Sheryl Garrett, CFP, founder of Garrett Planning Network, a nationwide network of fee-only planners based in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. GarrettPlanningNetwork.com
Fidelity Investments, the giant brokerage firm, has put a new twist on getting cash bonuses for investing in an IRA. When an investor transfers an IRA to Fidelity, instead of immediately giving a bonus for shifting the assets, Fidelity will match a percentage of the investor’s new annual contributions to the IRA for up to three consecutive years. The percentage match—ranging from 1% to 10%—depends on how much the investor has initially shifted to Fidelity.
It’s not new for a financial institution to offer a reward as a way to attract IRA money, but it is new to structure that reward in a way that encourages investors to keep on adding to the account.
For investors, it is important not to overlook other factors, beyond any bonus, when deciding whether to shift retirement money to a particular brokerage. You also should consider…
• How well do the mutual funds and other investment options offered by a brokerage fit your long-term needs?
• How low are the brokerage firm’s expenses and fees?
For instance, Vanguard does not offer bonuses for shifting an account there, but it tends to have very low expense ratios on mutual funds, which in the long run might boost an investor’s returns more than a bonus would.
To get the 10% annual contribution bonuses at Fidelity, a new or existing customer must transfer at least $500,000 in IRA money—401(k) transfers do not qualify, but the IRA can be a traditional, Roth or rollover IRA. Fidelity’s matching contribution would then be $650 if the investor makes an annual contribution of $6,500 (the maximum allowed if you are 50 or older), for a total three-year bonus of $1,950.
If the Fidelity investor instead transfers smaller amounts to the firm, the match is 1% on new contributions for a transfer of at least $10,000…1.5% for at least $50,000…2.5% for at least $100,000…and 5% for at least $250,000.
This bonus program is generous, but if you make a bigger transfer or fall short on annual contributions, you might do better under a different bonus program. For instance, Fidelity and E*Trade have programs that don’t require additional annual contributions and offer a $2,500 bonus for a new deposit to a regular or retirement account of at least $1 million…a $1,200 bonus for at least $500,000…a $600 bonus for at least $250,000…
a $300 bonus for at least $100,000…and a $200 bonus for at least $50,000 at Fidelity and $25,000 at E*Trade. The E*Trade offer, which runs through December 31, 2015, is only for new customers, while the Fidelity offer is open to new and existing customers.
Through April 30, 2015, TD Ameritrade is offering customers a bonus of $600 for a deposit of at least $250,000 to a new IRA…a $300 bonus for at least $100,000…and a $100 bonus for at least $25,000. In addition, it is offering 60 days of commission-free trading and a $150 rebate to cover any rollover or transfer fees charged by another firm.
For other bonus offers, check the websites of other financial institutions.