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Originally published Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 8:02 PM

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Low expenses at brokerage firms are possible

Columnist answers readers’ questions about dealing with IRA accounts and brokerages.

Syndicated columnist



Q. I’m 71 years old and retired. I have two IRA accounts.

One is with Vanguard and has about 24 percent of my total retirement money in it.

The other is with a large brokerage firm. It has about 13 percent of my money in it.

Vanguard has very low costs. The other brokerage firm charges me 1.35 percent a year to hold my IRA account. Should I roll that account into my Vanguard IRA?

The one reason I’d like to stay in the 1.35 percent brokerage firm is that I have a real person to contact when I have questions.

This isn’t very often, however. With Vanguard, I do not have a specific connection with any one person. If I rolled that money into Vanguard, how would that work?

— M.B., Kirkland, Wash.

A: This isn’t an either/or decision between a brokerage house and Vanguard.

You have other alternatives that aren’t as expensive as your current arrangement.

And you could get them with your current brokerage house — if they chose to tell you how.

It’s also possible that your 1.35 percent annual fee isn’t the only money you are spending on fees, but that’s another subject.

One way to have a person to call is to stay with the brokerage house and find a broker who specializes in funds from the American Funds group.

These funds, which are generally sold on a commission basis, have an upfront commission cost — but very low expense ratios.

They also provide a “trail” to the selling broker, so the broker is compensated for ongoing attention to your account. My personal opinion is that this is the best way to manage your money in a traditional brokerage house.

Q: My net worth is about $1.3 million. I have three IRA/401(k) accounts from previous employers, which total about $420,000. I have $230,000 in rental property, $250,000 in other stock accounts, $130,000 in cash — and the rest in various smaller accounts and cash. I’m 58.

Is there any kind of phasing I should plan on for when to tap the IRA accounts? They are currently valued at $112,000, $44,000 and $255,000.

Can I take withdrawals at different times for each account, or must they all withdraw on the same schedule?

And when would you think I should tap my Social Security, which will be probably a maximum amount of $1,800/$2,400/$3,200 at 62/66/70 years of age?

A:Rather than worrying about three different retirement accounts and withdrawals from same, you can consolidate all three accounts in a single IRA Rollover account. It will simplify your life greatly and give you a more immediate picture of your investment position.

There is no reason beyond really poor health to consider taking Social Security benefits at 62. The better path is to wait until at least age 66 and, if you are married, defer to 70.


Copyright 2014, Universal Press Syndicate

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