Are your retirement assets managed in unison? |

Are your retirement assets managed in unison?

Dudley Irwin and Fraser Horn
Dudley Irwin and Fraser Horn

The opportunity to save for retirement on a tax-advantaged basis while youre working is a valuable one. Perhaps thats why 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts are so popular. In addition, these retirement assets are portable and under your control, which is a big plus: You can change employers and generally take those assets with you. But with portability and control, you need to keep track of what you own which can be difficult when job turnover for Americans continues to increase. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2002 that currently employed Americans can expect to change careers five to seven times in their lifetime. As a result, its common for someone nearing retirement to have a handful of IRAs and 401(k)s. In 2003, 55 percent of households owned two or more traditional IRAs, and 44 percent of Roth IRA owners also had two or more accounts, according to the Investment Company Institute.Holding multiple retirement accounts can hinder a coordinated approach to portfolio management and may result in under-diversification and a level of risk thats inappropriate for your goals and investing time horizon.Early in the retirement-planning process, one of your first steps should be to have a financial adviser take a detailed look at what you own and what you owe. Its often a good idea to aggregate and consolidate your retirement savings into a single IRA for several reasons:

Many investors tend to like the specialties provided by different advisers, believing that by keeping assets spread apart theyll get diversification but many industry experts feel thats a myth. If you have multiple accounts, there may be less diversification than there appears to be when you sort out all of the investments you hold. For example, you may hold a lot of technology stocks and funds with one adviser while owning an index fund with similar holdings with another adviser. It would likely be more effective to work with a single adviser who sees all of your assets and liabilities and who can customize and help execute a strategy to help you accomplish your goals.

Unless youre still working and only have a 401(k) plan, you must begin withdrawing money from your IRAs in the April following the year in which you reach age 70. Naturally, you want to manage the amount you take out because too much could put you into a higher tax bracket, and too little can mean paying excess accumulation penalties of as much as 50 percent to the IRS on the amount that should have been withdrawn.The RMD amount is determined by actuarial tables, taking into account your gender, life expectancy and savings balance. Consolidating into one plan makes it more likely that youll withdraw the right amount and helps you continue planning for a retirement that could last 30 or more years. Drawing money in the right order, and from the right account, is important in protecting your nest egg from erosion through taxation.

For each IRA you hold, you can name a beneficiary, or multiple beneficiaries, to inherit the balance upon your death. Though you may change beneficiary designations, by consolidating into a single IRA, its easier to keep track of whom youve named and what overall percentage youve allotted to each beneficiary.

Having a single financial adviser manage your assets makes staying on top of your monthly progress much easier you can monitor your assets by reviewing one statement. It also simplifies making appropriate adjustments to your asset allocations.

Having multiple accounts often means paying multiple fees. In many cases, total fees for managing a consolidated IRA will be less than the fees assessed on various accounts with multiple providers.

A primary adviser, with a global view of your finances, can also help you decide which assets should remain outside tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts and how all your investments come together in one picture of diversification, risk and opportunity.Fraser Horn and Dudley Irwin are investment advisers who run 1st & Main Investment Advisors in Edwards. Call them at 970-926-2500.Vail, Colorado

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