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Coming Together

Mike Zaccardi

I GOT CAUGHT UP IN some weird investment fads during the recent era of 0% interest rates. With cash investments and bonds yielding almost nothing, I instead sought to pad my investment returns by opening new brokerage accounts to snag promotion cash, and by dabbling in digital currencies and newfangled alternative investments.

Result? I ended up with far too many financial accounts—and it became a burden to keep track of everything. Just a year ago, I had investments in obscure real estate deals, individual pieces of art, bottles of wine, stablecoins and other relics of the speculative pandemic-era mania. What’s more, after leaving both my fulltime job and my teaching position at the University of North Florida, there were old retirement accounts and a health savings account (HSA) that I was lazy about rolling over.

I craved a less complicated financial life. Simplicity is bliss, as many HumbleDollar writers have noted, and I’m now firmly in that camp. Here are six key benefits I’m enjoying now that almost all of my investments are in one safe place:

1. Getting my weekends back. As my number of accounts grew, keeping tabs on everything became cumbersome. A proud bean counter, I’ve routinely updated my personal finance spreadsheet since I was a freshman at Florida State University in 2007. But what used to take 10 minutes on a Saturday morning turned into something that felt like a chore. By the middle of 2022, logging into all those unique accounts to tally my net worth took north of 45 minutes. I sought to slim down that process starting at the end of last year.

2. Less wasted mental energy. Helping my future self by streamlining my finances now became mission critical. With all those taxable investment accounts, completing my 1040 tax return became brutal, especially when coupled with the headaches that come with filing taxes for a small business. I also felt oddly stressed by the disarray in my financial life—and there were far too many emails from all those investment sites.

3. Greater financial serenity. Not only do I now have fewer logins to remember, portals to navigate and websites to bookmark, but also I’ve cut down on the number of funds I own. Today, I’m mostly left with just a few different index funds across a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, solo 401(k) and HSA. Unfortunately, I still have some niche low-cost-basis exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in my taxable account that I’m reluctant to sell because that would trigger a big tax bill. The good news: At least these funds have low annual expenses.

4. Lower costs. The brokerage firm I came home to offers some 0% expense ratio index-mutual funds. I use those to keep more of whatever the markets deliver. Other companies, while offering high-quality, dirt-cheap ETFs, don’t have that little bonus of zero-cost investment funds.

5. Easier tax filing. Seasoned investors have probably figured out that my new investment home is Fidelity Investments. While I’ll still receive an uncomfortably large number of 1099 tax forms early next year, my tax life starting in 2025 should be much simpler—which is exactly how I want it to be. No more fumbling around other customer-unfriendly sites, sifting through complicated K-1 tax forms and worrying about whether some newbie financial firm has messed things up.

6. Simpler for my heirs. Six months ago, had I passed away, my family would have faced a frustrating mess trying to figure out all the accounts I had and how to access them. But now, it’s all right there in one place. Beneficiaries are listed on my retirement accounts, while my taxable accounts are titled as transfer on death. I also have confidence that a Fidelity rep will guide my family when my time comes—hopefully not for another several decades.

Simplifying my financial life, by transferring assets from roughly a dozen places to Fidelity, has been a strangely transformative experience. Not only has it smoothed my financial journey, but also it’s saved me time, brought peace of mind, potentially reduced costs, made for straightforward tax management and enhanced my estate planning. The cherry on top: Fidelity offered me a generous $700 bonus to move my other accounts there—and you know I couldn’t pass that up.

Mike Zaccardi is a freelance writer for financial advisors and investment firms. He’s a CFA® charterholder and Chartered Market Technician®, and has passed the coursework for the Certified Financial Planner program. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeZaccardi, connect with him via LinkedIn, email him at MikeCZaccardi@gmail.com and check out his earlier articles.

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