Morningstar Asset Class Correlation Charts 2024: 20-Year Historical Matrix

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Morningstar has published their 2024 Diversification Landscape Update (direct link to PDF), another useful whitepaper for DIY investors that looks closer at the correlations between different asset classes. In their Key Takeaways, they note the quick turnaround from “The Classic 60/40 Portfolio is Dead” articles at the end of 2022 to “The Classic 60/40 Portfolio is Back!” at the end of 2023.

After a dismal year in 2022, the plain-vanilla version of a 60/40 portfolio (made up of US stocks and US investment-grade bonds) gained about 18% in 2023. Diversifying into other asset classes generally led to lower returns.

This marks a reversal from 2022 when portfolio diversification was a net positive. However, the basic 60/40 portfolio, composed of US stocks and high-quality bonds, has been tough to beat over longer periods. A 60/40 portfolio improved risk-adjusted returns versus an all-stock benchmark in more than 87% of the rolling three-year periods starting in 1976.

A potential benefit from owning multiple asset classes is that the lower the correlation between asset classes (the less they move in the same direction), the greater the reduction in volatility you get by combining assets. As long as you combine asset classes with correlations below 1 (perfectly correlated), you get some degree of volatility reduction. (See top graphic.) You can also see that the volatility reduction benefit mostly occurs within the first few asset classes; you don’t need 10 of them.

As you can see from the 60/40 Key Takeaway, the catch here is that correlations aren’t always stable. We have to look for longer historical trends with evidence that it will continue. Here are a few selected charts from the research paper.

T-Bill and Chill. Over long periods, US Treasury bonds have a lower average correlation to US stocks than a Total Bond index that includes investment-grade corporate bonds. But T-Bills (cash) get rid of the interest rate risk within T-Bonds as well, which often results in T-Bills being the most reliable shelter from the storm. You might not get a handy negative correlation boost during a stock crash, but the correlation will be reliably close to zero and your principal will be ready and waiting to deploy.

International stocks offer a small diversification benefit, but are usually strongly correlated with US stocks. (Though a little less so recently.) In the end, you must have faith that international stock returns will at times exceed US stock returns for periods of time to invest in this asset class. That faith has been tested recently, but I still would rather own them than not.

Commodities and Gold. Commodities go through boom and bust cycles as part of their nature, and the correlations with US stocks can also stay high or low for years at a time. I find it all very unreliable and unpredictable. Now, Gold has shown a consistently low correlation with US stocks, which is definitely an attractive quality. I’m more concerned about the long-term returns. Again, you need to have faith that long-term average gold returns will be well above inflation.

Long-term average correlations between asset classes. At the bottom of the whitepaper, don’t miss the charts which include correlation matrixes between major asset classes over the last 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, and 20 years.

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2024 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting Video, Transcript, and Notes

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The 2024 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting occurred on May 4th, 2024, and while there are lots of articles offering highlights (including this one), it’s never the same feeling as tuning into the actual thing. I always find a few nuggets that mean something to me, even if just a small side remark. Warren Buffett, Greg Abel, and Ajit Jain answered questions while we felt the palpable absence of the late Charlie Munger.

CNBC again has the broadcast rights. You can find the full 7+ hour live re-broadcast on CNBC YouTube (at least for now) and they have also uploaded most of it (not all) to the CNBC Buffett Archives site. Their official transcript is not yet available, but you can find a helpful transcript from Steady Compounding or listen to the audio podcast version here. Personally, I like to listen to the audio in the car once, and then read through the transcript for the second round.

Here are a few personal takeaways and notes.

Charlie Munger tribute. The meeting started with a video tribute to Charlie Munger, but that part is not included in many of the video links. Be sure to watch it here on the full video starting at 30:34. It is a very nice and touching tribute, including many classic Charlie Munger quotes. He did things his way, all the way to the end. I always loved that Buffett and Munger genuinely had fun together. When asked about “one more day with Charlie”, here was part of Buffett’s response:

We always lived, in a way where we were happy with what we were doing every day. I mean, Charlie. Charlie liked learning. He liked, as I mentioned in the movie, he liked a wide variety of things. So he was much broader than I was.

But I didn’t have any great desire to be as broad as he was. And he didn’t have any great desire to be as narrow as I. But we had a lot of fun doing anything. And, you know, we played golf together, we played tennis together, we did everything together. And this you may find kind of interesting.

We had as much fun, perhaps even more to some extent, with things that failed, because then we really had to work and work our way out of them. And in a sense, there’s more fun having somebody that’s your partner in digging your way out of a foxhole than there is just sitting there and watching an idea that you got ten years ago just continually produce more and more profits. So it wasn’t, you know, he really fooled me, though. He went to 99.9 years. I mean, if you pick two guys, you know, he never publicly said he never did a day of exercise except where it was required when he was in the army.

He never did a day of voluntary exercise. He never thought about what he ate. You know, we started every day, and Charlie had. He was interested in more things than I was, but we never had any doubts about the other person, period. And so if I’d had another day with him, we’d probably have done the same thing we were doing the earlier days and we wouldn’t have wanted another.

The only book available at their on-site bookstore this year was the new 2023 edition of Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Essential Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger.

Current Berkshire Hathaway stock price is close to intrinsic value. Berkshire’s cash pile keep growing, and sometimes it buys back shares when Buffett thinks it’s a good deal for existing shareholders. Right now, it seems like Buffett thinks it is only slightly undervalued to intrinsic value. Historically, buying BRK when BRK buys a lot of BRK has been a pretty good bet. (Say that three times fast!)

And our stock is at a level where it adds slightly to the value when we buy in shares. But we would. We would really buy it in a big way, except you can’t buy it in a big way because people don’t want to sell it in a big way, but under certain market conditions, we could deploy quite a bit of money in repurchases. And as you’ll see on the final slide, we have bought it in the last five years. We can’t buy them like a great many other companies because it just doesn’t trade that way.

Buffett sees higher tax rates as likely in the future, at least for corporations. When asked why he trimmed his position in Apple stock, Buffett (as he often does) redirected the question a bit to taxes.

We don’t mind paying taxes at Berkshire, and we are paying a 21% Federal rate on the gains we’re taking in Apple. And that rate was 35% not that long ago, and it’s been 52% in the past when I’ve been operating. And the government owns. The Federal government owns a part of the earnings of the business we make. They don’t own the assets, but they own a percentage of the earnings, and they can change that percentage any year.

And the percentage that they’ve decreed currently is 21%. And I would say with the present fiscal policies, I think that something has to give, and I think that higher taxes are quite likely, and the government wants to take a greater share of your income, or mine or Berkshire’s, they can do it. And they may decide that someday they don’t want the fiscal deficit to be this large, because that has some important consequences, and they may not want to decrease spending a lot, and they may decide they’ll take a larger percentage of what we earn and we’ll pay it.

[…] And if I’m doing it at 21% this year and we’re doing it at a higher percentage later on, I don’t think you’ll actually mind the fact that we sold a little Apple this year.

Living a good life. As usual, he dropped some good general life advice.

But the opportunity in this country is basically limitless. When you think of going back not that many centuries, if you were going to be a shepherd or something like that, 100 years from now, your grandson was a granddaughter, was going to be a shepherd, nothing really happened. And what has happened in the last 200 years with the combination of the industrial revolution, whether it’s science or education or health, you name it. We are so lucky to be born when we were the people in this room, and many of us were lucky enough to be born in the United States as well, that you.

You’re entering the best world that’s ever existed, and you want to find the people to share it with and the activities to participate in that fit you. And if you get lucky, like Charlie and I did, you find things that interest you young. But if you don’t find them right away, you keep looking. And I always tell students to take the job. I mean, find the job that you would like to have if you didn’t need a job.

And sometimes you can find that very early, and sometimes you go through various experiences, but don’t forget what you actually are trying to do, and there’s no place to do it like this country. Find the person that you like to share your life with in many cases. And, you know, sometimes you get lucky into that early, and sometimes you make mistakes.

But I would try to, in a very, very general way, I would try to figure out how you’d want to look back on your life and think about yourself and start today to go on the path that leads to that goal and expect some difficulties along the way. But if you’re thinking that way, you’re more likely to get there.

Keep trying, expect bumps, appreciate what you already have, and don’t let envy ruin it all. This Munger quote from the 2023 Daily Journal shareholder meeting sticks in my head: “I can’t change the fact that a lot of people are very unhappy and feel very abused after everything’s improved by about 600% because there’s still somebody else who has more.”

Berkshire shareholders as both savers and givers. Buffett reinforced the stereotype that Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are different and tend to be relatively frugal, practical, and not focused on outward appearances. Not only did a shareholder donate $1 billion dollars to a medical school in the past year (such that tuition will be free in perpetuity), but it didn’t even require them to change the name of the school. Another BRK shareholder just anonymously donated $500 million.

The next generation is fully in place. My overall impression was that while Buffett is still the top guy, with the passing of Charlie he has psychologically already passed the baton to Greg Abel and Ajit Jain. Abel is who all the subsidiary business managers deal with on a daily basis. Ajit is fully in control of the insurance side. Buffett basically said that Berkshire should be good for the next 20 years and he’s done the best he can (knock on wood).

We’ve really got the problem solved for the next 20 years unless something untoward happens. And if something untoward happens, then. Then the directors need to find, probably within our own organization, somebody that they’ve got confidence in to maintain the special advantages we have over another 20 years period. There’s various things that are low probabilities, but you still have to think about them, and we are in that position now. Now, if you asked me whether.

If something happened to Greg today, everybody says, don’t travel on the same plane. The thing to do is not travel in the same auto. Planes don’t go down that often. Autos crash all the time. I’ve seen all these corporate policies on that, which are kind of crazy when you think about the real risk.

But in any event, Greg is going to have to tell the directors about what if something happened tomorrow. He has to tell the directors about what should be done if anything happens to him. And that’s not an easy thing to do, and I don’t have.

Buffett will still be there to make sure that they properly pounce during the next crisis when everyone is scared but Berkshire. I get the sense that is really the only thing left that would get him really excited: the possibility of a future big moment with lots of buying opportunities. A few last big brush strokes for his masterpiece.

And that’s sort of the story of Berkshire. We’ll try to increase operating earnings, and we will try to reduce shares when it makes sense to do so. And we will hope for an occasional big opportunity. And we’re quite satisfied with the position we’re in.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Best Interest Rates on Cash Roundup – May 2024

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Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash as of May 2024, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. There are lesser-known opportunities available to individual investors, often earning you a lot more money while keeping the same level of safety by moving to another FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you could earn from switching. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 5/8/2024.

TL;DR: Mostly only minor changes since last month. Still 5%+ savings accounts and short-term CDs, with long-term CD rates holding roughly steady since last month. Compare against Treasury bills and bonds at every maturity, taking into account state tax exemption.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech companies often pay higher-than-market rates in order to achieve fast short-term growth (often using venture capital). “Fintech” is usually a software layer on top of a partner bank’s FDIC insurance.

  • 5.26% APY ($1 minimum). Raisin lets you switch between different FDIC-insured banks and NCUA-insured credit unions easily without opening a new account every time, and their liquid savings rates currently top out at 5.26% APY across multiple banks. See my Raisin review for details. Raisin does not charge depositors a fee for the service.
  • 5.36% APY (before fees). MaxMyInterest is another service that allows you to access and switch between different FDIC-insured banks. You can view their current banks and APYs here. As of 5/8/24, the highest rate is from Customers Bank at 5.36% APY. However, note that they charge a membership fee of 0.04% per quarter, or 0.16% per year (subject to $20 minimum per quarter, or $80 per year). That means if you have a $10,000 balance, then $80 a year = 0.80% per year. This service is meant for those with larger balances. You are allowed to cancel the service and keep the bank accounts, but then you may lose their specially-negotiated rates and cannot switch between banks anymore.

High-yield savings accounts
Since the huge megabanks STILL pay essentially no interest, everyone should have a separate, no-fee online savings account to piggy-back onto your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates and solid user experience. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • The top rate at the moment is at My Banking Direct at 5.55% APY . Poppy at 5.50% APY (3-month rate guarantee). I have no personal experience with them, but they are the top rates at the moment. CIT Platinum Savings at 5.00% APY with $5,000+ balance.
  • SoFi Bank is at 4.60% APY + up to $325 new account bonus with direct deposit. You must maintain a direct deposit of any amount each month for the higher APY. SoFi has historically competitive rates and full banking features. See details at $25 + $300 SoFi Money new account and deposit bonus.
  • Here is a limited survey of high-yield savings accounts. They aren’t the top rates, but a group that have historically kept it relatively competitive such that I like to track their history. Sad to see Ally Bank falling even further behind.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (plan to buy a house soon, just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple and take your time. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • No Penalty CDs offer a fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. Raisin has a 9-month No Penalty CD at 5.10% APY with $1 minimum deposit and 30-day minimum hold time. Marcus has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 4.70% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Also available at 7- and 11-months. Consider opening multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • NexBank has a 1-year certificate at 5.40% APY ($25,000 min). There is a 180-day interest penalty if you withdraw your CD funds before maturity.
  • CIBC Agility Online has a 13-month CD at 5.36% APY ($1,000 min). Reasonable 30-day penalty if you withdraw your CD funds before maturity.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
Many brokerage firms that pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). Note: Money market mutual funds are highly-regulated, but ultimately not FDIC-insured, so I would still stick with highly reputable firms. I am including a few ultra-short bond ETFs as they may be your best cash alternative in a brokerage account, but they may experience losses.

  • Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund is the default sweep option for Vanguard brokerage accounts, which has an SEC yield of 5.26% (changes daily, but also works out to a compound yield of 5.39%, which is better for comparing against APY). Odds are this is much higher than your own broker’s default cash sweep interest rate.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 5.33% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 5.24% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.

Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks and are fully backed by the US government. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes, which can make a significant difference in your effective yield.

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 5/7/24, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 5.37% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 5.15% annualized interest.
  • The iShares 0-3 Month Treasury Bond ETF (SGOV) has a 5.27% SEC yield and effective duration of 0.10 years. SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 5.21% SEC yield and effective duration of 0.08 years.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest. The annual purchase limit for electronic I bonds is $10,000 per Social Security Number, available online at TreasuryDirect.gov. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper I bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888.

  • “I Bonds” bought between May 2024 and October 2024 will earn a 4.28% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More on Savings Bonds here.
  • In mid-October 2024, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops which usually involve 10+ debit card purchases each cycle, a certain number of ACH/direct deposits, and/or a certain number of logins per month. If you make a mistake (or they judge that you did) you risk earning zero interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others would rather not bother. Rates can also drop suddenly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling.

  • OnPath Federal Credit Union pays 7.00% APY on up to $10,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, and login to online or mobile banking once per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via $5 membership fee to join partner organization. You can also get a $50 Visa Reward card when you open a new account and make qualifying transactions.
  • Credit Union of New Jersey pays 6.00% APY on up to $25,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, and make at least 1 direct deposit, online bill payment, or automatic payment (ACH) per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via $5 membership fee to join partner organization.
  • Andrews Federal Credit Union pays 6.00% APY on up to $25,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, and make at least 1 direct deposit or ACH transaction per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization.
  • Pelican State Credit Union pays 6.05% APY on up to $20,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, log into your account at least once, and make at least 1 direct deposit, online bill payment, or automatic payment (ACH) per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization membership.
  • Orion Federal Credit Union pays 6.00% APY on up to $10,000 if you make electronic deposits of $500+ each month (ACH transfers count) and spend $500+ on your Orion debit or credit card each month. Anyone can join this credit union via $10 membership fee to partner organization membership.
  • All America/Redneck Bank pays 5.15% APY on up to $15,000 if you make 10 debit card purchases each monthly cycle with online statements.
  • Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.

  • Credit Human has a 59-month CD at 4.70% APY. 48-month at 4.70% APY. 35-month at 4.75% APY. 23-month at 5.30% APY. 1-year at 5.05% APY. $500 minimum. The early withdrawal penalty (EWP) for CD maturities of 36 months or more is 365 days of interest. For CD maturity of 1 year, the EWP is 270 days of interest. This is actually a credit union, but is open nationwide with a American Consumer Council (ACC) membership. Try promo code “consumer” when signing up at ACC for a free membership.
  • First Internet Bank has a 5-year CD at 4.50% APY. 4-year at 4.45% APY. 3-year at 4.61% APY. 2-year at 4.76% APY. 1-year at 5.26% APY. $1,000 minimum. The early withdrawal penalty (EWP) for CD maturities of 2 years or more is 360 days of interest. For CD maturity of 1 year, the EWP is 180 days of interest.
  • BMO Alto has a 5-year CD at 4.50% APY. 4-year at 4.50% APY. 3-year at 4.50% APY. 2-year at 4.65% APY. 1-year at 5.05% APY. No minimum. The early withdrawal penalty (EWP) for CD maturities of 1 year or more is 180 days of interest. For CD maturities of 11 months or less, the EWP is 90 days of interest. Note that they reserve the right to prohibit early withdrawals entirely (!). Online-only subsidiary of BMO Bank.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Right now, I see a 5-year non-callable CD at 4.60% APY (callable: no, call protection: yes). Be warned that now both Vanguard and Fidelity will list higher rates from callable CDs, which importantly means they can call back your CD if rates drop later.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk (tbh, I don’t use them at all), but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10 years? You can buy long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. You might find something that pays more than your other brokerage cash and Treasury options. Right now, I see a 10-year CDs at 4.50% (callable: no, call protection: yes) vs. 4.47% for a 10-year Treasury. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs where they can call your CD back if interest rates drop.

All rates were checked as of 5/8/2024.

Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Robinhood ACAT Bonus: 1% of Taxable Brokerage Assets Transferred w/ No Cap, 2-Year Hold

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Offer is back, new deadline is June 28th. Robinhood has brought back their 1% ACAT Transfer bonus of a flat 1% of the transferred amount with no cap. That means a transfer of $10,000 in asset value from an external brokerage account will earn a $100 bonus, a $100,000 transfer will earn a $1,000 bonus, and a $1,000,000 transfer will earn a $10,000 bonus. The bonus should arrive about 2 weeks after the completed transfer, but note that you must keep the assets there for 2 years otherwise they will claw it back. Here is the full PDF fine print. Here is the online FAQ.

For eligible Robinhood customers who complete an ACATS transfer within the Offer Period, Robinhood will deposit 1% of the net transferred asset value to the customer’s Brokerage Account, subject to a two-year earn-out as discussed below. “Net transferred asset value” is the total value of the initiated ACATS minus the value of any outflows from April 30, 2024 at 12:00:00 AM ET until the ACATS is settled, excluding outflows that led to a chargeback. The Bonus will be provided within approximately two weeks from when the customer’s eligible ACATS transfers are completed. The Offer Period begins April 30, 2024 and ends June 28, 2024; however, Robinhood may change these dates at any time without notice. Transferred assets are eligible if they are initiated during the Offer Period.

As with all similar ACAT transfer offers, you can transfer over your existing stock holdings and the cost basis should also transfer over with no tax consequences. You don’t have to move cash. You just keep your same old shares of Apple or Coca-Cola or S&P 500 index ETFs or whatever at a different broker. If you already wanted to hold cash, you could also own things like Treasury bill ETFs or ultra-short term bond ETFs and earn interest on top of the bonus, but in that case this bonus isn’t that great because you’re only getting 1% spread over two years.

I’ve explored some of my Robinhood concerns during their 3% IRA transfer promotion. Here is some of that same information copy-and-pasted here.

Robinhood doesn’t allow all asset types, so you can’t own mutual funds, individual bonds, and closed-end funds. Robinhood is not a full-featured brokerage firm. Here is the full list of what is and isn’t allowed. They support the following:

  • U.S. exchange-listed stocks and ETFs
  • Options contracts for U.S. Exchange-Listed Stocks and ETFs
  • ADRs for over 650 globally-listed companies

This means that if you want to move your balance over to Robinhood, you will have to sell any mutual funds (or convert them to ETFs), individual bonds, brokered CDs, and so on. I converted my Vanguard mutual funds to ETFs, and it took 1-2 business days.

SIPC insurance limits and excess insurance. Robinhood is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which steps if a broker fails. Robinhood has also purchased additional excess SIPC insurance on the private market. From the Robinhood site:

Robinhood Financial LLC and Robinhood Securities, LLC are both members of SIPC, which protects securities for customers of its members up to $500,000 (including $250,000 for claims for cash). Explanatory brochure available upon request or at www.sipc.org.

We’ve purchased an additional insurance policy for Robinhood Markets, Inc., Robinhood Financial LLC, and Robinhood Securities, LLC to supplement SIPC protection. The additional insurance becomes available to customers in the event that SIPC limits are exhausted. This additional insurance policy provides protection for securities and cash up to an aggregate of $1 billion, and is limited to a combined return to any customer of $50 million in securities, including $1.9 million in cash. Similar to SIPC protection, this additional insurance doesn’t protect against a loss in the market value of securities.

From SIPC.org::

SIPC protects against the loss of cash and securities – such as stocks and bonds – held by a customer at a financially-troubled SIPC-member brokerage firm. The limit of SIPC protection is $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash.

Is SIPC a U.S. Government Agency?
No. SIPC is not an agency or establishment of the United States Government. SIPC is a non-profit membership corporation created under the Securities Investor Protection Act.

My brokerage firm has excess SIPC insurance. How does that work?
Excess SIPC insurance is insurance provided by a private insurer and not by SIPC. The insurance is intended to protect brokerage customers against the risk that customers will not recover all of their cash and securities in the proceeding under the Securities Investor Protection Act (SIPA). Under many of these policies, customer eligibility for recovery is not determined until after the SIPA liquidation of the customer’s brokerage firm has concluded and the amount of the customer’s recovery in that proceeding has been established.

Some people have concerns that Robinhood is a smaller company with a history of questionable judgment and violating securities regulations. Robinhood holds the current record for highest FINRA fine ever. As a result, you may choose to limit the amount transferred to Robinhood to under $500,000 in assets (and $250,000 cash) per eligible account type. Here are the different “capacities”. For example, you could have an individual taxable account, a traditional IRA, and a Roth IRA at Robinhood and each one would have $500,000 in coverage. I will be staying under these limits as well, but my IRA balance simply isn’t that big anyway.

Note that if you opt-in (or don’t opt-out) to Stock Lending during the account transfer or account opening process, any securities that are loaned out are no longer protected by the SIPC. This is usually offset by a promise of 100% collateral, but that assumes trust that Robinhood will post that collateral. See Gamestop short squeeze for a very recent example of Robinhood… not posting enough collateral. Therefore, I also don’t recommend Stock Lending with Robinhood.

Robinhood limitations on beneficiaries. Robinhood only allows a primary beneficiary who is an adult. That means no trusts, no minors, and no “per stirpes” instructions. See article.

Whom can I designate as my beneficiary?
To be eligible as a TOD or IRA beneficiary, the individual must be a person who is at least 18 years old, a US Citizen, or otherwise be legally permitted to open a Robinhood account.

Robinhood will also reimburse your transfer fees up to $75 if you transfer at least $7,500 worth of assets. After the transfer is completed, you must contact then via the live chat function and they will reimburse you after you upload a screenshot of the fee charged.

When you transfer out eventually, Robinhood does charge a $100 Outgoing ACAT fee. Ideally, there will be another broker to reimburse that fee in the future, but who knows. Here is their full fee schedule [pdf].

Customer service tips. Robinhood does not have a traditional phone number to reach customer service. You have to go the help section, search for a topic, and then look for the “Contact Us” button at the bottom of the page (presumably after you have read the canned answer and still need help). Then you can either have a Live Chat or request a Callback where they will call you back on the phone at a later time.

Security and Privacy tips. To access these settings on the iPhone app, click on the head/body icon on the bottom right, then the three lines icon on the top left, and then “Security and privacy”. On the plus side, Robinhood supports a variety of 2FA options: SMS, Device passkeys, and Authenticator apps. Scroll down further and you can also opt out of their data sharing.

Bottom line. Two years is a longer hold period than some other broker offers, but 1% of assets is still pretty solid overall and worth considering for transferring some buy-and-hold index funds where you don’t want to move them again for a while. (For example, you might get 0.4% of assets elsewhere, but also only have to keep it there for 90 days and be free to chase another bonus afterward.) Some people may also choose to consolidate their taxable brokerage accounts at Robinhood if they already took advantage of the 3% IRA offer. The deadline for this revived offer is currently June 28th, 2024. The bonus value will most likely be reported as taxable income on a 1099-INT as interest earned, but may also end up as 1099-MISC income. (I am reminded again how good the 3% IRA offer was, as the bonus was a non-taxable increase in your Roth IRA balance as compared to this 1% offer that is at best taxable ordinary income.)

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Merrill Edge + BofA Preferred Rewards = Up to $1,000 ACAT Transfer Bonus, Improved Credit Card Rewards

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Updated May 2024. Merrill Edge is the self-directed brokerage arm formed after Bank of America and Merrill Lynch merged together. They are currently offering an increased cash bonus of up to $1,000 for moving “new money” or assets over to them from another brokerage firm. The offer code is 1000PR. Offer valid for both new and existing IRAs and taxable brokerage accounts (they call them Cash Management Accounts).

Here’s an overview along with my personal experience as I’ve had an account with them for a few years now.

Cash bonus. If you are holding shares of stock, ETFs, or mutual funds elsewhere, you can simply perform an “in-kind” ACAT transfer over to Merrill Edge. Your 100 shares of AAPL will remain 100 shares of AAPL, so you don’t have to worry about price changes, lost dividends, or tax consequences. Any cost basis should transfer over as well. Make a qualifying transfer and/or deposit to your new account within 45 days and maintain your balance for at least 90 days. The fine print version:

  1. You must enroll by entering the offer code in the online application during account opening or by providing it when speaking with a Merrill Financial Solutions Advisor at 888.637.3343 or at select Bank of America® financial centers. You are solely responsible for enrolling or asking to be enrolled in the offer.
  2. Fund your account with at least $20,000 in qualifying net new assets within 45 days of account opening. Assets transferred from other accounts at MLPF&S, Bank of America Private Bank, or 401(k) accounts administered by MLPF&S do not count towards qualifying net new assets.
  3. You must be enrolled in Preferred Rewards as of 90 days from meeting the funding criteria described in Step 2.
  4. After 90 days from meeting the funding criteria described in Step 2, your cash reward will be determined by the qualifying net new assets in your account (irrespective of any losses or gains due to trading or market volatility) as follows:
  • $100 bonus with $20,000+ in new assets
  • $200 bonus with $50,000+ in new assets
  • $400 bonus with $100,000+ in new assets
  • $1,000 bonus with $250,000 or more in new assets

Customers not enrolled in Preferred Rewards as of 90 days after funding will receive the following cash reward: qualifying net new assets of $20,000 to $49,999 receive $100; for $50,000-$99,999, receive $150; for $100,000-$249,999, receive $250; for $250,000 or more, receive $600.

This offer includes “instant” Preferred Rewards status, which does require a Bank of America checking account:

When you enroll in the Preferred Rewards $1000 More Cash Offer, you consent to early enrollment in the Preferred Rewards Program. Once you satisfy the funding requirement for the offer, you will be enrolled in Preferred Rewards within 45 days based on your current balances at that time rather than the usual requirement of three-month average combined balances. You also must have or open an eligible Bank of America personal checking Advantage Banking account to be enrolled in Preferred Rewards. All Preferred Rewards benefits available in the tier associated with your combined balance level will be active within 30 days of enrollment.

More fine print:

For purposes of this offer, qualifying net new assets are calculated by adding total incoming assets or transfers (including cash, securities and/or margin debit balance transfers), and subtracting assets withdrawn or transferred out of the account within the preceding 24 weeks.

After I did a similar bonus a couple years ago with a partial transfer (just enough to satisfy one of the tiers), a Merrill Edge rep contacted me and offered me a custom bonus to move even more assets over. (The bonus ratios were about the same, but higher limits.) Therefore, if you are considering this and happen to have more than $250,000 to transfer over, you may want to give them a call and see if they can offer even more money.

You can even transfer in Admiral Shares of Vanguard mutual funds – they won’t let you buy any additional shares, but you can only hold or sell them. You can, however, buy more shares of the corresponding Vanguard ETF if you wish. (Alternatively, you should consider having Vanguard convert your Admiral share into ETFs on a one-time basis that will preserve your original cost basis. After you have ETFs, you can move those over to Merrill Edge and trade them as you wish.)

The features for the account itself seem like most other online brokerages. Unlimited commission-free online stock, ETF and options trades (+ $0.65 per-contract fee). You can trade ETFs, fixed income, mutual funds, and options.

Preferred Rewards bonus. The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple account and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart (click to enlarge):

BofA checking accounts. With Gold status ($20k in assets) and above, you’ll get the monthly maintenance fee on up to 4 checking or savings accounts waived. That means you no longer have to worry about a minimum balance or maintaining direct deposit, depending on your account type. You’ll also get waived ATM fees at non-BofA ATMs at Platinum and above (12/year at $50k assets, unlimited at $100k). Free cashier’s checks.

Credit card rewards. With the Preferred Rewards boost, you can get up to 2.6% cash back on all your purchases with the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards card, or 2.6% towards travel and no foreign transaction fees with the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card. You can also get 5.2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter with the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Card.

My personal experience. In terms of Merrill Edge, I’ve had an account with them for several years now and my lightning review is that they have a “okay/good” user interface and solidly “good” customer service (i.e. real, informed humans available 24/7 on the phone, not email-only customer service that takes hours to days like Robinhood). I am not an active trader and only make about 10-15 trades a year, but have been quite satisfied with the account. I can also move money instantly between my Merrill Edge and Bank of America checking accounts, making it relatively easy to sweep out idle cash into an external savings account, as their default cash sweep pays nearly zero interest. Don’t leave too much cash there!

The biggest financial benefit to this BofA/Merrill Edge combo with Preferred Rewards has probably been the 75% boost to their credit card rewards, allowing me to get a flat 2.625% cash back on virtually all my daily purchases. The second biggest benefit has probably been this cash bonus, and the third is the waived checking and ATM fees.

Bottom line. Merrill Edge is currently offering up to $1,000 if you move over new assets to their self-directed brokerage. This can simply be mutual fund or ETFs shares currently being held elsewhere. When you keep enough assets across Bank of America and Merrill Edge, their Preferred Rewards program can offer ongoing perks like waived bank account fees and boosted credit card rewards.

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Vanguard Adds New $100 Account Closure and Outgoing Transfer Fee

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Vanguard recently announced some new and/or increased fees for their brokerage accounts. Here is their updated full commission & fee schedule. The following are effective July 1, 2024:

  • Account closure and ACAT outgoing transfer fee: A $100 fee may be charged for account closure or transfer of account assets to another firm. The fee will not be assessed for clients who hold at least $5 million in qualifying Vanguard assets.
  • Broker-assisted trade commission: A $25 broker-assisted commission will be charged for each Vanguard mutual fund and Vanguard ETF trade placed over the phone and for closing transactions placed by Vanguard Brokerage Services® to cover a margin call or satisfy an outstanding debt owed in your brokerage account. Broker-assisted commissions will not be charged for brokerage accounts enrolled in a Vanguard-affiliated advisory service or for clients with $1 million or more in qualifying Vanguard assets. This previously applied to individual stocks, but not Vanguard ETFs and mutual funds.
  • Stock certificate deposit fee: A $100 processing fee (per CUSIP) will be charged for the deposit of physical share certificates into your brokerage account.
  • Class action service fee: With the introduction of this new service in which Vanguard Brokerage will facilitate filing claims on behalf of clients in an attempt to recover class action settlement funds, a fee of 20% will be deducted from these recovered funds prior to their deposit into your brokerage account.
  • Foreign securities and American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) dividends fee: A fee of 1% on the gross dividend amount will be charged when a dividend is paid on a foreign or ADR asset held in U.S. dollars.
  • Restricted security legend removal fee: A $250 processing fee may be charged for research and removal of a restriction on a security held in your brokerage account.

The following are effective July 1, 2024:

  • Tax filing fee for master limited partnerships (MLPs) held in an IRA will change from $300 to $500 per account.

These moves could be seen as Vanguard expanding its “at cost” philosophy. Vanguard decided that paper statements cost too much money, so they made everyone pay for them if they wanted them. Vanguard is probably seeing a lot of accounts being closed and/or transferred out, and now they want you to cover the cost to administer that as well.

An alternative view is that most of these fees are justifiable in that most of Vanguard’s competitors also charge them. Vanguard is simply becoming more like every other broker. It’s up to you to decide if that is a good thing.

While a lot of other brokers indeed have outgoing transfer fees, Fidelity still charges nothing for both full and outgoing ACAT transfers. Schwab and Merrill Edge charge $50 for a full outgoing transfer, but $0 for a partial transfer.

I would say the most surprising fee is the account closure fee. I can understand the outgoing transfer fee, but I think there is a reason why I could not find an account closure fee at Fidelity, Schwab, or Merrill Edge. If you have $5,000 invested and need to sell everything to pay for an unexpected bill, Vanguard will now ding you for another $100 on the way out. Even if justified in terms of administrative work required, it just doesn’t look so good on the public relations front.

I suppose the actionable advice is that if you were thinking about transferring multiple accounts out of Vanguard, you might want to do so before the new fee is implemented. A brokerage, Traditional IRA, and Roth IRA would add up to $300 now. Although, if I did move out, it would be for ACAT transfer bonuses which usually include outgoing ACAT fee rebates, so I don’t plan to rush into anything. If I had a smaller account, I would consider it more strongly as the ACAT fee rebates usually require a minimum asset level of $5,000 to $10,000.

During a discussion about an outgoing transfer last year, a Fidelity rep told me: “No, we won’t charge you a fee when you transfer out, and we won’t charge you a fee when you come back.” In other words, they are confident that their product is good enough that while you might leave to try out a competitor, chances are good that you’ll eventually come back.

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Savings I Bonds May 2024: 1.30% Fixed Rate, 2.98% Inflation Rate (4.28% Total for First 6 Months)

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Update: Savings I Bonds bought from May 1, 2024 through October 31, 2024 will have a fixed rate of 1.30%, for a total composite rate of 4.28% for the first 6 months. The semi-annual inflation rate was 1.48% as predicted (2.96% annually), but the full composite rate is dependent on the fixed rate for each specific savings bond and so it is a little bit higher. This total composite rate is a bit lower than current short-term Treasury yields, and the fixed rate is about 1% lower than that of current short-term TIPS yields.

Every existing I Bond will earn this inflation rate of ~2.96% eventually for 6 months; you will need to add your own fixed rate that was set based the initial purchase month. See you again in mid-October for the next early prediction for November 2024.

Original post from 4/14/24:

Savings I Bonds are a unique, low-risk investment backed by the US Treasury that pay out a variable interest rate linked to inflation. With a holding period from 12 months to 30 years, you could own them as an alternative to bank certificates of deposit (they are liquid after 12 months) or bonds in your portfolio.

New inflation numbers were just announced at BLS.gov, which allows us to make an early prediction of the May 2024 savings bond rates a couple of weeks before the official announcement on the 1st. This also allows the opportunity to know exactly what a April 2024 savings bond purchase will yield over the next 12 months, instead of just 6 months. You can then compare this against a May 2024 purchase.

New inflation rate prediction. September 2023 CPI-U was 307.789. March 2024 CPI-U was 312.332, for a semi-annual inflation rate of 1.48%. Using the official composite rate formula:

Composite rate formula: [Fixed rate + (2 x semiannual inflation rate) + (fixed rate x semiannual inflation rate)]

This results in the variable component of interest rate for the next 6 month cycle being ~2.96% to 2.97% if you use a fixed rate of between 0% and 1%.

Tips on purchase and redemption. You can’t redeem until after 12 months of ownership, and any redemptions within 5 years incur an interest penalty of the last 3 months of interest. A simple “trick” with I-Bonds is that if you buy at the end of the month, you’ll still get all the interest for the entire month – same as if you bought it in the beginning of the month. It’s best to give yourself a few business days of buffer time. If you miss the cutoff, your effective purchase date will be bumped into the next month.

Buying in April 2024. If you buy before the end of April, the fixed rate portion of I-Bonds will be 1.30%. You will be guaranteed a total interest rate of 1.30 + 3.97 = 5.27% for the next 6 months. For the 6 months after that, the total rate will be 1.30 + 2.97 = 4.27%.

Let’s look at the scenario where you hold for the minimum of one year and pay the 3-month interest penalty. If you theoretically buy on April 30th, 2024 and sell on April 1st, 2025, I estimate that you’ll earn a ~4.04% annualized return for an 11-month holding period, for which the interest is also exempt from state income taxes. If you theoretically buy on April 30th, 2024 and sell on July 1, 2025, you’ll earn a ~4.09% annualized return for an 14-month holding period.

Comparing with the best interest rates of October 2023, these rates are lower than what is available via regular nominal Treasury bonds and other deposit accounts.

Buying in May 2024. If you buy in May 2024, you will get ~2.97% plus a newly-set fixed rate for the first 6 months. The new fixed rate is officially unknown, but is loosely linked to the real yield of short-term TIPS. My rough guess is somewhere between 1% and 1.5%. The current real yield on short-term TIPS is a tiny bit lower than it was during the last reset, when the fixed rate was set at 1.3%. Every six months after your purchase, your rate will adjust to your fixed rate (set at purchase) plus a variable rate based on inflation.

If you have an existing I-Bond, the rates reset every 6 months depending on your specific purchase month. Everyone will eventually get this variable rate. Your bond rate = your specific fixed rate (based on purchase month, look it up here) + variable rate (total bond rate has a minimum floor of 0%).

Buy now or wait? Between those two options, I would buy in April as you’ll likely get a the same or tiny bit higher fixed rate and a decent initial 6-month rate. However, I actually don’t plan to buy any savings bonds right now and will be waiting until the next CPI announcement in mid-October, as I have been buying longer-term TIPS instead (in tax-deferred) to lock in the current 2%+ real yields.

Unique features. I have a separate post on reasons to own Series I Savings Bonds, including inflation protection, tax deferral, exemption from state income taxes, and potential tax benefits if used toward qualified educational expenses.

Over the years, I have accumulated a nice pile of I-Bonds and consider it part of the inflation-linked bond allocation inside my long-term investment portfolio.

Annual purchase limits. The annual purchase limit is now $10,000 in online I-bonds per Social Security Number. For a couple, that’s $20,000 per year. You can only buy online at TreasuryDirect.gov, after making sure you’re okay with their security protocols and user-friendliness. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper I bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888. If you have children, you may be able to buy additional savings bonds by using a minor’s Social Security Number. TheFinanceBuff has a useful post on gifting options if you are a couple and want to frontload your purchases now. TreasuryDirect also allows trust accounts to purchase savings bonds.

Concerns about TreasuryDirect customer service. Opening a TreasuryDirect account or conducting other transactions can sometimes be a hassle as they may ask for a medallion signature guarantee which requires a visit to a physical bank or credit union and snail mail. This doesn’t apply to everyone and seems to have gotten better recently, but plan to experience delays in any transaction that you try to accomplish (registration changes, converting paper bonds, changing bank accounts). They just seem to be overwhelmed in general. Also know that if your password in compromised, they will not replace any lost or stolen savings bonds.

Bottom line. Savings I bonds are a unique, low-risk investment that are linked to inflation and only available to individual investors. You can only purchase them online at TreasuryDirect.gov, with the exception of paper bonds via tax refund. For more background, see the rest of my posts on savings bonds.

[Image: 1942 US Savings Bond poster – source]

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Vanguard Sells All Solo 401(k) Accounts to Ascensus

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Vanguard recently announced that they are selling their individual 401(k), multiple-participant SEP, and SIMPLE IRA plan business to Ascensus (press release). They’ve already updated their small business retirement plan page. One-person SEP IRAs will stay at Vanguard.

Ascensus will provide custodial and trustee services, recordkeeping, client servicing, transaction processing, tax reporting, and other services, and plan participants will retain access to a diverse lineup of Vanguard mutual funds via the Ascensus platform.

This will affect a lot of small business owners who previously chose to open a Traditional Pre-Tax and/or Roth Solo 401k plan directly with Vanguard. The new stated fee schedule includes a $20 annual fee per Vanguard fund per account holder in the Individual(k) plan and a $20 annual fee per participant for custodial services. I believe the previous fee schedule was just the $20 annual fee per Vanguard fund per account holder, but it was waived if at least one participant had at least $50,000 in qualifying Vanguard assets.

I also find this move interesting in the context of the Vanguard company as a whole. This same week, Fidelity continued moving gradually towards being an “all-in-one” financial marketplace, recently adding a high-yield sweep option to their full-featured Cash Management Account. (I will note though, Fidelity does directly not offer a Roth Solo 401k option!) Fidelity is competing directly with the fintechs like Robinhood and SoFi that also want to be everything finance.

Meanwhile, Vanguard already shut down their own Cash Management option, VanguardAdvantage, in 2019. They made their Admiral Shares mutual funds more expensive than their ETF equivalents (they were initially the same expense ratio), which removed a major incentive to use a Vanguard brokerage account (as most other brokers won’t let you trade Vanguard Admiral mutual funds). There isn’t much reason to hold Vanguard ETFs inside a Vanguard brokerage account now that everyone has commission-free trades, and Vanguard seems perfectly fine with that. Now, they are no longer going to service their past Solo 401(k) clients, whether they wanted to stay with Vanguard or not.

Vanguard definitely seems to be narrowing their focus towards offering investment products like ETFs and mutual funds and simple investment advice. They appear happy to move away from anything that requires high-touch customer interaction like phone calls and paperwork. (I would note that my more recent customer service interactions with Vanguard have been more positive with lower hold times.) This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it leaves more resources for their other customers, but definitely a different direction than others.

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SoFi Invest ACAT Transfer Bonus Promotion: $100 to $10,000, Both New and Existing Accounts

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SoFi Invest is offering an increased ACAT transfer bonus up to $10,000 for transferring in new assets. Some of the tiers are double what they used to be, but the minimum holding period was also increased. Valid for both taxable brokerage accounts and IRAs (Traditional, Roth, or SEP).

$25 Referral bonus. As this promo includes existing accounts, you should consider grabbing this new account referral bonus first, worth $25 of stock with an initial deposit of only $10.

Get $25 worth of your favorite stock to start building your portfolio when you fund your SoFi Active Invest account** with at least $10*.

New SoFi Invest accounts (both new and existing accounts are eligible)

  • $100 bonus with $5,000 to $19,999 in new assets
  • $200 bonus with $20,000 to $99,999 in new assets
  • $500 bonus with $100,000 to $249,999 in new assets
  • $750 bonus with $250,000 to $499,999 in new assets
  • $1,000 bonus with $500,000 to $999,999 in new assets
  • $2,500 bonus with $1,000,000+ to $1,999,999 in new assets
  • $10,000 bonus with $5,000,000+ in new assets

Assets are now required to remain in your SoFi account for 2 years. This used to be only for 180 days.

Earn a bonus (as described in the chart below) when you transfer investments from another brokerage firm into a taxable SoFi Invest Active brokerage or Active retirement account (Traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA). Bonus amounts are based on the total net dollar amount (incoming transfers less outgoing transfers) of settled transfers from another brokerage to an individual SoFi Invest account during each calendar month. Bonuses will be paid within 14 days of the last day of the month in which the transferred assets settled in your SoFi Invest account. Bonuses will be paid into the same account you transferred investments into. Transfers into multiple accounts may not be combined. Assets are required to remain in your SoFi account for 2 years. SoFi reserves the right to recoup up to the bonus amount from any withdrawals that take place prior to the 2 year period. SoFi also reserves the right to change or terminate this promotion at any time without notice. Important Tax Information: The value of the reward you receive may constitute taxable income. SoFi Securities LLC may issue a Form 1099 (or other appropriate form) to you that reflects the value of the reward. Please consult your tax advisor. SoFi Securities LLC and its affiliates and associates do not provide tax advice.

Note that SoFi Invest does NOT accept mutual funds.

We do not accept mutual funds. These funds would need to be liquidated prior to initiating an ACAT with SoFi. Please contact your brokerage firm to complete this action, prior to submitting an ACAT.

In addition, SoFi will cover the outgoing transfer fee charged by your existing broker:

If you transfer a brokerage account with total asset value over $5,000 through the ACAT system, SoFi will reimburse up to $75 of ACAT Fees from your outgoing brokerage firm.

General Transfer Tips

  • Before moving, I would download all your old statements and tax cost basis information to make sure it transfers over correctly.
  • An ACAT transfer can take a week or so to complete, so you won’t be able to make any sell transactions during that time.
  • Consider performing a “partial” ACAT transfer where you only move over specifically designated shares (ex. only all 100 shares of BRKB) if you wish to keep some of your original brokerage account open. I would personally transfer over all shares of any specific ticker, so that the tax cost basis carries over neatly.
  • Compare bonuses across different brokers. Look carefully at the tiers, there may be a sweet spot where the percentages are better.
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E-Trade ACAT Transfer Bonus Promotion: $125 to $6,000 for Existing Customers

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E-Trade is offering an increased transfer offer for existing E-Trade customers of up to $6,000 for transferring in new assets. This specific offer only applies to non-retirement accounts. You must enroll in the offer first after logging into your E-Trade account, fund within 60 days, and keep there for at least 6 months. These tiers are currently better than their offer for new customers.

Existing E-Trade customers (non-retirement taxable accounts only)

  • $125 bonus with $5,000 to $24,999 in new assets
  • $250 bonus with $25,000 to $99,999 in new assets
  • $625 bonus with $100,000 to $199,999 in new assets
  • $1,000 bonus with $200,000 to $499,999 in new assets
  • $2,000 bonus with $500,000 to $999,999 in new assets
  • $4,500 bonus with $1,000,000 to $1,999,999 in new assets
  • $6,000 bonus with $2,000,000+ in new assets

These are relatively good percentages for a more established broker. (Morgan Stanley bought E*Trade in 2020, and is in the Top 10 for assets under management.) Importantly, I don’t see any minimum hold period on the offer page beyond keeping the assets there through the end of the 60-day qualification period after enrollment. (Update: The minimum hold period is 6 months, something but not too bad.)

Overall Brokerage Transfer Tips

  • Many brokers will charge an “Outgoing ACAT fee” of $50 to $100 when you leave them. (Notably, Fidelity and Vanguard do not. Schwab allows free partial transfers.) I recommend contacting your destination broker and asking them to reimburse you for this fee, on top of any bonuses. If you qualify for one of these bonuses, your account is probably big enough for them to consider it. The worst they can say is no. You may have to send them a statement showing the fee.
  • Before moving, I would download all your old statements and tax cost basis information to make sure it transfers over correctly.
  • An ACAT transfer can take a week or so to complete, so you won’t be able to make any sell transactions during that time. As long as you do an in-kind transfer, you’ll just keep the same shares of the same securities as before.
  • Consider performing a “partial” ACAT transfer where you only move over specifically designated shares (ex. only all 455 shares of BRKB) if you wish to keep some of your original brokerage account open. I would personally transfer over all shares of any specific ticker, so that the tax cost basis carries over neatly.
  • Compare bonuses across different brokers. Look carefully at the tiers, there may be a sweet spot where the percentages are better.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

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Robinhood Gold 3% Match Review: More Details on IRA Transfers and 401k Rollovers

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Update May 2024: This promo is now over.

Update 4/24/24: At some point within the last week, Robinhood has changed their language to say that if as long as you initiate your IRA transfer by 4/30 as a Gold member, you will receive the 3% match.

Update: My transfer is complete after 3 business days. $7,885 bonus posted. Robinhood offers an improved 3% match on IRA contributions if you subscribe to their Gold membership, which costs either $5 or $6.99 per month. Through 4/30/24, you can also get a 3% match on IRA transfers and 401k/403b/457/401a rollovers. Please start with my initial 3% IRA Match overview, the Robinhood FAQ, and Robinhood Terms & Conditions [pdf]. After doing hours of additional research, this is a follow-up post with a lot of details for other folks that also like to cover all the bases.

I’m have just completed my own transfer, and here’s the full walkthrough:

  • Open a Robinhood brokerage account (done years ago) and put some money inside. If you haven’t opened one before, here is my referral link. It is overwhelmingly likely you’ll only get $5 of stock (as will I), but there is a very tiny chance you’ll get $200.
  • Signed up for Robinhood Gold (first 30-days free, then $5 or $6.99/month). It is important you do this first, before the transfer.
  • Opened a Roth IRA account on 4/10 (leave empty). I declined Securities Lending, as it removes SIPC protection.
  • Requested a transfer from Vanguard Roth IRA on 4/11 (all Vanguard ETFs inside).
  • Received email “Roth IRA account transfer request has been accepted’ on 4/15.
  • Received email “Good news! Your Roth IRA account transfer was completed” very late 4/16 (technically 4/17). So it took 3-4 business days, faster than the estimated 5-7 business day.
  • Robinhood credited the 3% immediately upfront (~$7,885). To keep it, I need to keep the transferred balance + bonus amount in the IRA for 5 years. I also need to keep paying for Robinhood Gold for a full year past the bonus paid date. I plan to turn on automatic dividend reinvestment and not touch it for 5 years.
  • I don’t plan on making future IRA contributions into Robinhood, as I don’t want to keep my IRA there past 5 years. (Let’s say you put in $100,000 in Year 1 and then $7,000 in Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5. If you attempt to take out any amount at all in Year 6, how can you designate that money as part of the “old” $100,000 and not any of the more recent $7,000 contributions? It would just seem like you’re taking out part of the $7,000 contribution from Year 5 and thus lose that match, right?)

Here are some screenshots from the process:

Robinhood doesn’t allow all asset types, so you can’t own mutual funds, individual bonds, and closed-end funds. Robinhood is not a full-featured brokerage firm. Here is the full list of what is and isn’t allowed. They support the following:

  • U.S. exchange-listed stocks and ETFs
  • Options contracts for U.S. Exchange-Listed Stocks and ETFs
  • ADRs for over 650 globally-listed companies

This means that if you want to move your balance over to Robinhood, you will have to sell any mutual funds (or convert them to ETFs), individual bonds, brokered CDs, and so on. I converted my Vanguard mutual funds to ETFs, and it took 1-2 business days.

SIPC insurance limits and excess insurance. Robinhood is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which steps if a broker fails. Robinhood has also purchased additional excess SIPC insurance on the private market. From the Robinhood site:

Robinhood Financial LLC and Robinhood Securities, LLC are both members of SIPC, which protects securities for customers of its members up to $500,000 (including $250,000 for claims for cash). Explanatory brochure available upon request or at www.sipc.org.

We’ve purchased an additional insurance policy for Robinhood Markets, Inc., Robinhood Financial LLC, and Robinhood Securities, LLC to supplement SIPC protection. The additional insurance becomes available to customers in the event that SIPC limits are exhausted. This additional insurance policy provides protection for securities and cash up to an aggregate of $1 billion, and is limited to a combined return to any customer of $50 million in securities, including $1.9 million in cash. Similar to SIPC protection, this additional insurance doesn’t protect against a loss in the market value of securities.

From SIPC.org::

SIPC protects against the loss of cash and securities – such as stocks and bonds – held by a customer at a financially-troubled SIPC-member brokerage firm. The limit of SIPC protection is $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash.

Is SIPC a U.S. Government Agency?
No. SIPC is not an agency or establishment of the United States Government. SIPC is a non-profit membership corporation created under the Securities Investor Protection Act.

My brokerage firm has excess SIPC insurance. How does that work?
Excess SIPC insurance is insurance provided by a private insurer and not by SIPC. The insurance is intended to protect brokerage customers against the risk that customers will not recover all of their cash and securities in the proceeding under the Securities Investor Protection Act (SIPA). Under many of these policies, customer eligibility for recovery is not determined until after the SIPA liquidation of the customer’s brokerage firm has concluded and the amount of the customer’s recovery in that proceeding has been established.

Some people have concerns that Robinhood is a smaller company with a history of questionable judgment and violating securities regulations. Robinhood holds the current record for highest FINRA fine ever. As a result, you may choose to limit the amount transferred to Robinhood to under $500,000 in assets (and $250,000 cash) per eligible account type. Here are the different “capacities”. For example, you could have an individual taxable account, a traditional IRA, and a Roth IRA at Robinhood and each one would have $500,000 in coverage. I will be staying under these limits as well, but my IRA balance simply isn’t that big anyway.

Note that if you opt-in (or don’t opt-out) to Stock Lending during the account transfer or account opening process, any securities that are loaned out are no longer protected by the SIPC. This is usually offset by a promise of 100% collateral, but that assumes trust that Robinhood will post that collateral. See Gamestop short squeeze for a very recent example of Robinhood… not posting enough collateral. Therefore, I also don’t recommend Stock Lending with Robinhood.

Robinhood limitations on beneficiaries. Robinhood only allows a primary beneficiary who is an adult. That means no trusts, no minors, and no “per stirpes” instructions. See article.

Whom can I designate as my beneficiary?
To be eligible as a TOD or IRA beneficiary, the individual must be a person who is at least 18 years old, a US Citizen, or otherwise be legally permitted to open a Robinhood account.

The Robinhood Gold IRA Deposit Match counts as interest earned inside your IRA. From the official Terms and Conditions:

Robinhood processes and treats the Robinhood Gold IRA Deposit Match as interest earned by the IRA account for tax reporting purposes. The interest amount is based on a percentage of contributions made into the IRA Account. The interest earned by the IRA account will not be subject to, or impact, the maximum annual dollar contribution limit or the maximum annual deductible amount. Please note that the Robinhood Gold IRA Deposit Match may be taxable income for conversions of a non-deductible IRA contribution to a Roth IRA. Robinhood does not provide tax advice. You are encouraged to consult with your tax professional about appropriate tax reporting and treatment relating to this bonus award and the deposit of the bonus award in your account. Any taxes resulting from the bonus award are your responsibility.

From the FAQ:

Does the IRA match count toward my annual IRA contribution limit?
No. The IRA match counts as interest income in your IRA and doesn’t count toward your annual IRA contribution limit.

How is the IRA match treated for tax reporting purposes?
The IRA match is treated as interest income in your IRA. We won’t deliver a 1099-INT due to the tax status of IRAs.

This important factor makes the effective value higher than the usual cash bonus that is taxable income. The amount gets to keep growing inside your Roth IRA, tax-free.

Robinhood will also reimburse your transfer fees up to $75 if you transfer at least $7,500 worth of assets. After the transfer is completed, you must contact then via the live chat function and they will reimburse you after you upload a screenshot of the fee charged.

When you transfer out eventually, Robinhood does charge a $100 Outgoing ACAT fee. Ideally, there will be another broker to reimburse that fee in the future, but who knows. Here is their full fee schedule [pdf].

Customer service tips. Robinhood does not have a traditional phone number to reach customer service. You have to go the help section, search for a topic, and then look for the “Contact Us” button at the bottom of the page (presumably after you have read the canned answer and still need help). Then you can either have a Live Chat or request a Callback where they will call you back on the phone at a later time.

Security and Privacy tips. To access these settings on the iPhone app, click on the head/body icon on the bottom right, then the three lines icon on the top left, and then “Security and privacy”. On the plus side, Robinhood supports a variety of 2FA options: SMS, Device passkeys, and Authenticator apps. Scroll down further and you can also opt out of their data sharing.

The deadline is April 30th, and the terms state the transfer has to be “initiated and completed” by that date. As of right now, there’s still a decent buffer as it takes about a week for most IRA transfers. For those with large IRAs, this can be a very significant bonus. You may have reservations about moving your assets to Robinhood, which is certainly understandable. I hope this helps you make a more informed decision for your own situation.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Acorns App Results: How Much Did Folks Earn Rounding Up Spare Change?

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

If you don’t remember, Acorns was a hot app for a little while due to their primary feature of allowing you to automatically “round up” your purchases and invest them into a portfolio of ETFs. So if you made a $10.45 purchase, it would be rounded up to $11.00 and $0.55 would be invested.

This Axios article managed to obtain some proprietary data from Acorns and reverse-engineers it to estimate how much the average Acorns user saved (and spent) from their Roundups from 2015 to 2024. While the big-picture conclusions aren’t exactly surprising, the fintech geek side of me appreciated the peek into these details. My takeaways:

  • Survivorship bias. These numbers are taken from roughly 50,000 of their most dedicated users from 2015 to March 2024. Nine years is a long time in the fintech world! Everyone who closed their account before March 2024 was not included.
  • Average roundup per user: $43 a month. Times 9 years = $4,644. Assuming randomly-distributed purchases, that’s about 86 purchases a month. This assumes no other deposits, no withdrawals, and no investment growth.
  • Average withdrawal per user: $28 a month. In reality, over half of these Roundups were withdrawn, which led to a lower final balance.
  • Average additional deposit per user: $86 a month. In addition to the automated round-ups, this is the average additional deposit per month.

Did Acorns make users rich? The article title was “How much Acorns savers amassed by investing spare change”? Their conclusion:

Now we know just how meaningful the amount is — enough to buy a decent vacation, but not remotely enough to make a down payment on a house.

Well… yeah? Did anyone expect what used to be a jar of coins to cover a house downpayment? Back in the day, the big jar of coins also often went towards a family vacation.

My wife’s family once filled up one of those 5-gallon office water cooler jugs, and they weren’t alone. From Reddit/Imgur, this 5-gallon jug held very close to $3,000 and took the user 7 years to fill:

Did Acorns inspire additional savings? The optimistic way to think of Acorns is that it can show you that saving is indeed possible and easier than you thought, and that realization can inspire even more savings. A not-so-optimistic way is to point out that paying $3 every month to help you put aside $43 of your own money is kind of a big percentage. Especially if you’re going to take a lot of it out and disrupt the compounding growth.

The real-world results are that amongst Acorn’s most loyal users (the ones that kept using and paying for the service for 9 years), roughly and on average, along with the $43 in monthly Roundups contributed an additional $86 a month via recurring deposits but ended up withdrawing roughly half of the total amount (including any investment gains). My view is that this account was treated more commonly like a small emergency fund cushion, which is not a bad thing but a much smaller scale than they might have hoped for.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.