Can you do a partial rollover of a retirement plan?

Buggy flip

So I made the decision to rollover my retirement account from TIAA(-CREF) to an IRA.

I had done a transfer of a Roth IRA from Scottrade recently, and the process was seamless. I had also, a few years before, converted a 401(k) I had with Vanguard into a Traditional IRA.

The decision to rollover my 403(b) to Vanguard was easy. I love Vanguard, love their simplicity and low-fees, and I have all of my self-directed retirement accounts there. It just makes sense to add to the pile.

And while I expect that a full transfer will be easy, after some consideration I decided that I didn’t want to rollover all of my account. There’s one fund that I want to leave put.

So the question remains: can I do a “partial” rollover? Read more »

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How to know when it’s time to rollover your old retirement plan

Carnegie Library

A little over a decade ago, I had a job with a university. I participated in their retirement plan, a 403(b) plan with TIAA-CREF (now TIAA).

I still have this account. As I moved to a different job, I started a retirement plan there, but my TIAA retirement account stayed put, which was intentional.

Chances are that most people who have worked in a few jobs have more than one retirement account. Considering that the average adult changes jobs every five years or less, you could very easily have quite a few retirement accounts. So this topic is relevant to everyone.

Having lots of accounts isn’t inherently a problem, but it can get needlessly complex. If all of your accounts are hosed by different organizations, do you really want to have to manage them all separately?

On the other hand, might there be a reason to hold on?

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How to calculate just how bad a deal a payday loan is

I love local newspapers. There’s just something you can learn about a place from a local newspaper that no wandering or even research will tell you.

But it’s the advertisements that often are the most interesting.

I was recently in Vancouver, Canada, and while I was there I picked up a “24 hrs” newspaper, which is one of those read-the-whole-thing-on-the-way-to-work free papers.

Inside, amidst all the local coverage, was a full page ad for a store called, with interesting and redundant flair, “CashMoney”.

I had seen these stores around town, but hadn’t known what they were. But upon reading the ad, I recognized at once that it was a payday lender.

They were advertising a deal. Shall we read the ad together? Let’s.

Read more »

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Don’t use payday lenders

PayDay candy bar

Back when I was working at Kinko’s doing layout, one of my regular customers would often ask me to create or update an application form for his company. It was for some kind of loan, and as I had to type in the fine print myself, I got to read it closely. I was appalled to see things like “375% APR” down there at the bottom.

This guy was clearly some kind of loan shark, which is kind of another way of saying a payday lender.

Payday lenders exist all over the place. Today there are more payday lender branches in the U.S. than McDonald’s, according to a 2014 report by NBC.

These places wouldn’t exist if people weren’t using them. So it’s time to take a look at this “fringe” area of financial services.

Read more »

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Four ill-advised reasons to refinance your mortgage

Free cash sign

So there are definitely some reasons where refinancing a mortgage could be a good move. Rates too high? Terms no good? Not going to be moving for a while? It could make a lot of sense, and save you money.

But there are equally a lot of ill-advised reasons to look into mortgage refinancing. If any of these are in your sights, step away slowly.

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Is it time for me to refinance? My mortgage origination company thinks so

White elephant statue

I closed on my home almost two years ago. And while I made the terms a little longer than I needed to, my plan currently is to pay it off as if it were a 15 year mortgage.

As I’ve written about before, my most pressing task is removing Private Mortgage Insurance, which I need to pay until I’ve built up somewhere between 20-25% equity. (I’ll have more updates on this in a future post.)

But I received an interesting email from someone at my mortgage originator. Paraphrasing, he said that he thought he could lower my rate, shorten my term, and remove PMI. Was I interested?

Good question.

Read more »

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What’s a mortgage refinance?

Labyrinth game

You might think that the life cycle of owning a home is that you buy something, get a mortgage, pay off mortgage, and then live happily ever after.

But this omits the fun world of mortgage refinance. Because it was so fun to go through the process of getting a mortgage once, you can go through that whole process again!

Jokes aside, is a mortgage refinance something you would want?

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Uber now allows tips: What’s 20% of $0?

Drumstick tips

The news was electrifying: Uber, the sharecropping system of the transportation industry, was finally allowing passengers to tip their drivers.

Amazingly, this wasn’t a thing before now. There was no option to tip a driver, except if you were to pay in cash, which most Uber riders, sexy forward-thinking futurists all, didn’t carry. (To its credit, Lyft has offered in-app tipping since 2012.)

So drivers earned whatever they earned, and riders paid whatever they paid. And this status quo was acceptable because, well, it’s such a good deal, isn’t it? All upside with no downside, right?

Read more »

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What about Bitcoin?


A few years ago, the online dating site OkCupid added a new payment option. It said: “Civilization Collapsed? Pay with Bitcoin”

This was the first time that I saw Bitcoin being taken (somewhat) seriously as a payment method.

Bitcoin is a sprawling topic, and I won’t even begin to do it justice here. I think the system that underlies the exchange is fascinating and has potentially wide-ranging ramifications for lots of different types of transactions.

But here I want to answer a much smaller question: is Bitcoin worth your attention from a personal finance perspective? Can Bitcoin help you in any way?

Follow me as we climb down the blockchain.

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What about gold?

Gold bricks

I love talking about investing. A slow and steady plan that can enable almost anyone to ensure a comfortable future for themselves and their loved ones? Yes please, sign me up.

When I talk about investing, I speak exclusively of mutual funds, enclosed in an IRA or 401(k) (or equivalent). There are other ways to invest for the long term of course—real estate spring to mind, at least in some circumstances—but not many.

People can put their money in anything: baseball cards, some hot new startup, a cookie jar. But to my mind, one of the most popular options that draws people in is gold.

So, let’s talk about it. Is it worth looking into gold as part of your investment strategy?

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