option that has a matching URL to the one you use to log in to their website. Enter your username and password for that firm, and complete any additional security prompts that appear. You can manage and edit your synced accounts from “External Accounts” under “Settings.”

Why does my goal say “off-track”?

Our automated advice tools continuously track portfolio performance for each of your goals, and we’ll indicate whether you will reach your goal’s target amount if there is average market performance. Your portfolio performance is categorized as either “On-Track” or “Off-Track” depending on whether you are likely to reach your target or not.

Portfolio performance is “Off-Track” when the projected value of your portfolio in the future—the current balance plus future contributions plus investment growth—is not sufficient to reach the target amount assuming average market performance.

If your goal is “off-track,” we’ll provide advice for bringing the goal back on track. This could mean either increasing the amount of future monthly contributions, increasing the term to make it longer, or increasing the current balance in the account by making a one-time deposit.

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Explore your first goal

Cash Reserve

Our high-yield account built to help you earn more on every dollar you save.

Safety Net

This is a great place to start—an emergency fund for life's unplanned hiccups. A safety net is a conservative portfolio.


Whether it's a long way off or just around the corner, we'll help you save for the retirement you deserve.

General Investing

If you want to invest and build wealth over time, then this is the goal for you. This is an excellent goal type for unknown future needs or money you plan to pass to future generations.

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