Frequently Asked Questions
- How much does Wealthfront charge for its service?
Wealthfront does not charge an advisory fee on the first $10,000 of assets under management. On amounts over $10,000, we charge a monthly advisory fee based on an annual fee rate of 0.25%.
The only other fee you incur is the very low fee embedded in the cost of the ETFs you will own that averages 0.17%.
- Why don’t you give a fee break for larger accounts?
Wealthfront’s 0.25% fee is already well below the 1.31% average fee charged by financial advisors. Rather than lower our fee for larger accounts, we provide more value for the same fee. For example, accounts of at least $100,000 get access to our continuous tax-loss harvesting service. Our research shows the average account could add at least 1% after tax to their annual return with our tax-loss harvesting service. Over 20 years that could add more than 50% of the amount you invested (based on an initial investment of $100,000). See
- What kind of trading commissions will I incur with a Wealthfront account?
You will pay no commissions on trades made on your behalf by Wealthfront.
- Are there custodial fees associated with accounts?
You will pay no custodial fees on accounts held with Apex Clearing Corporation.
- Are there exit fees due if I chose to close my Wealthfront account?
There are no exit fees associated with Wealthfront accounts.
- How are fees calculated?
Each month you are charged an advisory fee equal to 1/365 (1/366 on a leap year) of the annual rate multiplied by the net market value of your invested assets over $10,000 as of close of markets for each day in the month, multiplied by the number of days in a month your money was managed.
For example, Jane invests $35,000 in a diversified portfolio on Wealthfront. Jane begins investing on April 5th. At the end of April, she will have been invested for a total of 26 days. Wealthfront’s annual fee rate is 0.25 percent. To simplify this example, we will assume that the net market value of Jane’s assets remains $35,000 while invested. Therefore, Jane’s advisory fee for the month of April equals: (0.25% / 365) * (the net market value of managed assets greater than $10,000) for every day on which the assets were managed =
(0.25% / 365) * $25,000 * 26 = $4.45.
- When does Wealthfront charge its advisory fee?
Advisory fees for a particular calendar month are charged on the first business day of the following month. For example, the advisory fee for investing during the month of May 2013 was charged on June 3, 2013 (the first business day of June). Advisory fees will be reported on your dashboard under the Transactions tab on the first business day of the month.
- What’s to keep me from investing $10,000 with you and then mimicking trades for my $250,000 portfolio at a discount broker?
Nothing. But that kind of sounds like a pain in the neck when we only charge you an annual advisory fee of 0.25% (on assets over $10,000) to take care of all the trades in your account, as well as the periodic rebalancing. That being said, you are welcome to copy anything we do if you would rather do it yourself.
- What’s the Wealthfront Invite Program?
The Wealthfront Invite Program allows you to lower your annual advisory fee. Invite your friends and we’ll waive fees on an additional $5,000 for both you and your friend when they fund an account. Already a client? Send an invite.
- How much should I invest on Wealthfront?
We believe you should set aside a "rainy day fund" in cash to cover at least six months of expenses to handle any unforeseen emergencies that might arise in your life and if you are fortunate enough, a discretionary fund to invest in opportunities in which you have high conviction like a particular stock or angel investment. The rest of your money should be invested for the long term in a responsible, diversified strategy of the type offered by Wealthfront. However, we understand if you want to start with less.
- What is an ETF?
An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is an investment fund that is traded on stock exchanges throughout the trading day, much like stocks and unlike mutual funds. An ETF holds assets such as stocks, commodities, or bonds, and trades close to its net asset value over the course of the trading day. Most ETFs track an index, such as the S&P 500 or MSCI EAFE. Wealthfront evaluates thousands of ETFs for attractive investments based on their low cost, tax efficiency, and stock-like features.
- How does the Wealthfront service compare to a target date fund?
We believe the next best option to having your portfolio managed by Wealthfront is investing in Vanguard’s target date funds. We believe other target date funds aren’t nearly as good as Vanguard’s, primarily due to the other funds’ much higher costs. There are four ways to compare the Wealthfront service to the Vanguard target date funds: tax efficiency, expected return, risk and cost.
Vanguard’s target funds are inherently tax-efficient because Vanguard uses index funds with very low turnover as the building blocks for these funds. At Wealthfront, we take this one step further with our continuous tax-loss harvesting service, available to taxable accounts over $100,000.
Tax-loss harvesting is a technique used to lower your taxes while maintaining the expected risk and return profile of your portfolio. It harvests previously unrecognized investment losses to offset taxes due on your other gains and income. You can reinvest these tax savings to significantly grow the value of your portfolio.
Wealthfront developed software to make this service, traditionally only available to accounts in excess of $10 million, available to taxable accounts with at least $100,000. Between 2000 and 2011, our research shows continuous tax-loss harvesting could have increased your after-tax returns by more than 1% a year. Over the next 20 years that could add more than $54,000 to your $100,000 portfolio. See
Learn more about our tax-loss harvesting service here.
Please consult with your personal tax advisor regarding the tax consequences of investing with Wealthfront and engaging in this tax strategy, based on your particular circumstances.
Wealthfront employs eight asset classes in its retirement portfolio allocations, and seven tax-efficient asset classes in its taxable portfolio allocations. Wealthfront's retirement allocations consist of US Stocks, International Stocks, Emerging Market Stocks, Dividend Growth Stocks, Corporate Bonds, Emerging Market Bonds, TIPS and Real Estate. Wealthfront's taxable allocations consist of US Stocks, International Stocks, Emerging Market Stocks, Dividend Growth Stocks, Municipal Bonds, TIPS and Natural Resources. In contrast, Vanguard's target-date funds only consist of three asset classes, US Stocks, US Bonds and International Stocks (and a very minimal amount of TIPS and cash near retirement). According to our analysis, the addition of 4-5 relatively uncorrelated asset classes should cause our taxable and retirement portfolios to outperform Vanguard's target date funds by approximately 0.60% per year over the long-term. We believe this extra performance should more than make up for the slightly higher fees incurred on Wealthfront. These comparisons represent Wealthfront's opinion only. These comparisons are hypothetical only and should not be relied upon for predicting future performance.
Target date funds do not take the buyer’s specific risk tolerance into consideration when choosing an asset mix other than giving you an estimated retirement year, which would be far into the future for younger investors. Therefore the return on the target date fund might be too high or too low for a particular buyer’s risk tolerance. Target date funds also reduce the portfolio risk on a specific timetable, which may not be appropriate for you when the time comes. Wealthfront’s approach is to customize portfolios for each client’s specific risk tolerance. Risk should be one of your most important considerations when investing your money because getting this right helps you stay invested during volatile markets. To learn more about the importance of properly identifying your risk tolerance, read "Why Your Risk Tolerance Matters" in our Knowledge Center.
Vanguard’s target date funds typically employ index funds that have average expense ratios of approximately 0.17%. Wealthfront’s recommended ETFs have an average cost of approximately 0.17%. Because Wealthfront doesn’t charge an advisory fee on your first $10,000 invested, and then only charges 0.25% on your assets that exceed $10,000, the total cost of:
- A $10,000 Wealthfront account would be 0.17% — equal to the cost of a Vanguard target date fund
- A $25,000 Wealthfront account would be 0.32% — higher than Vanguard’s target date fund fee, but lower when the extra performance of a portfolio diversified across additional asset classes is considered
- A $100,000 Wealthfront account would be 0.40% — higher than Vanguard’s target date fund fee, but lower when the extra performance of a portfolio diversified across additional asset classes is considered
- What is your historical performance?
The best way to see historical performance is to go to our investment plan page. First, go to our homepage and click on the Invest Now button. After you run through our 10 anonymous financial profile questions, you will be presented with an investment plan page. This page details exactly what we would buy for you, the proposed investment mix and an explanation of the logic behind our proposed investment mix.
This page also includes a historical performance tab and various indices for comparison. Please adjust the risk score up and down to see how the performance changes for each level of risk.
- Why don’t you display reviews or testimonials?
As an SEC-registered financial advisor, Wealthfront is prohibited from posting on its website marketing material that includes any statement by a former or present client that endorses Wealthfront’s advisory services or refers to the client’s favorable investment experience with Wealthfront. This also applies to linking to such a testimonial if one of our clients posts such an endorsement on another site. We’re careful to comply with the regulations regarding this restriction, which is why you won’t find a public section on our website asking for client feedback. You’re always free to email us privately at email@example.com or visit our press page to see our latest news.
- How does Wealthfront protect the assets in my account?
Wealthfront maximizes the protection of your assets by doing the following:
- Third party custodian: Your assets are held in an account at a third party custodian named Apex Clearing. Wealthfront only has the right to issue trading instructions against your account. It cannot access your cash other than to receive its monthly advisory fee. You are the only one who can deposit to or withdraw from your account.
- SIPC Insurance: Your brokerage account is protected by SIPC insurance. This insurance covers up to $500,000 in securities for each type of account you hold with Wealthfront. An IRA is considered a different type of account than a taxable account for this purpose, but different types of IRA accounts are considered one account for this purpose. SIPC insurance also covers up to $250,000 in cash – which almost always exceeds the minimal cash balance we maintain to pay your fees.
- Additional coverage: Apex Clearing has secured excess SIPC insurance that provides an additional $150 million of coverage across all its clients. This insurance should be more than enough given that over the past 42 years 98.7% of client assets were recovered in failed brokerages even before SIPC insurance was employed.
- Everything is held in street name: Wealthfront only invests in SIPC covered securities registered in street name at the Depository Trust Company (DTC). That means the securities purchased on your behalf by Wealthfront are held separately from other Wealthfront assets and other assets of our brokerage partner (Apex Clearing) and are fully insured as described above.
- No proprietary trading: Our brokerage partner, Apex Clearing, performs no proprietary trading, the cause of the failure of MF Global. Even the failure of MF Global did not result in a loss to investors' capital.
- No rehypothecation: Wealthfront clients only have cash accounts (vs. "margin accounts") at Apex Clearing. That means at no time can the cash or securities held in your account be loaned out or borrowed by Wealthfront or Apex.
Third party custodian
In accordance with SEC rules (particularly 15c3-3, the "Client Protection Rule"), our brokerage partner Apex Clearing protects client assets by segregating them and ensuring that they are not used for any other purpose, including loans to investors or institutions, corporate investment purposes, or corporate spending. Regulators and independent auditors periodically review Apex's financial records to ensure clients' assets are accurately tracked and held separately from the firm's own holdings. It could be a civil and/or criminal violation if an investor's assets were inappropriately commingled.
When a brokerage firm is closed due to bankruptcy or other financial difficulties and client assets are missing, the Securities Investor Protection Corporation ("SIPC") steps in as quickly as possible and works to return clients' cash, stock and other securities. SIPC provides up to $500,000 of protection on securities held per legal entity and up to $250,000 in cash in excess of what is not recovered per legal entity. The following would qualify as separate legal entities, each subject to the $500,000 limit: your individual account, your trust, your IRA, your spouse's individual account, trust and IRA, your joint account, as well as a custodial account for a child. Two IRA accounts held by the same client would be considered one legal entity and thus are combined for purposes of insurance coverage. The same combination occurs when a single client holds two individual taxable accounts.
Not all asset types are covered by SIPC. Among the assets typically not eligible for SIPC protection are commodity futures contracts, precious metals, as well as investment contracts (such as limited partnerships) and some fixed annuity contracts. However, Wealthfront does not purchase non eligible assets for its clients and thus all of your Wealthfront assets are protected. See http://wwww.sipc.org for more information about SIPC.
If a broker fails, most (if not all) of the securities (stocks, bonds, ETFs, etc.) will be returned to the clients. After the broker's client assets have been distributed, SIPC steps in to replace only eligible securities and cash that are missing. Wealthfront typically only keeps enough cash on hand in your account to pay your managements fees for one year (approximately 0.25%). Even on a $5 million account, that translates to only $12,500, which is well under the $250,000 cash protection provided by the SIPC.
To illustrate a typical SIPC liquidation on a $5 million dollar client account:
- Assume a brokerage firm fails, resulting in $5 billion of client claims on assets.
- Assume $500 million in client assets are missing.
- Assume a historically low recovery rate of assets in liquidation of 90 percent (the actual historical recovery rate is 98.7%) or $4.5 billion.
- In a client proceeding, a client holding $5 million in SIPC eligible assets would receive $4.5 million from recovered assets and $500,000 from SIPC. The loss on a $5 million client account would be zero.
SIPC reports that 99.7 percent of eligible investors have been made whole in the 324 cases of failed brokerage firms that it has handled since its founding 42 years ago. Of the more than 625,200 individual entity claims completed or substantially completed cases as of December 31, 2011, 351 remained unsatisfied for claims of cash and securities whose value was greater than the limits of protection afforded by SIPC. These claims total $47.2 million and represent less than 0.06% of all claims made. The remaining claims in excess of SIPC limits are understood to be claims that were filed by clients of broker-dealers that did not carry excess coverage.
Over its history, SIPC has paid out a total $1.47 billon to settle client claims that exceeded assets recovered during a liquidation proceeding. This represents only 1.3% of all assets claimed during such liquidations. In other words, 98.7% of client assets have been recovered historically through the SIPC liquidation proceedings. (Source: 2011 SIPC Annual Report)
Because of the limits on SIPC, many large brokerage firms purchase so-called "excess of SIPC" insurance products, which insure their clients for any losses in client property above and beyond the distributions they would receive in a liquidation proceeding, including advances from SIPC. In other words, this insurance is only paid out when all distributions from the SIPC liquidation are insufficient to satisfy a client's claim in full. Claims for excess of SIPC insurance have been extremely rare. In fact, to our knowledge there are only 2 such known cases, put together both cases totaled less than $1 million in claimed assets.
Wealthfront provides its brokerage clients with additional "excess of SIPC" coverage from Lloyd's of London offered through Apex Clearing. The policy provides in aggregate up to $150 million in excess of SIPC coverage, subject to maximum limits of $37.5 million for any one customer's securities and $900,000 for any one customer's cash. This excess of SIPC coverage would only be used if SIPC coverage were exhausted.
To illustrate how excess of SIPC works on a $6 million client account:
- As per our previous example, assume a historically low recovery rate of 90 percent (again, the actual historical recovery rate is 98.7%) on client assets in an SIPC liquidation.
- A client with a $6 million account would receive $5.4 million from recovered assets and $500,000 from SIPC. The $100,000 balance would be covered by excess SIPC.
Everything is held in 'Street Name'
Both SIPC and Excess of SIPC coverage are limited to securities held in street name in a brokerage account. Securities held by clients in "street name" are kept securely with the Depository Trust Company (DTC), separate and distinct from the assets of the securities firms. Regulated by the SEC and the Federal Reserve, the depository is a national clearinghouse for settling trades and a custodian of securities. All ETFs purchased by Wealthfront are held in street name at DTC. Neither SIPC nor the additional coverage protects against loss of market value of the securities.
No Proprietary Trading
Proprietary trading is the practice of a brokerage firm trading in the marketplace using its own capital. When a firm makes a bad bet in the market and doesn't have the capital to pay for the losses, the firm either must declare bankruptcy or commit fraud and use client assets that were supposed to be segregated. MF Global, the eighth largest bankruptcy in US history, was such an example. Fortunately even the clients of MF Global did not lose any capital.
Our clearing partner, Apex Clearing, does not participate in proprietary trading for its own account, which we view as a significant risk mitigator.
When you invest with Wealthfront, your assets are held in a cash account. A cash account assures you that your assets are fully paid for and may not be rehypothecated (loaned out to other clients). This is in contrast to opening a margin account. In a margin account you agree to loan out the securities you hold in the account as collateral to other broker/dealers. The securities are usually loaned to other broker/dealers for delivery by their customer accounts to settle a short sale. A short sale is when you sell what you don't own at one price, with the hope of buying it back at a lower price and pocketing the difference. Your broker/dealer will borrow shares you've sold short from another broker/dealer's margin account and deliver those shares to the buyer. When you cover the short and buy the shares back, those shares are delivered to the original lending broker and placed back in the customer's margin account.
Problems can arise for margin account clients when their stock leaves the broker/dealers custody. That's because, if the lending broker/dealer fails, the borrowing broker/dealer may be unwilling to return the shares (even when the short is covered) until its own counter-claims against the failed broker/dealer are settled. Margin account customers whose shares have been lent out become unsecured creditors of the failed firm. If the margin account client must sell those shares to meet a margin call, it can't be done—the securities aren't in the account. The only way to avoid this scenario is to limit the number of securities in your margin account or to not have a margin account altogether. Doing so makes those securities unavailable to the broker/dealers stock loan department to loan out.
- What is SIPC Insurance?
Your account(s) is insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) up to $500,000 in total value per entity, but limits insurance on cash to $250,000 per entity. As with all securities firms, this coverage provides protection against failure of a broker-dealer, not against loss of market value of securities. Money market funds are considered a security. Cash is defined as funds not invested in a money market fund. Please see below for two examples of how SIPC insurance works.
- An individual account with $450,000 in securities and $10,000 in cash. SIPC insurance fully covers both the value of the securities, as well as all of the cash.
- Two accounts in the same name, each with $50,000 in securities and $200,000 in cash. The total value of securities is $100,000 and the total value of cash is $400,000. SIPC insurance covers the entire equity balance of both accounts of $100,000, but only $250,000 of the cash balance. $150,000 in cash would not be covered by SIPC in this scenario.
Please visit sipc.org for more information.
- What would happen to my account if Wealthfront were to be acquired, go public or cease doing business?
If Wealthfront is acquired or goes public, your brokerage account would remain in your own name and you would be free to add or withdraw money at any time.
In the unlikely event Wealthfront were to cease doing business, your account would be held by our brokerage partner until you transferred your account to a new broker or chose to liquidate your account to receive a check. During this period your account would not be managed by our brokerage partner.
- Can I export my Wealthfront account data to another personal finance tool?
Yes, you can export your Wealthfront account data to Quicken or Microsoft Money by logging into your account and going to the "Documents" tab. You can also import your data into Mint.com.
Unfortunately, many other services such as SigFig do not currently support imports of your Wealthfront information. We encourage you to contact such services directly to request support for Wealthfront.
- How do you calculate the return displayed on my dashboard page?
There are four primary methods of calculating investment performance: Time-weighted return, Simple return, Internal rate of return and Money-weighted return.
We think it is most appropriate to evaluate Wealthfront like an index fund, therefore we display time-weighted returns on your account dashboard.
Time-Weighted Return (TWR)
TWR compounds the daily returns of your account from the time it was initially funded until present. It is the best way to evaluate the performance of an investment manager because it does not consider when a client deposits or withdraws cash from her account. TWR is also the method used by index funds to measure performance. For these reasons we have chosen to display Time-weighted returns on your dashboard. It is a true reflection of how we have managed your money, not a reflection of how your contributions and withdrawals affected your performance.
Below is a description of the other performance metrics and why we believe these other methods are inferior to Time-weighted performance:
The simple return is your portfolio's total net gain divided by net contributions. In effect, this weights all cash flows to the beginning of your account's life and therefore is not a very good way of evaluating an investment manager's performance.
Internal rate of return (IRR)
IRR is calculated by finding the annual rate of return that will cause the net present value of your portfolio's cash flows (deposits and withdrawals) and terminal value to equal the value of your initial investment. IRR is most often applied to private equity funds because they have many cash inflows and outflows and all cash flows are under the control of the fund manager. It is seldom used to calculate the performance of a publicly traded portfolio because a public equity portfolio's cash flows are controlled by the investor, not the manager and the timing of the cash flows can significantly impact the return.
Money-Weighted Return (MWR)
MWR is the IRR of your account applied to the period your portfolio has been managed. For example if your IRR is 8% and your account has only been managed for 6 months then the MWR would be 2.82%. Like IRR, it is a better measure of how you manage your money than how your investment manager performs because it is sensitive to when you deposit and withdraw cash. For example if you initially deposit $10,000 in your account and it doubles in one month and then you deposit $100,000 and the market drops 25% in the following month then your TWR will be positive 50% and your MWR will be negative 91% (and your IRR would be negative 17%). In this example your investment manager invested well, but you timed the market poorly. Employing the MWR would unfairly make the investment manager look as though she performed poorly when it was you who made a bad decision as to when to deposit your funds into the account.
- Why do I see a login from a state where I don't reside?
The login history in your account identifies the source of your login according to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) you used to access your account. For example, if you access your Wealthfront account from home, your ISP will most likely list the state of your login correctly. However, there are three circumstances we know of that can cause an alternative state to show up in your login history:
- You subscribe to an account consolidation service like Mint or Personal Capital. Many of these services work with third party providers who provide the technology to "scrape" information from sites like ours to populate your consolidated balance sheet. The original of their logins will be where their data centers are located.
- You accessed our service from a mobile device. Mobile operators route their access in such a way that the state they display as the source of the access is not necessarily the state from which you physically accessed our service.
- You accessed our service from a business network such as a hotel or a coffee shop. Business networks often display their headquarters as the source state rather than the place from which you accessed our service.
If you have any concerns regarding the locations listed in your login history, please change the password on your Wealthfront account. We also recommend changing the password on the email address you use to login to your Wealthfront account as an added layer of security. It’s also a good idea to use different passwords for all of your confidential online accounts.
Questionnaire & Your Plan
- How did you create the questionnaire to determine my risk score?
Wealthfront designed its service to ask the minimum number of questions to accurately determine an individual’s risk tolerance. Our final list of questions was developed after a comprehensive survey of the academic research on the topic.
Some online free risk assessment questionnaires only look at subjective willingness to take risk. Wealthfront’s multi-tiered approach to assessing risk evaluates:
- An individual’s subjective willingness to take risk
- An individual’s consistency in response to subjective risk assessment questions
- An individual’s objective ability to take risk based on her projected retirement income compared to her projected retirement spending needs
We ask six subjective risk questions to both determine the level of risk an individual is willing to take and the consistency among her answers. For example, if an individual is willing to take a lot of risk in one case and very little in another, then she is inconsistent and is therefore assigned a lower risk tolerance score than the simple weighted average of her answers. Among our subjective questions we ask two that are likely to be extremely relevant to our tech community audience: whether they own stock options or have made an angel investment. We believe the answers to these two questions are critical to an accurate assessment of an individual’s willingness to take risk.
We ask four objective questions in order to estimate with as few questions as possible whether the individual is likely to have enough money saved at retirement to afford her likely spending needs. The greater the excess income, the more risk the client is able to take.
We believe that our focused, short list of questions is far more effective in identifying an individual’s true risk tolerance than some longer lists of questions that we have seen other financial advisors use.
Learn more about why your risk tolerance matters.
- Does Wealthfront take my outside holdings, such as my 401(k) and existing large equity positions, into consideration when creating my portfolio?
At this time, the Wealthfront service is not optimized to take outside holdings into consideration.
- Why do you recommend so many Vanguard ETFs?
We regularly survey the ETF landscape (of which there are over 1,400) and rank ETFs in each asset class using the objective criteria described in the FAQ below titled “How do you pick ETFs?” Vanguard ETFs often come out on top. We receive no compensation for recommending Vanguard products or any other ETFs.
Learn more about building an investment portfolio with ETFs.
- How do you pick ETFs?
We look for ETFs with the lowest annual expense ratios, minimal tracking error, and sufficient liquidity. Unfortunately, many investors only focus on cost and end up with an ETF that doesn’t track its benchmark well. This defeats the purpose of optimizing the mix of asset classes. Poor liquidity can create real problems when it comes time to buy a house or pay for your kids’ college.
- Do you support socially responsible investing?
We only employ index funds, so an investment with Wealthfront never specifically supports a particular company or industry. That being said we do not currently support the ability to eliminate a security from an index due to social concerns.
- Can I customize my allocation for my religious preferences?
We’re sorry, but we don’t allow customization beyond risk tolerance at this time.
- Why do you recommend the same ETFs to everyone?
Wealthfront’s investment methodology is based on Modern Portfolio Theory. It states that returns are best maximized for any level of risk through the optimal mix of asset classes, not through security selection. Therefore the ETF that best represents an asset class is the best ETF for everyone.
- Why do my allocations among asset classes remain the same independent of amount invested?
Wealthfront’s investment methodology is based on Modern Portfolio Theory. It states that returns are best maximized for any level of risk through the optimal mix of asset classes. Your allocations are a function of your risk tolerance, not the amount you invest. One of the “objective” factors in your risk tolerance is your Liquid Net Worth. We use your Liquid Net Worth (along with your age and current income) to estimate if your income at retirement is likely to be greater than your retirement spending needs. The greater your retirement income relative to your retirement spending, the more risk you are able to take. Therefore your risk tolerance should increase as your Liquid Net Worth increases, which should increase your allocation of equity ETFs, but is independent of the amount invested.
- Can I replace any of the ETFs Wealthfront recommends?
We chose each of the ETFs because we believe they represent the best way to invest in each corresponding asset class. We offer a “managed service” that attempts to solve your long-term portfolio needs and are therefore not necessarily appropriate for “do-it-yourselfers.”
- Does Wealthfront invest my funds all at once or do dollar cost averaging?
Wealthfront invests your money all at once. The benefit of investing in a portfolio of relatively uncorrelated asset classes is that when one asset class is up, it’s likely others are down. Therefore, the timing of when you invest is relatively unimportant.Vanguard published a white paper on dollar cost averaging for a diversified portfolio and came to the same conclusion.
If you prefer to dollar cost average, we’ve made it convenient for you to schedule deposits into your Wealthfront account via bank transfer (ACH). To set-up a scheduled deposit, log in and click the “Add Funds” button.
- Will Wealthfront hold individual stocks in addition to my managed portfolio?
No. We offer a service to manage a client’s portfolio that assesses your true risk tolerance, recommends an optimized portfolio of carefully selected ETFs spanning more than ten asset classes, and monitors and periodically rebalances the investment mix to maintain a client’s desired risk tolerance. We do not allow our clients to use their Wealthfront-related brokerage account to hold securities other than the ones we choose and manage.
- How often do you rebalance my portfolio?
Research has shown that rebalancing a portfolio’s holdings makes more sense when each asset class has drifted from its target allocation by a certain percentage (i.e., threshold based) rather than on a set time basis (e.g., quarterly or semiannually). Therefore, we continuously monitor your portfolio and periodically rebalance it back to your target mix, carefully taking the volatility of each asset class and your tax situation into consideration. We are not able to predict when we are likely to rebalance because it depends on the performance of each of the asset classes. We also use deposits, withdrawals and reinvestment of dividends as opportunities for interim rebalancing to minimize the taxable gains that can arise from threshold-based rebalancing.
A study performed by David Swensen, Chief Investment Officer of Yale University, found that threshold-based rebalanced portfolios earned an average of 0.4% more per year over 10 years than portfolios that were not rebalanced.
- What types of accounts does Wealthfront currently support?
Wealthfront currently supports taxable investment accounts including individual, joint and trust accounts. We also support Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs, IRA transfers and 401(k) rollovers.
- Who may open an account on Wealthfront?
Any individual 18 or over, who is a legal US resident or a US citizen (with a permanent U.S. address) may open a Wealthfront account.
- What is the minimum amount required to invest on Wealthfront?
Our account minimum is $5,000, which allows us to provide you with an optimized allocation across seven asset classes for taxable accounts and eight asset classes for tax-deferred accounts.
To qualify for tax-loss harvesting, the account minimum is $100,000. Learn more about this service here.
- I live outside of the US. Can I open an account?
- We currently require all Wealthfront clients to have a US social security number or tax ID number and a permanent US mailing address due to financial regulations.
- Can I transfer my existing IRA to Wealthfront?
Yes. Please open an IRA account on our website and select the option to transfer an existing account. Complete the information and your IRA will automatically transfer in 5-10 business days. Please note that we will sell any positions in your existing IRA account upon transfer to Wealthfront and reinvest the proceeds per your Wealthfront investment plan.
- Can I transfer a portion of an existing brokerage account to Wealthfront?
Yes, we can complete a partial account transfer in one of two ways, however, each method requires some manual effort on your part:
- You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a form to fill out that will allow us to transfer assets on your behalf.
- You can ask your current custodian to split the account from which you want to transfer a part of its holdings into two accounts, with one containing just the assets you intend to transfer to Wealthfront. You can then open a new account on Wealthfront and fund it by choosing the “account transfer” option and entering the account number of your new account at your old custodian that only contains the contents you want to transfer. We’ll transfer that entire account to your new Wealthfront account.
We hope to offer a fully electronic process for partial account transfers in 2014.
- Can I roll over a 401(k) into an IRA?
Yes. To roll over a 401(k) into an IRA, open an IRA account on our website and select the “rollover” option during the application process. Once your IRA account is open, you should contact your 401(k) provider and instruct them to send a check for the entire value of your 401(k). The check should be made payable to Apex Clearing Corporation and should reference your account name and your IRA account number. The check should be sent to:
Apex Clearing Corporation
1700 Pacific Ave., Suite 1400
Dallas, TX 75201
Although the rollover is not a taxable event, your 401(k) provider will issue you a 1099.
- Do you support Custodian/UGMA accounts?
- We do not currently support Custodian/UGMA accounts, but we plan to in the second half of 2014.
- Can I open multiple accounts?
You are welcome to open as many accounts as you would like as long as each has a minimum of $5,000. Many of our clients like to open dedicated accounts for each of their savings needs such as buying a house, financing their kids’ college, and saving for retirement.
- Does Wealthfront offer 529 plans?
- 529 plans are "state sponsored" plans so we cannot support them at this time. However, we recommend checking out our blog post 529 Plans and Saving for College
- Where is my money held?
Your assets are held in a brokerage account in your name at Apex Clearing Corporation (Apex). Apex Clearing Corporation is an independent, correspondent clearing services firm with the proven leadership experience, capital position, and technology expertise necessary to serve our clients. Apex serves over a million customer accounts from 230 U.S. based securities correspondents, including over half of Barron’s top 25 online brokerages and such firms as TD Ameritrade, TradeMonster, Scottrade and OptionsHouse (as of 12/31/12).
- Why does Wealthfront use Apex Clearing Corporation to custody and clear client assets?
Wealthfront chose Apex Clearing Corporation (Apex) as its brokerage partner because:
- Apex is the ONLY custodian that enables Wealthfront to offer its clients a complete online experience. Other custodians would be inconvenient for Wealthfront clients by requiring wet signatures on documents or funding via paper check.
- Apex’s singular focus on agency execution and clearing means that they are much lower risk than other custodians. Apex does not engage in activities like proprietary trading which could put clients at risk.
- Apex is solidly profitable and maintains regulatory capital that is four times the regulatory requirement.
- Can I hold my account at another brokerage firm and still have Wealthfront trade it?
Wealthfront’s service is only available with accounts opened at our brokerage partner, Apex Clearing Corporation. In order to provide our service, Wealthfront must have the ability to electronically place trades for all of its accounts, which is not currently available at a reasonable price from any of the consumer-focused brokerage firms.
- How do I find my brokerage account number?
To access your brokerage account information, log in and click My Account at the top of the page. You’ll find the Brokerage Info under the View section.
- How do I change an individual account into a joint or trust account?
We can't convert your current individual account to a joint account, but you can open a joint account and then move your individual account over to it. For regulatory reasons, brokerage accounts cannot have their titles changed.
The first step to convert your account is to open your joint account. Make sure you are logged into Wealthfront and click on "Open a new account." We will ask you to run through the questionnaire again because each account has its own risk score. When we offer you funding options, please select "wire transfer" because it is the fastest way to get the account open. You can always add an ACH link to your bank account by clicking on the grey "More" box and then "Manage Banks Accounts" later.
Once your joint account is open, please send an email to email@example.com and we will email you a brief form that gives Wealthfront authorization to move your assets to your joint account.
- Can I convert a Roth IRA into a traditional IRA account or vice versa?
- We do not support conversions of traditional IRA assets to Roth IRA accounts at this time, nor do we support moving Roth IRA assets to a traditional IRA account. If you have an IRA that you are considering moving to Wealthfront and converting to a Roth, please complete the Roth conversion at your current institution before moving the account to Wealthfront.
- How do I fund my account?
Our account minimum is $5,000 which allows us to provide an optimized allocation across seven or eight asset classes depending on whether it is a taxable or retirement account. The account minimum is $100,000 to take advantage of our tax-loss harvesting service.
You will be prompted to select a funding method whenever you open an account or deposit funds.
We currently offer three funding methods, which must originate from a US-based financial institution.
Bank Transfer (ACH): This option lets you move funds directly
between a checking or savings account and your Wealthfront account. Once you confirm your
bank account by identifying two very small deposits, we transfer your money electronically
and allow you to make additional deposits at any time. In most cases, bank transfers will
be deposited into your Wealthfront account within two to three business days.
Once you have linked a bank account to your Wealthfront account, you will also be able to schedule recurring deposits repeating weekly, biweekly (1st & 15th), monthly, or quarterly.
- Wire Transfer: Should you choose this option, you will need to initiate a wire transfer from your bank account to your Wealthfront account. In most cases, the funds will be deposited in your account the next business day after the wire transfer is initiated. Your funds will be invested immediately thereafter. Please note that most banks charge a fee for this service.
- Account Transfer (ACATS): You can transfer an existing brokerage account held at another firm by selecting “transfer” as the funding method during the Wealthfront signup process. This choice is optimal when you own some of the ETFs chosen by Wealthfront, because it may enable you to avoid capital gains tax. Please be sure that the title of your new account at Wealthfront matches the account title at your current brokerage firm. You will also need to liquidate any mutual funds, bonds and/or equities other than ETFs that are part of your Wealthfront plan, before initiating the transfer process.
Deposits originating from foreign banks or brokerages will be returned.
- Bank Transfer (ACH): This option lets you move funds directly between a checking or savings account and your Wealthfront account. Once you confirm your bank account by identifying two very small deposits, we transfer your money electronically and allow you to make additional deposits at any time. In most cases, bank transfers will be deposited into your Wealthfront account within two to three business days.
- When can I expect my money to be invested?
ACH Deposits are generally received within 2 business days, depending on the time of day when you submit/confirm your microdeposits and are invested the following day. If you submit your microdeposit information before 10 AM PST, the transfer should happen at midnight the same day, and your funds will be available for investment following a two business day hold to allows the funds to clear. If you submit/confirm your deposit request after 10 AM PST, your transfer will be delayed by one day.
If you submit your microdeposit information before 10 AM PST on a Monday, your funds will be transferred from your bank at midnight on Tuesday morning, and invested on Thursday morning. If you submit your microdeposit information after 10 AM PST on Monday, the transfer will happen at midnight on Wednesday and your funds will be invested on Friday.
Wire Deposits are generally available for investment the day following receipt.
If you were to wire funds to us on Monday, your funds will be available for investment on Tuesday.
Deposits by check (401(k) Rollovers and IRA rollovers) are held for 5 business days to allow funds to clear your bank before being released for investment the following day.
If your check is deposited on a Monday, your funds would be available for investment the following Tuesday.
- How do I deposit additional funds into my account?
To deposit funds, log in and click the “Add Funds” button. You’ll have the option to make a one-time deposit or to schedule recurring deposits via bank transfer (ACH). Recurring deposits can be scheduled repeating weekly, biweekly (1st & 15th), monthly, or quarterly.
When the funds arrive, we will send you an email confirming receipt.
- May I transfer funds from an account under a different name?
You may only transfer funds from an account that bears your name exactly. Transferring funds from an account under a different name will cause the funds to be rejected.
- May I transfer an existing securities portfolio to my account?
Before transfer, you will need to sell all mutual funds, bonds and/or equity holdings other than ETFs that are part of your Wealthfront plan.
- Who should I contact if I am having trouble funding my account?
Please contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (650.249.4258) with any account-related question, problem or suggestion.
- Why is there uninvested cash in my account?
Usually, there will be a small amount of uninvested cash in your Wealthfront account for the following reasons:
- We purchase only whole shares of ETFs for you. This leaves some cash uninvested until there is enough to buy more whole shares according to your Wealthfront plan.
- We reserve enough cash to cover Wealthfront’s advisory fees.
- May I dollar cost average?
Yes. If you would like to dollar cost average, we’ve made it convenient for you to schedule deposits into your Wealthfront account via bank transfer (ACH). To set-up a scheduled deposit, log in and click the “Add Funds” button.
- How do I make a partial withdrawal from my account?
To withdraw some of the funds in your account, log in and click the “Withdraw” button. The minimum withdrawal is $2,500, which we will send to you via bank transfer (ACH), wire transfer, or check. We cannot honor partial withdrawal requests that would leave your account below the required $5,000 minimum balance.
- How do I withdraw all the funds in my account?
To withdraw all the funds in your account, log in and click the “Withdraw” button. You have the option of receiving your funds via bank transfer (ACH), wire transfer, or check. After the withdrawal is complete we will close your account as we do not maintain accounts with a zero balance.
- How long does it take to withdraw my funds?
The timing of a withdrawal depends on several factors including what time of day the withdrawal request is made and the institution receiving your funds, but most withdrawals take 4 or 5 business days before the requested funds are back in your bank account.
When you request a withdrawal from your taxable Wealthfront account, we will send you an email within one business day to verify that the request is valid. Once you verify your withdrawal request, we will place the trades to raise the required cash in your account. All trades then take 3 business days to settle (This applies to all brokerage firms, not just Wealthfront). Upon trade settlement, we will then return your funds via your electronic ACH link to your bank account, which usually takes another 1-2 business days, but can take a day or two longer depending on where the funds are being sent.
- How much can I withdraw?
You can withdraw a minimum of $2,500 as often as you would like as long as you maintain a minimum balance of $5,000 in your account.
- Does Wealthfront charge fees to withdraw funds?
Wealthfront does not charge fees when you withdraw funds or close your account. Apex Clearing Corporation does not charge for bank transfer (ACH) or checks, but wire transfers are $15 each.
- What happens to my asset allocation when I withdraw funds?
If you withdraw funds from your account, we will reduce any overweight asset classes to move you toward your target allocation. If you’re already at your target, then we reduce the investments pro rata to maintain your target allocation.
- Can I consolidate a number of old 401(k) Rollover accounts into one?
You are welcome to consolidate multiple 401(k)s from previous employers into a single IRA account at Wealthfront. We wish we could handle the 401(k) rollover process just like we can a normal brokerage account transfer, but 401(k) rollovers are a bit different. Your former employer has an exclusive relationship with your 401(k) administrator so the administrator will need to hear from you directly. If you have an IRA account open and funded with us already, you can use the rollover steps below to consolidate your 401(k) into your existing IRA account. If you do not have an IRA account open with us yet, during the account opening signup flow you can select "rollover a 401(k)" and then "IRA" for the account type. For the rollover process itself, the vast majority of 401(k) providers will liquidate your account and send a check per your instructions.
Please note that some 401(k)s contain both a traditional (pre-tax) component and Roth (post-tax) portion. If this is the case, you will need to open both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA using our website by clicking the "open a new account" link on your Wealthfront dashboard once you have one of the accounts open. The traditional component of your 401(k) should be rolled over to your traditional IRA account and the Roth component of your 401(k) should be rolled over to your Roth IRA account. In both cases your account must meet our $5,000 minimum.
When you call or email the 401(k) administrator to request a rollover, they will ask you how you want the rollover check made payable and where you want it sent. Please ask them to make the check payable to our brokerage partner "Apex Clearing Corp," and reference your name and brokerage account number on the check. You can find your brokerage account number by logging in to your Wealthfront account, clicking on “Account Settings” on the top of the page and then clicking on “Brokerage Info” under the “Views” column. Your brokerage account number should look something like “5PIxxxxx.” Please have them send the check to:
Apex Clearing Corporation
1700 Pacific Ave., Suite 1400
Dallas, TX 75201
If you are opening a new IRA account with us for your 401K rollover, our website will provide the above rollover instructions as well.
- What do I do if my IRA or 401(k) administrator didn’t write my Wealthfront brokerage account number on my distribution check?
If your 401(k) administrator does not allow you to include your Wealthfront account number on your rollover check, please instruct the administrator to send the check directly to you instead of sending the check directly to our brokerage partner Apex Clearing. The check should still be made payable to "Apex Clearing Corp." When you receive the check in the mail, confirm that it is made payable to "Apex Clearing Corp." and then handwrite your brokerage account number and your name in the memo field (or where it should be) on the check. You can find your brokerage account number by logging in to your Wealthfront account, clicking on “Account Settings” on the top of the page and then clicking on “Brokerage Info” under the “Views” column. Your brokerage account number should look something like “5PIxxxxx.” Once you have filled in the additional information, please forward the check to Apex Clearing by sending it to:
Apex Clearing Corporation
1700 Pacific Ave., Suite 1400
Dallas, TX 75201
- Does Wealthfront help clients report taxes?
Your tax documents (Form 1099) are provided by the brokerage firm Wealthfront partners with to custody your assets. These documents can be found under the Documents tab on your account dashboard page.
Wealthfront does not provide individual tax advice, and you should consult your tax advisor regarding any questions you may have specific to your personal taxes and financial situation. Wealthfront assumes no responsibility to any client for the tax consequences of any transaction.
- Where can I get my tax documents?
You can download previous years’ tax documents from your Wealthfront account dashboard under the Documents tab.
- What are the differences between a Traditional and Roth IRA?
The main difference between a Traditional and a Roth IRA is when you pay income taxes on the money you put in the plans. With a Traditional IRA, your contribution is tax deductible and you don’t pay taxes on the contribution amount until you later withdraw it (either upon retirement or early with a penalty). A contribution to a Roth IRA is not tax deductible; you pay taxes before the contribution, but you do not pay taxes later on the amount you withdraw. In addition, with a Roth IRA, you can leave the money in for as long as you want, letting it grow as you continue to age. With a Traditional IRA, by contrast, you must start withdrawing the money when you reach age 70½.
Roth IRA contributions are limited by income level. In general, you can contribute to a Roth IRA for 2012 if you have taxable income and your modified adjusted gross income is either:
- Less than $173,000 if you are married filing jointly;
- Less than $110,000 if you are single, head of household, or married filing separately (if you did not live with your spouse at any time during the previous year); or
- Less than $10,000 if you’re married filing separately and you lived with your spouse at any time during the previous year.
For more information on contribution limits, please refer to the IRS website.
- When is it appropriate to use a Traditional vs. a Roth IRA?
A Roth IRA is more appropriate when you are younger since you have a longer time for tax-free accumulation. Most studies suggest that the cutoff age is around 50. However, a Roth IRA is not appropriate for people who will be in a zero or very low tax bracket when they retire. If you do not foresee the need to draw on your IRA in retirement then you will want to fund a Roth IRA.
Of course, none of us have a crystal ball, so you may want to hedge by splitting your contributions across both a Roth and a Traditional IRA (say 50/50) if you don’t know what your income is likely to be upon retirement.
If you’re a young professional who has a high potential upside to your income, then you’re probably better off with a Roth. If you’re a young college graduate who’s making about $100,000 per year and you only expect your income to grow with inflation then you’re probably better off with a 50/50 split until the future starts to become clearer and then adjust accordingly.
Please consult your tax advisor to determine what is best for you.
- What is the maximum amount I can contribute to an IRA each year?
The answer is the same for Traditional and Roth IRAs:
- If you are under 50 years of age at the end of 2013: The maximum contribution that you can make to a traditional or Roth IRA is the smaller of $5,500 or the amount of your taxable compensation for 2013. This limit can be split between a Traditional and a Roth IRA but the combined limit is $5,500. The maximum contribution to a Roth IRA and the maximum deductible contribution to a Traditional IRA may be reduced depending upon your modified adjusted gross income (modified AGI).
- If you are 50 years of age or older before the end of 2013: Your maximum contribution to a Traditional or Roth IRA is the smaller of $6,500 or the amount of your taxable compensation for 2013. This limit can be split between a Traditional and a Roth IRA but the combined limit is $6,500. The maximum contribution to a Roth IRA and the maximum deductible contribution to a Traditional IRA may be reduced depending upon your modified AGI.
- Do you take taxes into consideration when allocating between taxable and retirement accounts?
To minimize the taxes you incur on your investments we implemented a form of Asset Location known as differentiated asset location. By differentiated asset location we mean that we use different mixes of asset classes for your taxable and retirement accounts. Differentiated asset location should not be confused with segregated asset location, which segregates asset classes entirely into one type of account or another. We chose not to implement segregated asset location because it is only beneficial to people whose retirement accounts represent a large percentage of their net worth which is atypical for our clients.
- If a new investment mix is available, how does Wealthfront minimize taxes when updating my taxable portfolio to a new investment mix?
For taxable portfolios, we still strive to minimize any tax consequences that arise from transitioning to a new investment mix.
For example, if we need to sell any of your existing investments in the transition process, we will first sell any share lots that generate losses followed by lots that only generate a tax-favorable long-term capital gain followed by lots where only a small (typically no greater than 5%) short-term capital gain is generated.
If we cannot find enough such lots to complete the transition, then we will wait until more short-term capital gain lots turn into long-term capital gain lots, thus allowing them to be sold in a tax-efficient manner. Meanwhile, we will use recent deposits or dividends to move your portfolio closer to the new investment mix. As a result, although we may transition the majority of taxable portfolios to the new investment mix immediately in a highly tax-efficient manner, some portfolios may take as much as a year to fully transition.
Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting
- What is tax-loss harvesting?
Tax-loss Harvesting is a way to make your investments work even harder on your behalf – not just by producing investment returns but by lowering your taxes too.
Tax-Loss Harvesting works by taking advantage of investments that have declined in value (a common occurrence in broadly diversified investment portfolios). By selling declined investments at a loss, you earn the right to write-off that loss from your taxable income – thus lowering your taxes.
What's more, you can replace any investment sold in this manner with a highly correlated alternative investment. The result is that the risk and return profile of your portfolio is unchanged, even as you gain tax savings. These tax savings can then be reinvested to further grow the value of your portfolio.
Wealthfront developed software to make this service, traditionally only available to accounts in excess of $5 million, available to taxable accounts with at least $100,000. Between 2000 and 2011, our research shows tax-loss harvesting would have increased your after-tax returns by more than 0.92% a year. Over the next 20
- Does the IRS allow tax-loss harvesting?
Yes. The IRS allows tax-loss harvesting, or “tax selling,” and financial advisors to the rich have done it manually for decades.
For more about IRS allowances for capital gains and capital losses, please review the or consult your personal tax advisor.
- Doesn't tax-loss harvesting just defer tax liability?
Potentially. If you plan to sell all of your investments in a few years, then indeed Tax-Loss Harvesting will only defer your tax liability.
However, you may still come out ahead by not paying these taxes today and only potentially having to pay them years from now.
For one thing, the tax savings from tax-loss harvesting can be reinvested and compounded over time. $10,000 in tax-savings today, for example, reinvested at a 5% annual return for 20 years comes out to more than $26,000. You're still left with $8,000 with gains due to tax-loss harvesting even if you pay a 50% tax on those reinvested gains and payback the original $10,000 tax liability [$26,000 - $10,000 – ($26,000-$10,000) x 50% = $8,000].
What's more, if you don't end up selling all of your investments and instead choose to pass them on to your heirs or donate them to a non-profit organization, then you actually never have to pay back the original tax liability. This is because your heirs will receive a step-up in basis for the assets that you pass down, eliminating any capital gain tax liability for those assets. Non-profit organizations will similarly not owe any taxes upon selling the assets you donate.
- What account types qualify for tax-loss harvesting?
Tax-loss harvesting is only relevant to taxable accounts. It does not apply to retirement accounts such as IRAs or 401(k)s since gains and losses in those types of accounts are not taxable events. Tax-loss harvesting is also not typically suited for custodial accounts (such as UTMA or UGMA) unless the child has significant taxable gains or income from other sources.
- How does tax-loss harvesting relate to rebalancing?
Wealthfront periodically rebalances all client accounts to maintain their intended risk and return profiles. We rebalance in as tax efficient a way as possible by purchasing ETFs whenever deposits are made or dividends are earned to add to asset classes that are under-weighted relative to their goal. We sell ETFs upon withdrawals to reduce over-weighted asset classes. We also buy or sell ETFs that represent asset classes that have gone above or below a prescribed threshold for their asset allocation.
Tax-loss harvesting is a tax-optimization strategy for taxable accounts that adds value on top of rebalancing. Tax-loss harvesting transactions involve selling one ETF that represents an asset class that trades at a loss and replacing it with another similar but not identical ETF. Losses are recognized, but the overall asset class distribution of the account does not change.
What makes our service unique is its ability to periodically rebalance your portfolio and continuously look for tax-loss harvesting opportunities in the same account without triggering “wash sales.”
- What is a “wash sale” and why does it matter?
A wash sale results from the sale of an investment when a substantially identical investment was purchased within 30 days before or after the sale date. The IRS prohibits claiming losses on wash sales.
Wealthfront's tax-loss harvesting algorithms manage your accounts to avoid wash sale issues within your Wealthfront investment portfolio. This includes both sale and purchase timing, as well as choosing alternate ETFs that are not substantially identical to your primary (initial) ETFs.
For more on wash sales, please see the or consult your tax advisor.
- To which accounts does the wash sale rule apply?
The wash sale rule applies to all of your accounts, including your non-taxable retirement accounts, no matter where they are held. If you have multiple accounts with Wealthfront, we will monitor trades across your entire Wealthfront investment portfolio to avoid wash sale issues. If you also hold our selected ETFs in non-Wealthfront accounts, you should be mindful of the wash sale rule.
We keep our tax-loss harvesting clients up-to-date on the ETFs we may choose on their behalf. We may trade these same ETFs on a client's behalf throughout the year (depending on market conditions). Clients who trade these ETFs elsewhere (or their index fund share classes), will need to verify that the wash sale rule has not invalidated short-term losses that we harvest for them. Note that if you are married, your spouse buying or selling an investment has the same effect as you buying or selling that investment for purposes of the wash sale rule.
Please consult with your personal tax advisor to confirm whether your non-Wealthfront accounts, if any, may be subject to wash sale restrictions. Investors and their personal tax advisors are responsible for how the transactions in both Wealthfront and non-Wealthfront accounts are reported to the IRS or any other taxing authority.
- What kinds of income can I offset with my harvested losses?
If you have taxable capital gains from your Wealthfront accounts or elsewhere, you can use your harvested tax losses to offset these gains. You can apply your harvested short-term losses to offset short-term gains; reduce your taxable ordinary income by up to $3,000 per year; carry forward your tax loss to future tax years; or offset long-term gains.
For more on IRS allowances for capital gains and capital losses, please see the or consult your personal tax advisor. Investors and their personal tax advisors are responsible for how the transactions in both Wealthfront and non-Wealthfront accounts are reported to the IRS or any other taxing authority.
- What ETFs does Wealthfront use to implement tax loss harvesting?
We regularly survey the landscape of over 1,400 ETFs and rank them for each asset class using the criteria of low expense ratios, minimal tracking error, ample liquidity, client-focused securities lending policies, and low correlation to the rest of the overall client investment portfolio. We receive no compensation for recommending any of the ETFs in our client portfolios and have no business relationship with any of the providers.
Our current recommended primary (initial) ETFs are:*
Asset Class Primary ETF Vendor Underlying Index Expense Ratio US Stocks VTI Vanguard MSCI Broad Market 0.06% Foreign Stocks VEA Vanguard MSCI EAFE 0.12% Emerging Markets VWO Vanguard FTSE EM 0.20% Real Estate ** VNQ Vanguard MSCI US REIT 0.12% Natural Resources DJP Barclays iPath Dow Jones UBS 0.75% US Government Bonds ** BND Vanguard Barclays Aggregate Bond 0.10% TIPS SCHP Schwab Barclays Capital US TIPS 0.07% Municipal Bonds MUB iShares S&P National Municipal 0.25% Dividend Stocks VIG Vanguard Dividend Achievers Select 0.13%
Our current recommended secondary ETFs are:*
Asset Class Secondary ETF Vendor Underlying Index Expense Ratio US Stocks SCHB Schwab DJ Broad US Market 0.04% Foreign Stocks SCHF Schwab FTSE Dev xUS 0.09% Emerging Markets IEMG iShares MSCI EM 0.18% Real Estate ** SCHH Schwab DJ REIT 0.07% Natural Resources VDE Vanguard MSCI Energy 0.19% US Government Bonds ** BIV Vanguard Barclays 5-10 Gov/Credit 0.11% TIPS VTIP Vanguard Barclays Capital US TIPS 0-5 Years 0.10% Municipal Bonds TFI State Street Barclays Capital Municipal 0.30% Dividend Stocks SCHD Schwab Dow Jones U.S. Dividend 100 0.07%
Note: For accounts with the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio the “US Stocks” position is implemented by directly purchasing up to 501 securities – the 500 stocks of the S&P 500 index and the Vanguard VXF ETF to provide exposure to small and medium capitalization stocks.
* Subject to change without notice.
** Wealthfront's March 2013 asset allocation update no longer contains Real Estate and US Government Bonds in taxable accounts, however, the may remain until client accounts are fully transitioned.
- How much benefit would I have gotten from tax-loss harvesting in the past?
Past results are no indicator nor a guarantee of future returns, but here is one long-term example:
We assumed an investor initially deposits $100,000 at the beginning of 2000 and then deposits $10,000 each quarter thereafter through November 2013. This behavior models the behavior we observed from our existing clients. The portfolio was periodically rebalanced using Wealthfront's standard rebalancing algorithms (see our Investment Methodology white paper for more on our rebalancing approach). We sold the primary ETF and bought the alternate ETF, and then swapped back to the primary ETF after 30 days assuming it did not conflict with a rebalancing event when we detected tax-loss harvesting opportunities that did not trigger a wash sale. (See a full technical description of this example in our tax-loss harvesting white paper).
The graph below displays the resulting annual after-tax benefit (“tax alpha”) that would have been generated by Wealthfront's asset class level tax-loss harvesting strategy by year.
Annual Tax Alpha for an Average Daily TLH Porfolio (2000-2013)
Since 2000, this TLH strategy produced an average annual tax alpha of 1.13%.
It's worth noting that tax-loss harvesting is not consistent from year to year: no harvesting took place in some years when the market was substantially up. This strategy provided the most value in down markets, effectively reducing after-tax losses.
We have run a range of historical scenarios, which have led us to conclude that:
- Tax-loss harvesting can provide tax advantages versus not harvesting.
- A regular investing plan spreads out buying, providing more opportunity for tax-loss harvesting than a single upfront investment.
- Daily monitoring for harvesting opportunities provides a greater advantage than only year-end harvesting in many market scenarios.
- What is Tax Alpha?
Tax Alpha refers to the additional performance benefit gained from your investments through tax savings.
For example, let's say you had a $100,000 portfolio at the beginning of the year that produced a 10% return for the year and 1% in tax alpha.
That means, your portfolio is now worth $110,000 ($100,000 plus the 10% return). What's more, the portfolio has also generated $1,000 in tax savings – meaning that you'll pay $1,000 less in income taxes for this tax year than you would ordinarily and thus will have an additional $1,000 to invest for the future.
Note that Tax Alpha is dependent on your tax rate. For example, if your combined Federal and State income tax rate is 50%, the portfolio in the above example would have needed to tax-loss harvest $2,000 in stock losses to generate $1,000 in tax alpha ($2,000 times the 50% tax rate). Thus, it is easier to generate higher tax alpha in high tax states such as California, New York and Illinois.
What's more, portfolios that generate Tax Alpha are effectively able to achieve elevated levels of after-tax performance. For example, the portfolio in the above example has actually effectively returned 11% for the year (10% in investment return and 1% from tax savings).
This is the reason that the combination of Wealthfront’s Daily Tax Loss Harvesting service and the Wealthfront Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio are able to add 1.62% in additional annual return to your Wealthfront investments.
- How often does Wealthfront perform tax-loss harvesting? Just at the end of the year or more often?
Wealthfront implements Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting and literally checks your account for Tax-Loss Harvesting opportunities every single trading day.This means that we may harvest losses from your account throughout the year, including the common late-December period. We believe this more extensive account monitoring – only possible with a software-based solution like Wealthfront – leads to greater benefits.
For example, the following graph reflects the Tax-Alpha benefit generated for Wealthfront clients in 2013 on a monthly basis.
You'll note that despite an overall increase in the stock market in 2013, Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting was able to generate additional performance through tax alpha for our clients during a market downturn during the summer.
The more common practice of waiting until the end of the year to Tax-Loss Harvest would have missed that opportunity and likely would have harvested no losses for 2013 given the strong performance of the market.
Tax Alpha & Cumulative Return for Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting Clients (since inception)
Monthly Tax Alpha (Left Axis)
Cumulative Return (Right Axis)
- Can I see tax losses as they are harvested?
Your year-to-date losses can be found on . We encourage you to share this information with your personal tax advisor if you file quarterly estimated taxes.
- Will tax-loss harvesting make filing my taxes more complicated or change the way I file my taxes?
It shouldn't. Regardless of whether you have Tax-Loss Harvesting or not, Wealthfront will provide a Form 1099 to be filed with your tax return. This form will include all the relevant investment transactions in your Wealthfront accounts, including those generated by the Tax-Loss Harvesting service. Properly including the Form 1099 with you tax return is all that's required to claim the tax savings benefit of Tax-Loss Harvesting.
The only possible wrinkle is if you hold and trade the same ETFs found in your Wealthfront account in other brokerage accounts. If so, then transactions in your other accounts may generate so-called “wash sales” and thus reduce the tax benefit from Tax-Loss Harvesting.
If you file your taxes with the help of an accountant or tax expert, then the Form 1099s provided by Wealthfront and your other brokers should be sufficient to easily identify and properly report any “wash sales”. If you file your taxes on your own and are concerned about possible “wash sales”, you may wish to employ a “wash sale” detection tool such as Gainskeeper.
Furthermore, if you continue to be concerned about “wash sales” we recommend not holding the same ETFs used by Wealthfront in your other brokerage accounts or potentially merely moving those assets into your Wealthfront account where “wash sales” across all your investments are effectively managed.
For more on wash sales, please see the or consult your tax advisor.
- How does tax-loss harvesting apply to Alternative Minimum Tax?
Alternative Minimum Tax is just like ordinary income in that harvested losses can be applied up to the same $3,000 annual limit.
- Can I do tax-loss harvesting myself?
Yes, although there are some significant complexities. You will need to track lot-level cost basis, identify alternate securities that are not substantially identical, but that correspond with your investment goals, periodically review your investment portfolio, and carefully observe the wash sale rule (even as it relates to rebalancing). Many high-net-worth investors look to their brokers or investment advisors to harvest tax losses, but typically only at year-end.
Wealthfront has built a sophisticated, algorithmic tax-loss harvesting service that checks client investment portfolios continuously and unemotionally. As a Silicon Valley technology company, we apply computational models where traditional financial organizations apply people. Software leads to a more accurate and lower cost solution.
- How much does Wealthfront's tax-loss harvesting service cost?
Tax-loss harvesting is available at no additional charge to clients with $100,000 or more invested in a taxable Wealthfront account.
- Will I be eligible for tax loss harvesting if my account value drops below $100,000?
Your account remains eligible for tax loss harvesting if it drops below $100,000 due to market movements (as a matter of fact that's where tax loss harvesting becomes valuable). However you will no longer be eligible if a withdrawal causes your portfolio to drop below $100,000.
- How do you harvest losses without triggering the Wash Sale rule?
- When we harvest a loss, we purchase an ETF that tracks a different index, but is highly correlated with the ETF we sold in order to maintain the same risk and return characteristics of your portfolio. By purchasing an ETF that tracks a different index we do not violate the IRS rule that forbids the purchase of a substantially identical security. We swap back to your original ETF after we have held the new ETF for 31 days, the minimum amount of time required to avoid the wash sale rule. Wealthfront monitors disclosed related accounts (IRA, spousal accounts, joint accounts, etc.) that are held with Wealthfront to ensure wash sales rules are not violated in those accounts. Finally we will not allow you to use our tax loss harvesting service if you or your spouse hold the same ETFs we employ at Wealthfront in another one of your accounts not managed by Wealthfront.
- How do I sign up for tax-loss harvesting?
Wealthfront Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio
- What is the Wealthfront Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio?
The Wealthfront Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio is Wealthfront's enhanced replacement for the US stock investment piece of your Wealthfront diversified portfolio that permits for an enhanced form of Tax-Loss Harvesting.
Instead of using a single ETF investment to implement the US stock allocation of your portfolio (typically VTI), the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio implements your US allocation by directly buying up to 501 individual securities – the 500 components of the S&P 500 index (referred to as the Wealthfront 500 or the WF500) and an ETF comprised of non-S&P 500 small and medium capitalization stocks. The rest of your Wealthfront portfolio continues to own the index ETFs recommended by Wealthfront.
That is, if a stock in the S&P 500 is down in any particular period, it becomes a candidate for being sold to harvest tax-losses even if the S&P 500 is up overall. In purely ETF/Index Fund portfolios, no tax-loss harvesting benefit would be available in this case unless the entire S&P 500 index or the entire US stock allocation is down.
We believe that the countless tax-loss harvesting opportunities presented by individual stocks in this manner could contribute as much as 1% annually in additional return to your investments.
Furthermore, a portfolio that includes both Wealthfront's Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting service and the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio could add 1.62% annually in additional investment returns.
- What is the Wealthfront 500 or the WF500?
The Wealthfront 500 or the WF500 are the short names given to the holding of up to 500 S&P 500 stocks that we purchase on your behalf as part of the Wealthfront Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio.
You'll see these terms used on and throughout the product to refer to the collection of 500 individual stocks in your Wealthfront account.
- Whoah … Will you really buy and trade 500 individual stocks in my Wealthfront account to implement the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio?
That's right. We're able to do it because we are the largest and fastest growing software-based financial advisor. Our software algorithms are able to efficiently trade and tax-loss harvest the 500 stocks we buy on your behalf commission free – something that is incredibly challenging and expensive to do in any other way.
As a result, we're able to bring a service that has normally only been available to investors with $5M or more to investors like you.
- Why can't I gain the benefits of the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio / Wealthfront 500 by buying an S&P500 ETF or Index Fund such as SPY?
Low-cost ETFs and Index Funds are very good investments and form the core of every Wealthfront portfolio.
However, ETF and Index Funds have one disadvantage – legally they are not able to pass on tax-losses to their investors.
So while an ETF such as SPY is able to use the movements of individual S&P 500 component stocks and its own cash in-flows and out-flows to minimize or eliminate any taxable gain passed on to you, it is never able to pass on any tax losses that you're able to write off against gains in other assets or your regular income.
Thus, an ETF or index fund investment is never able to generate a tax-loss harvesting benefit from the movement of its individual component stocks.
This it the reason why the back-tested performance of the Wealthfront 500 consistently outperforms an S&P500 ETF investment such as SPY:
After-tax Total Return of SPY vs WF500 (2003-2013)
- Isn't the Wealthfront 500 equivalent to active management and/or stock picking? I thought Wealthfront only advocated passive investing.
Indeed, Wealthfront believes that attempting to time to market or to pick individual stocks are some of the biggest mistakes that investors can make.
The Wealthfront 500 is therefore meant to be a passive investment – with the goal of replicating and tracking the performance of the S&P 500 index as closely as possible.
For example, the Wealthfront 500 normally owns almost all of the 500 stocks in the S&P 500 at the same weights as the index. Even when one or more stocks are sold for tax-loss harvesting reasons, they are immediately replaced with a collection of stocks meant to ensure the performance of the Wealthfront 500 tracks the S&P 500 as closely as possible.
The following graph reflects the back-tested analysis of the Wealthfront 500's ability to track the exactly performance of the S&P 500 index:
Tracking Difference of Wealthfront 500 vs. the S&P 500 (2000-2013)
Of course, the above graph ignores the tax-loss harvesting benefits of the Wealthfront 500 which allow it to outperform an S&P 500 ETF/Index investment on a consistent basis:
After-tax Total Return of SPY vs WF500 (2003-2013)
What’s more, the rest of your Wealthfront portfolio continues to hold all the passive index ETFs we typically recommend, with only the US allocation replaced partially with an individual stock position.
- How much benefit would I have gotten from the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio in the past?
The following reflects the additional after-tax performance of a Wealthfront account with the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio compared to a Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting account or an account that does tax-loss harvesting once a year.
What you can see is that on average, a Wealthfront portfolio with a combination of Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting and the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio can add about 1.62% to your annual after-tax returns.
Tax Alpha of an Average Portfolio with Different Tax-Loss Harvesting Approaches
Daily TLH & Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio
- What if am I restricted from trading certain stocks, like those of my employer? Can I still get the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio?
Absolutely. When you add the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio to your Wealthfront portfolio you'll be asked to set-up an Exclusion List of stocks that we should never trade on your behalf.
Please add the stock ticker for your employer and any other stocks you are restricted from owning/trading to list and we'll make sure to never buy or sell those stocks as part of Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio.
If you’re married, then please also add any stocks that your spouse is restricted from trading to the list.
- What if I trade individual stocks in other accounts? Will there be any issue with the trades in the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio?
If you actively trade S&P500 component stocks in another account, trades in the same stocks in the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio may result in wash sales as defined by the IRS.
Wash sales are not illegal and do not result in any additional tax liability, however they may reduce the tax-loss harvesting benefits of the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio.
Therefore, we recommend that you add any S&P 500 stocks you hold/trade in other accounts to the Exclusion List you’re able to set-up when adding the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio to your account.
If you’re married, you should also add any stocks that your spouse may trade in other accounts.
- How much does it cost to add the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio to my account?
The Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio is available for any Taxable Wealthfront account with more than $500,000 in assets at no additional charge.
You'll also pay no commissions on any trades generated by the US Index Portfolio.
- What accounts are eligible for the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio?
Any Wealthfront Taxable account with over $500,000 to invest is eligible for the Tax-Optimized US Index Portfolio.
- What is Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting? How is different from Tax-Loss Harvesting in general?
Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting is a service offered by Wealthfront that allows us to check your account for Tax Loss Harvesting opportunities on a daily basis.
Tax-Loss Harvesting as traditionally practiced and as offered by non-software-based financial advisors typically only checks your account for Tax-Loss Harvesting opportunities once a year.
That means traditional Tax-Loss Harvesting misses many opportunities to harvest tax-losses and generate additional performance through Tax Alpha relative to Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting.
For example, the following graph reflects the Tax-Alpha benefit generated for Wealthfront clients in 2013 on a monthly basis.
You'll note that despite an overall increase in the stock market in 2013, Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting was able to generate additional performance through tax alpha for our clients during a market downturn during the summer.
Waiting until the end of the year to Tax-Loss Harvest would have missed that opportunity and likely would have harvested no losses for 2013 given the strong performance of the market.
Tax Alpha & Cumulative Return for Daily Tax-Loss Harvesting Clients (since inception)
Monthly Tax Alpha (Left Axis)
Cumulative Return (Right Axis)
These FAQs was prepared to support the marketing of Wealthfront's investment products, as well as to explain its tax-loss harvesting strategies. This content is not intended as tax advice, and Wealthfront does not represent in any manner that the tax consequences described herein will be obtained or that Wealthfront's tax-loss harvesting strategies, or any of its products and/or services, will result in any particular tax consequence. The tax consequences of the tax-loss harvesting strategy and other strategies that Wealthfront may pursue are complex and uncertain and may be challenged by the IRS. This white paper was not prepared to be used, and it cannot be used, by any investor to avoid penalties or interest.
Prospective investors should confer with their personal tax advisors regarding the tax consequences of investing with Wealthfront and engaging in these tax strategies, based on their particular circumstances. Investors and their personal tax advisors are responsible for how the transactions conducted in an account are reported to the IRS or any other taxing authority on the investor's personal tax returns. Wealthfront assumes no responsibility for the tax consequences to any investor of any transaction. When Wealthfront says it replaces investments with “similar” investments as part of the tax-loss harvesting strategy, it is a reference to investments that are expected, but are not guaranteed, to perform similarly and that might lower an investor's tax bill while maintaining a similar expected risk and return on the investor's portfolio. Expected returns and risk characteristics are no guarantee of actual performance.
The charts showing potential tax savings (“Annual Tax Alpha”) from the tax-loss harvesting strategies are historical simulated returns based on backtesting and do not rely on actual trading using client assets. The results are hypothetical only. Several processes, assumptions and data sources were used to create one possible approximations of how Wealthfront's tax-loss harvesting strategy might have benefited investors in the past, and a different methodology may have resulted in different outcomes. These results were achieved by means of the retroactive application of a model designed with the benefit of hindsight. The results of the historical simulations are intended to be used to help explain possible benefits of the tax-loss harvesting strategy and should not be relied upon for predicting future performance.
We simulated the potential after-tax benefits of our tax-loss harvesting services and found that asset-class tax-loss harvesting it added an average of at least 0.92% annually and stock-level tax-loss harvesting combined with asset-class tax-loss harvesting added an average of at least 1.62%. We used several assumptions to create these possible approximations, but did not rely on actual client trading history. These results are based on a study Wealthfront conducted for the years between January 2000 and November 2013, assuming a Wealthfront account with a risk score of 7 an initial deposit of $100,000, additional quarterly deposits of $10,000, and periodic rebalancing for asset-class tax-loss harvesting and an initial deposit of $500,000, additional quarterly deposits of $50,000, and periodic rebalancing for stock-level tax-loss harvesting combined with asset-class tax-loss harvesting. Dividends and interest were not considered.
To compare the possible benefit of continuous vs. annual year-end tax-loss harvesting, we use the same assumptions for the historical simulation for the years between January 2000 and December 2012 but with tax-loss harvesting opportunities examined daily vs. annually at year-end.
Different methodologies may have resulted in different outcomes. For example, we assume that an investor's risk profile and target allocation would not have changed during the time period shown; however, actual investors may have experienced changes to their allocation plan in response to changing suitability profiles and investment objectives. Furthermore, material economic and market factors that might have occurred during the time period could have had an impact on decision-making. Actual investors on Wealthfront may experience different results from the results shown. There is a potential for loss as well as gain that is not reflected in the hypothetical information portrayed. Investors evaluating this information should carefully consider the processes, data, and assumptions used by Wealthfront in creating its historical simulations.
While the data used for its simulations are from sources that Wealthfront believes are reliable, the results represent Wealthfront's opinion only. The return information uses or includes information compiled from third-party sources, including independent market quotations and index information. Wealthfront believes the third-party information comes from reliable sources, but Wealthfront does not guarantee the accuracy of the information and may receive incorrect information from third-party providers. Unless otherwise indicated, the information has been prepared by Wealthfront and has not been reviewed, compiled or audited by any independent third-party or public accountant. Wealthfront does not control the composition of the market indices or fund information used for its calculations, and a change in this information could affect the results shown.
The chart showing the tax alpha and cumulative return for daily tax-loss harvesting clients is based on Wealthfront's estimates from existing client data since we launched our asset-class tax-loss harvesting in October 2012 through October 2013. The chart was based on the subset of our clients with tax-loss harvesting enabled in their accounts and the returns and tax alpha were estimated for their accounts only. The return estimates were based on time-weighted returns. The cumulative returns were calculated by taking the composite's daily return based on its daily balance series, where the composite's balance is the aggregated value of all the accounts under our TLH strategy. We then compound the daily return series to get the compounded return over the period. The monthly tax alpha was calculated using the net tax benefit/liability and dividing by the aggregate balance. The net tax benefit over the period includes the liquidation of positions transferred in and sold to invest the client account in the Wealthfront portfolio.