Asset Location - Increase Investing Returns & Reduce Your Taxes
Location - Once the holy grail only for real estate investors is fast becoming the mantra for every stock, bond, and mutual fund investor. Experts and studies now recognize managing asset location is second only to asset allocation in determining the success of your investment returns.
Importance of Asset Location:
The effects are striking. Investors lose up to 20% of their after-tax returns by mislocating investments in the wrong type of account. So says a recent study from three finance professors Robert Dammon and Chester S. Spatt, of Carnegie Mellon University, and Harold H. Zhang of the University of North Carolina. The professors analyzed two asset classes, stocks and bonds, to determine suitability for investing within tax-deferred accounts. Their conclusion? Investors should keep equities in taxable accounts and bonds in tax-deferred accounts, to the greatest extent possible. Young investors stand the most to gain by following such advice. Three of the most powerful elements of investing -- dividends, deferred taxes, and compounding interest - combine for a staggering effect to retirement income.
Unfortunately, the typical investor never takes advantage of all three benefits. A recent Federal Reserve survey shows Americans invest their taxable and tax-deferred accounts with identical securities. People focus on individual accounts rather than their entire portfolio. They ignore the benefits of allocating investments among different accounts and wind up with several accounts all holding the exact same thing. To their detriment, nearly half of all investors own bonds in taxable accounts and stocks in tax-deferred accounts.
Why asset location works:
Similarly, fixed-income investments (e.g. bonds) and real estate trusts generate a regular flow of cash. These interest payments are subject to the same ordinary income tax rates of up to 35%. A tax-deferred retirement account provides investors with the best possible shelter for such securities and their resulting profits.
Which investment goes where?
Table 1: Asset Locations for High Returns and Minimal Taxes.
TAX-DEFERRED ACCOUNTS (traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, and deferred annuities)
Two exceptions are worth noting. First, qualified distributions from Roth IRAs are tax free. Generally speaking, place assets with the greatest potential for returns inside a Roth. Second, if a 401(k) or IRA holds all (or nearly all) your investment money, throw this article away and focus only on asset allocation.
Mr. Olson is the editor of The Asset Advisor, a financial investment service providing proven strategies for no-load mutual fund investors. He brings 26 years of education and experience from Stanford University, Ernst & Young financial consulting, personal wealth management, and venture capital investing.Subscribe to our free newsletter
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