In the first part of this two part blog post, we spoke about the most tax-efficient way to invest using your Roth IRA. Essentially, my advice was to load up on dividend paying stocks. Today, we'll discuss the most efficient ways to invest using your traditional IRA, if you have one, or your 401(K). Let's get started.
Because a traditional IRA allows for tax deferred growth of your money, you should invest as aggressively as possible within this vehicle. As I mentioned in previous posts, the money in your traditional IRA will be taxed at the income tax bracket that you are in at 59.5 yrs. old or whenever you decide to withdraw it, instead of the long-term capital gains rate of 15% (Note that mandatory withdrawals must be taken at age 70.5). The majority of people go into higher tax brackets as they age, assuming of course that their incomes go up as they progress in their careers. The point of investing aggressively though is to achieve the maximum possible gain and offset the tax bite that the investor will feel when she withdraws her money for retirement. The top marginal tax rate of 35% is 2.33 times higher than the regular long-term capital gains tax rate, so the investor should want to make sure that being taxed at a higher rate does not diminish her purchasing power later on in life. The best way to do this is load up on small-cap and mid-cap growth stocks and mutual funds.
If you are looking for a place to begin with choosing these types of stocks so that you achieve gains that are potentially multiples of what you initially invested, I recommend the following newsletters:
1) Motley Fool's Hidden Gems
2) Thestreet.com's Breakout Stocks
3) Cabot's China & Emerging Markets Report
All of the newsletters above have great track records and are available for reasonable prices on a yearly basis. Moreover, not to sound like an advertisement for them, but one great investment pick from one of these newsletters will more than pay for the price of subscription multiple times over!
Investing within your 401(K) plan is relatively simple - not because investing is simple, certainly not. But because the investing options within 401(K) plans usually stink! And that is one of the reasons that
I advocate only placing enough money in your 401(K) plan to get the company match and then choosing another investment vehicle for your excess money.
Within 401(K) plans, you mostly only have the options of investing in your company's stock (if it's publicly traded) and various mutual funds. In order to invest in mutual funds effectively, it's useful to go to people whose job it is to evaluate their track records on a daily basis. The preeminent source for mutual fund rating is a company called Morningstar and with premium membership to it, you will find TONS of information on every possible mutual fund in your 401(K) plan and Morningstar's analysts will even rank the funds for you! At $189 a year, I think that's a great value. Especially if you don't have the time or the inclination to research your own investment choices.
When looking for highly rated mutual funds on Morningstar's site, I recommend loading up on small- to mid-cap growth/value stocks if you are in your late 20s to late 30s. Because people in these age groups have time to withstand the inevitable cycles of the stock market, they should be about 50 - 65% invested in growth mutual funds and less focused on income. As you get older though, you should shift your 401(K) balance more toward income than growth. You do not have time to sit idly by and withstand the ups and downs of the market when you want to leave the work force in a year or four! A good resource for determining a good asset allocation mix for your 401(K) plan without consulting a financial advisor can be found here.
I hope this was informative. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or suggestions you have for blog posts! Take care and until next time...