A. If you’re a saver, you eventually have to deal with account proliferation and the maddening amount of reports and mail it brings--- not to mention the decision chores. That’s one of the reasons you don’t see much enthusiasm for 529 plans in my columns.
In the case of accounts for the kids, you’re stuck. Basically you need to treat each of them individually because they’ll have somewhat different accumulation and draw-down periods.
But there are interesting opportunities for husband/wife nest-egg accounts. Assuming your wife is somewhat younger than you are, it would be reasonable to put more of the fixed-income assets in your account and more of the equities in her account simply because she is further from required minimum withdrawals.
The same applies to asset-class selections for 401k/IRA rollover accounts versus Roth IRA accounts. Since the Roth accounts have no required withdrawals and you may choose to draw sparingly from them, they can be weighted with more of the equity asset classes, while the traditional IRA accounts can be weighted with more of the fixed-income asset classes.
In all cases, it’s handy to have some kind of tool that helps you view your consolidated portfolios as a whole. You can do that using tools like “portfolio X-ray” on www.morningstar.com. Fidelity offers a similar facility on its client website.
Q. My father has a joint tenant account with me. It is not tax-deferred. We would like to sell some of the stock and invest it in a fairly safe investment that will grow, or at least maintain its value, when compared to inflation. The money is not needed now, but we are holding it for the day it will be needed.
Do you have any recommendations for a fairly safe investment that is tax-free and will have a reasonable growth?
---A. G., by email
A. There are two potential investments you might consider. One is a mutual fund that invests in relatively short-term tax-free bonds. The other is a fund that invests in preferred stocks. While preferred stock dividends are not tax-free, the tax rate is limited to the 15 percent tax rate on corporate dividends. Values in both types of funds have been affected by the subprime mess and credit market uncertainties.
The Vanguard Limited Term Tax Exempt fund (ticker: VMLTX) has a minimum purchase of $3,000, an expense ratio of only 0.16 percent, a current tax-free yield of about 3.35 percent and an average maturity of 3 years.
There are also two exchange-traded funds that invest in preferred stocks. One is iShares S&P Preferred Shares (ticker: PFF), which was launched in April 2007. The other is Powershares Preferred Portfolio (ticker: PGX), which was launched on Jan. 31 of this year. Both have similar expense ratios and both will, of necessity, be heavily weighted with bank-preferred stocks because banks are the primary issuers of preferred stock.
You’ll have more risk in the preferred-stock ETFs, but the yield is likely to be nearly twice as large--- more than enough to cover the 15 percent tax rate.