Monday, November 9, 2015

New Online CD Management Functionality at Ally Bank

Only a few days after I published a blog post on how to give advance instructions to Ally Bank to not renew a CD (Advance Request to Not Renew Ally Bank CDs at Maturity), Ally has added functionality to its online banking interface to allow modifying what happens to the CD proceeds of taxable CDs at maturity. So although the instructions in the previous blog post still will work, it now is much easier to make changes to taxable CDs using the new online functionality. 

The new functionality also allows changing the interest disbursement option (reinvest, mail a check, or distribute to another Ally or non-Ally account), and changing the term of the CD if you choose to renew. 

For IRA CDs, you still must call or use online chat to make changes.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Reading Blog Posts in Email

If you are an email subscriber and tried to read the last blog post in email, you may have noticed that it was garbled. If so, this is because the screen shots don't appear in email, and instead you see either nothing or a bunch of garbled text. The fix is simple: click on the blog post title at the beginning of the email, and because the title is a link to the blog, a new window or tab should open showing the blog post directly on the blog, and the screen shots will appear properly. If for some reason the link doesn't work, simply type into your browser address bar to take you to the blog, and you can then read any of the blog posts.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Advance Request to Not Renew Ally Bank CDs at Maturity

As a follow up to my post about what to do with maturing CDs, I wanted to share that you can request in advance that your CDs at Ally Bank not be renewed at maturity. I think you can do this by phone, but I have only done it using online chat. In this post I describe how I've done it, and how you can too.

Monday, November 2, 2015

CD 5-Year Report Card: Part 3

In the first two posts in this series, I compared the 5-year return of a 5-year direct CD to a 5-year Treasury security, and provided a fairly detailed explanation of how to evaluate risk and return of fixed-income investments, such as CDs, bonds (including Treasuries), and bond funds. In this post, I conclude the series by presenting the 5-year returns of various Vanguard bond funds, and by comparing these results to the CD and Treasury in terms of risk as well as return.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

CD 5-Year Report Card: Part 2 (Risk and Return)

In my previous blog post, CD 5-Year Report Card: Part 1, I compared the 5-year annualized return of a CD I bought about five years ago to the 5-year annualized return of a 5-year Treasury security (Treasury bond, or more formally, Treasury note) I could have bought on the same date. Although that's the most relevant comparison, it's not particularly interesting, since the annual percentage yield (APY) of the CD and the yield to maturity (YTM) of the Treasury basically predetermine the returns at time of purchase (assuming the CD or Treasury is held to maturity). 

(From now on, the term yield refers to yield to maturity (YTM) for a Treasury, other bond, or brokered CD (purchased through a broker), and it refers to the annual percentage yield (APY) for a direct CD (purchased directly from a bank or credit union). Also, the term return refers to annualized return).

In my next post, I'll review the 5-year returns for various bond funds, and compare them to the 5-year return of the CD. However, to evaluate these returns rationally, it's necessary to understand the relationship between risk and return for fixed-income securities, which is what I'll examine in this post.

Monday, October 26, 2015

CD 5-Year Report Card: Part 1

Now that the 5-year CDs I bought about five years ago are maturing, I thought it would be interesting to compare the 5-year CD returns to the 5-year returns of some other fixed-income alternatives I could have invested in five years ago. All we should really have to do is compare the APY (Annual Percentage Yield) of the 5-year CD to the YTM (yield to maturity) of the 5-year Treasury at the time of purchase, since that's the most appropriate comparison in terms of risk and expected return for the forward-looking 5-year period. 

Looking at past returns raises the issue of hindsight bias, or as Larry Swedroe refers to it, confusing strategy with outcome. Nevertheless, people seem to have a hard time not using past returns to evaluate their investments, so I'll compare some of the more relevant returns in this and the next one or two blog posts.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What To Do With Maturing CDs?

I started buying 5-year CDs directly from banks and credit unions ("direct CDs") about five years ago, because I learned about the advantages in terms of risk and expected return compared to bonds or bond funds. Perhaps you did too, either based on my musings or those of bloggers from whom I learned about direct CDs, like Allan Roth and The Finance Buff. Now that our CDs are starting to mature, what should we do?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Northwest FCU 3-year 3.04% Add-On CD

Today someone asked a question on the Bogleheads forum about saving for a house down payment in 3-5 years from now, so as part of answering the question, I checked the 3-year CD rates at I was flabbergasted to see a rate of 3.04% APY at the top of the list (with the closest competition at 1.85%). This is a promotional CD special ("Dream Fund Certificate") offered by Northwest Federal Credit Union (NWFCU), with a minimum deposit of $10,000 and maximum of $100,000. After finishing up my answer to the forum question, I quickly investigated the CD deal, then proceeded to complete the online application to join the credit union, open an account, and buy this CD. It took about 15 minutes.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Value of an Investment Policy

If you've paid any attention to financial markets lately, days like today and weeks like this week provide examples of the value of establishing and following an Investment Policy (IP). Among other things, an IP establishes your target asset allocation and rebalancing policy. So when stocks drop much, all you do is check your current asset allocation to determine if your rebalancing policy requires shifting some money from fixed income (CDs, bonds, cash) to stocks.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Consumption Smoothing and Adjusting Your Frugality Setting

Consumption smoothing is the economic concept used to express the desire of people to have a stable path of consumption throughout their lifetimesThe ideal consumption smoothing case, assuming no bequest motives, is to save just enough during your working years to be able to spend your retirement savings to fund about same lifestyle in your retirement years, and to die broke. Of course since we don't know how long we'll live, or exactly what our expenses will be in retirement, this is a difficult ideal to achieve.

To give yourself a reasonable margin of safety for retirement, you may need to be more frugal in your accumulation years than you want to be. Conversely, if your investment returns were better than expected, or perhaps you were just more frugal than you had to be while working and saving, it might be reasonable to be less frugal in your retirement years than you disciplined yourself to be in your accumulation years. Your consumption smoothing may not end up being ideal, but perhaps it then makes sense to work on overcoming your previously virtuous frugality, and spending more to enjoy your remaining years more.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

USAlliance Financial 2-year CD, 2.27% APY

Today I became a member of USAlliance Financial credit union, and opened a new 2-year CD with an APY of 2.27%. This is an incredible rate on a 2-year CD, with most of the 2-year CD competition in the 1.5% ballpark, and the 2-year Treasury yield at about 0.7%. This 2-year rate is even a bit better than the 5-year CD rate at Synchrony Bank (2.25% APY). This premium rate is available only to new members, and is a limited-time offer, with a maximum deposit of $100,000. I haven't paid much attention to laddering CDs, because generally I can earn a better return doing early withdrawals from longer-term CDs, than by holding shorter-term CDs in a ladder. But this CD is an exception to the rule, and provides a nice 2-year rung in a CD ladder.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

First bank-to-bank IRA transfer from a maturing IRA CD

I recently completed my first transfer from a maturing IRA CD into a new IRA CD at another bank, and everything went very smoothly. There are two reasons I would consider doing such a transfer: 1) better rates at another bank or credit union; 2) stay within FDIC/NCUA insurance limits. Both were applicable in this case. If neither was a factor, I would have just rolled the maturing CD into a new CD at the current bank. Unless you own any IRA CDs, and you may eventually want to transfer the balance to another bank or credit union when they mature, there is no need to continue reading; there are no other investment lessons here.