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Find the Best Retirement Plan for You

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Saving for retirement seems like a relatively straightforward goal: You know you’ll need money later — so you should save for it now, right? According to a recent Gallup poll, 46% of those not yet retired don’t believe they’ll be financially comfortable when they retire. That means almost half the population wish they were saving more! Part of saving money is knowing where to keep it — and that’s a crowded marketplace! Plus, you also have to consider that you can use more than one retirement account — either throughout your lifetime or at the same time. For instance, you might start out contributing to a Roth 401(k) and move to a 401(k) as your income grows. Or, if you’re a freelancer, you might have a SEP IRA and a Roth IRA at the same time. Anyone with a high deductible health plan can also save to an HSA.

If you’re not sure what retirement plan will get you to the finish line, read on for guidance.

Find the best retirement plans for you. (You’ll find a detailed description of each plan below.)

If you areConsider this
A young worker with modest incomeRoth 401(k)
Eligible for an employer-sponsored plan401(k), Roth 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)
Not covered by an employer-sponsored plan and not self-employedTraditional IRA
Making a modified adjusted gross income of under $137,000 if single or under $203,000 if married and filing jointly (2019)Roth IRA
A freelancer with no employeesSEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA or Solo 401(k)
Nearing retirement age401(k)*, Roth 401(k), HSA
Covered by a high deductible health planHSA
*or 403(b) or 457(b)

401(k) or 403(b)

  • Best for: Any worker whose employer offers a retirement savings account.
  • Contribution limits: $19,000 per year for 2019 if you’re under 50; $25,000 if you’re 50 or older.
  • How it’s taxed: The money goes in pre-tax and you’re taxed on distributions in retirement.

What else you need to know: With a 401(k) or 403(b), you elect to save a certain percentage of your income each year and the money comes out of your paycheck (pre-tax). Many employers offer to match contributions. For example, they might match the first 6% you save at 50%, meaning they’ll contribute 3%. A 401(k) or 403(b) is one of the best and easiest ways to save for retirement since the money gets saved automatically.

457(b)

  • Best for: Any government worker whose employer offers a retirement savings account.
  • Contribution limits: $19,000 per year in 2019 if you’re under 50; $25,000 if you’re 50 or older.
  • How it’s taxed: The money goes in pre-tax and you’re taxed on distributions in retirement.

What else you need to know:
This account works a lot like a 401(k) or 403(b), but it’s specific to state and local government workers. One major difference is that if employers match, their contributions count toward the limit on the plan. Another notable difference is that some plans allow employees to make extra contributions beginning three years before the “normal retirement age,” which is detailed in the plan. The formula used to compute the catch-up amount can be complicated, and some plan administrators simply don’t offer the option.

HSA

  • Best for: Anyone with a high-deductible health plan.
  • Contribution limits: Up to $3,500 per year in 2019 for an individual and $7,000 for a family if you’re under 55. Up to $4,500 for an individual and $8,000 for a family if you’re 55 and older.
  • How it’s taxed: Contributions go into the account pre-tax and if the money is used for eligible medical expenses, distributions are tax-free.

What else you need to know:
If your healthcare is covered by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you’re eligible to use a Health Savings Account. The money you save to an HSA is tax-free on both sides (contribution and distribution) as long as it’s used for eligible medical expenses, such as co-pays, prescriptions and other medical bills. The money rolls over each year, so there’s no time limit on using the funds you’ve saved. You can contribute to an HSA at any point up to your tax filing deadline for that tax year.

“Most people aren’t going to itemize their deductions anymore, so they’re not going to get any kind of write-off for medical expenses until they get to a very high level,” said Linda Farinola, a financial planner in Princeton, N.J. “The change in the tax law makes HSAs more attractive.”

Roth 401(k)

  • Best for: Young workers making a more modest income and older workers with a sizable pre-tax retirement nest egg.
  • Contribution limits: $19,000 per year in 2019 if you’re under age 50; $25,000 if you’re 50 or older.
  • How it’s taxed: Your contributions are post-tax, but distributions in retirement are tax free as long as you’re 59 and a half and the funds have been in the account for five years or more.

What else you need to know:
Unlike a Roth IRA, there’s no income cap on who can contribute to a Roth 401(k). The advantage of a Roth 401(k) is that you can save more than three times the allowable amount for a Roth IRA. That being said, no employer matching funds can be contributed to a Roth 401(k), so you’ll want to ensure you’re contributing enough to a regular 401(k) to get any employer match before you elect to save anything else to a Roth.

“It’s really more about money than age when selecting the right 401(k),” said Rose Swanger, a financial planner in Knoxville, Tenn. “For young folks who work in Silicon Valley, a traditional 401(k) may be deemed a better option than a Roth because it helps them lower the tax. On the other hand, for the majority of the folks who just started their career, a Roth 401(k) should be a good starter.”

Roth IRA

  • Best for: Young workers making a modest income. “They’re not really paying that much in taxes now anyway, so they’re not going to get a lot of benefit from the tax deduction now,” said Farinola. It’s also a good idea for older workers with a sizable pre-tax retirement nest egg.
  • Contribution limits: $6,000 per year if you’re under age 50, $7,000 if you’re older than 50.
  • How it’s taxed: Your contributions are post-tax, but distributions in retirement are tax-free as long as you’re 59 and a half and the funds have been in the account for at least five years.

What else you need to know:
To contribute to a Roth IRA account, you must make less than $137,000 as a single person in 2019, or $203,000 if you’re married filing jointly. A Roth account is your best option if you think your taxes are lower than they’ll be in retirement. Younger workers have time on their side, which means their savings can grow tax-free before they withdraw them. A Roth IRA provides income flexibility for older employees who have a large amount of pre-tax savings and high income (and taxes) in retirement. You can also convert a traditional IRA to a Roth no matter your income level.

SEP IRA

  • Best for: Freelancers or small business owners with employees.
  • Contribution limits: You can save up to 25% of your gross annual salary or what equates to about 20% of your adjusted net earnings from self-employment, up to a maximum of $56,000 in 2019.
  • How it’s taxed: Like a traditional IRA, contributions are pre-tax, and distributions are taxed at your income rate at the time of distribution.

What else you need to know:
Because you’re limited to a percentage of your income, a Simplified Employee Pension IRA can be limiting if you’re trying to put more money away. Business owners with employees must save the same percentage of compensation to their SEP IRAs as they do to theirs—so it can be an expensive benefit to offer if you’re hoping to save aggressively for your retirement. If you’re a freelancer, it’s one of the simplest accounts to set up and maintain for yourself.

SIMPLE IRA

  • Best for: Freelancers or small business owners with employees.
  • Contribution limits: Employee contributions (you) cannot exceed $13,000 in 2019 if you’re under 50, or $16,000 if you’re older than 50. Employer contributions (also you) are generally required to match employee contributions on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to 3% of the compensation.
  • How it’s taxed: Contributions are pre-tax while distributions are taxed at your income rate at the time of distribution.

What else you need to know:
If you’re a small business owner with employees, a SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees) allows you and your employees to save for retirement, but your contribution to your account doesn’t have to match theirs (a more reasonable option). If you’re making a modest income, a SIMPLE IRA might let you put more away than you can with a SEP IRA. However, if you’re above a certain income threshold, both the SEP IRA and Solo 401(k) will allow you to save more. (Try this calculator if you’re unsure.)

Solo 401(k)

  • Best for: Freelancers or sole proprietors with no employees except a spouse.
  • Contribution limits: Employee contributions (you) are limited to $19,000 in 2019 if you’re under 50, or $25,000 if you’re older than 50. Employer contributions (also you) are limited to 25% of gross income for corporations or about 20% of net income for a sole proprietorship, not to exceed $56,000. Total contributions cannot exceed $56,000 if you’re under age 50; $62,000 if you’re 50 or older.
  • How it’s taxed: Contributions are pre-tax and distributions are taxed at your income rate at the time of distribution.

What else you need to know:
You can only open this account if you have no employees other than a spouse, but the Solo 401(k) gives you the most flexibility in terms of self-employed retirement savings.

“If you’re self-employed and you have no employees, typically the Solo 401(k) makes sense from a financial perspective,” said Howard Hook, a financial planner and CPA in Princeton, N.J. “Because you can save, dollar for dollar, whereas with a SEP it’s a percentage of your salary.” In other words, if you make $18,500 in net earnings, you can save $18,500. A Solo 401(k) does involve more paperwork, but it’s not drastic.

Traditional IRA

  • Best for: Non-self-employed workers without employer-sponsored retirement accounts.
  • Contribution limits: $6,000 per year in 2019 if you’re younger than 50; $7,000 if you’re older than 50.
  • How it’s taxed: If you and your spouse aren’t covered by a retirement plan at work, contributions to a traditional IRA are fully deductible, and you’ll be taxed on distributions. If you or your spouse are covered by a work retirement plan, deductibility depends on your income, and in some cases, it won’t be deductible at all.

What else you need to know:
A traditional IRA can be a good savings option if you don’t have a retirement plan at work—but experts don’t recommend saving to one if it won’t be deductible. If you do, you must keep track of how much of your IRA is made up of post-tax funds so you won’t be taxed on them again in retirement.

“I see too many people who forget they have after-tax money in there,” said Farinola. “There’s a way to keep track of it as years go by in your tax return each year, but not everybody does, especially people who do their own taxes.”

Some financial planners will make exceptions (by allowing people to contribute to a non-deductible IRA) for high-income earners looking to contribute to a Roth. They can save to a traditional IRA (whether it’s deductible or not) and then convert to a Roth as needed, even if they make too much income to contribute to a Roth IRA. “We call that a backdoor Roth,” added Farinola.

Bottom line

There are multiple ways to save for retirement. Choosing the best account for you will depend on whether you have access to an employer-sponsored plan and how much you want to put away.

A financial planner can help ensure you’re maximizing your retirement savings, but in the end, it’s important to save no matter the amount. “Overall, people are not saving enough,” said Darin Shebesta, a financial planner in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Putting the money away in any account is better than spending it.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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SIMPLE IRA Contribution Limits 2020

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

SIMPLE IRAs are tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts that benefit small business owners and the people who work for them. In addition, you can use the SIMPLE IRA to save for retirement if you are self-employed. Like many other retirement savings vehicles, SIMPLE IRAs are subject to annual contribution limits.

SIMPLE IRA contribution limits

The annual SIMPLE IRA contribution limits for employees and employers in 2020 are as follows:

Annual SIMPLE IRA Contribution Limits

Employees under the age of 50

$13,500

Employees 50 years and older

$13,500, plus $3,000 in catch-up contributions

Employer matching contributions

Up to 3% of employee’s salary

Employer non-elective contributions

2% of the employee’s salary

SIMPLE IRA contribution limits 2020 for employees

For 2020, the amount employees may contribute to a SIMPLE IRA plan is capped at $13,500 per year. That’s an increase from 2019’s limit of $13,000, and an even bigger leap from the $12,500 limit imposed from 2015 to 2018.

It’s worth noting that for employees who are also participating in other employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k) or 403(b) plans, aggregate annual contributions to all plans cannot exceed $19,500 in 2020. For those 50 and older, the overall annual limit for catch-up contributions is $6,500 for 2020, for a total ceiling of $26,000.

SIMPLE IRA contribution limits 2020 for employers

If a small business owner chooses to offer a SIMPLE IRA plan, they are required to make contributions to their employees’ accounts. They may choose to either match their employees’ contributions, up to a certain limit, or make non-elective contributions.

If an employer chooses matching contributions, their match is capped at 3% of an employee’s annual compensation. While an employer can make matching contributions of less than 3%, the match cannot be less than 1% of the employee’s annual compensation — and it cannot be less than 3% for more than two out of five consecutive years.

If an employer chooses non-elective contributions, they are required to put money into their employees’ SIMPLE IRAs regardless of whether the employees themselves make contributions. With non-elective contributions, the employer must make fixed contributions of 2% of their employees’ compensation. For 2020, the maximum amount of an employee’s total compensation that can be considered for calculating a non-elective contribution is capped at $285,000, up from 2019’s cap of $280,000.

What are the contribution deadlines for a SIMPLE IRA?

Employers are required to deposit their employees’ SIMPLE IRA contributions within 30 days after the end of the month in which those contributions were withheld. Employers are required to make their matching or non-elective SIMPLE IRA contributions by their tax return filing deadline, including extensions.

For people who are self-employed, the deadline for depositing SIMPLE IRA contributions for a calendar year is 30 days after the end of year, or Jan. 30.

SIMPLE IRA contribution limits vs. Roth contribution limits

While SIMPLE IRA contributions are capped at an annual limit of $13,500, annual Roth IRA contribution limits are much lower. For 2020, Roth IRA contributions are capped at $6,000, with an additional $1,000 allowed for catch-up contributions for those 50 and older.

Another differentiating factor of Roth IRAs is that they have income phaseout limits. Depending on how much you make, you may be limited to how much you can contribute or whether you can contribute at all. For 2020, single filers cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if they make more than $139,000, and if married and filing jointly, you’re only able to contribute if you earn less than $206,000.

Can you contribute to both a SIMPLE IRA and a Roth IRA?

You can contribute the maximum allowed amounts to both a SIMPLE IRA and a Roth IRA, as their contribution limits are not cumulative. In fact, most financial advisors recommend you max out both your SIMPLE IRA and Roth IRA if you can afford to do so, as they offer different tax benefits.

While SIMPLE IRA contributions are made pre-tax, and therefore lower your taxable income, your Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax dollars, so qualified distributions are tax-free.

“Advisors talk about diversification all the time, and usually they are talking about stocks and bonds,” said Gregory Kurinec, a certified financial planner with Bentron Financial Group in Downers Grove, Ill. “But investors will want to diversify their accounts into different tax categories as well. By having a combination of pre-tax (SIMPLE IRA), after-tax advantage (Roth IRA) and non-qualified, this will allow the investor to pick and choose which account to take funds from to best impact their tax situation.”

What is a SIMPLE IRA?

A SIMPLE IRA is an effective retirement savings match plan, especially for small business owners. SIMPLE IRAs are available to small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.

SIMPLE IRAs require employers to make contributions on behalf of their employees, either up to 3% of their employee’s compensation as an employer match or a flat 2% of the employee’s compensation.

As with most financial products, when it comes to saving for your golden years, a SIMPLE IRA is just one of the many options available to you. Explore all of the options at your disposal when deciding how to build your nest egg.

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Review of Altfest Personal Wealth Management

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Altfest Personal Wealth Management is an investment management firm based in New York City. The firm typically only accepts clients with a minimum investment of $1 million. For these high net worth clients, Altfest Personal Wealth Management provides customized investment portfolios with comprehensive financial planning services. The firm has 16 employees who provide investment advisory services, and currently oversees $1.21 billion in assets under management (AUM).

All information included in this profile is accurate as of February 10th, 2020. For more information, please consult Altfest Personal Wealth Management’s website.

Assets under management: $1,210,000,000
Minimum investment: $1 million (waivable at the firm’s discretion for young professionals)
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, ranging from 0.50% to 1.40%, depending on account size; hourly fees; fixed fees
Headquarters: 445 Park Avenue
Sixth Floor
New York, NY 10022
www.altfest.com
212-406-0850

Overview of Altfest Personal Wealth Management

Dr. Lewis Altfest launched Altfest Personal Wealth Management in 1983. He is still the majority owner of the firm and acts as CEO. He runs the organization along with his wife, Dr. Karen Altfest, the firm’s executive vice president, and their son, Andrew Altfest, the firm’s president. Both Lewis and Karen hold Ph.Ds; Lewis is an associate professor of finance at Pace University.

Including the Altfests, the firm has 37 total employees, 16 of whom provide investment advisory services. Altfest Personal Wealth Management specializes in creating customized, actively managed investment portfolios for high net worth clients. The firm and the Altfest family have won numerous awards for their performance, and both Lewis and Karen are regular contributors to financial news programs and publications.

What types of clients does Altfest Personal Wealth Management serve?

Altfest Personal Wealth Management primarily works with individual investors. A client usually needs a portfolio of at least $1 million to open an account with the firm — however, Altfest does make exceptions to this account minimum for “young professionals” who they believe will become high net worth clients in the future. The firm’s individual client base is currently split 40/60 between individuals and high net worth individuals, with the SEC defining high net worth individuals as those with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth of at least $1.5 million.

While the firm works with a diverse range of clients, it specializes in advising women, executives and healthcare professionals. In addition to individual investors, Altfest Personal Wealth Management also works with pension plans, profit-sharing plans, trusts, estates, corporations and other business entities.

Services offered by Altfest Personal Wealth Management

Altfest Personal Wealth Management specializes in investment management and financial planning. However, the firm’s investment management services are available to individuals and small businesses only; these services are not offered to investment companies, pooled investment vehicles, large businesses and institutional clients.

Most of the firm’s investment accounts are run on a discretionary basis, meaning that Altfest Personal Wealth Management advisors can make trades on behalf of the client. The firm does have a few nondiscretionary accounts, where the client must approve all trades themselves.

If a client only wants a few investment recommendations, rather than the management of their entire portfolio, the firm can provide this service as well.

Altfest Personal Wealth Management also offers comprehensive financial planning, as many of its advisors hold the certified financial planner (CFP) designation, a professional certification for financial planners. The firm’s financial planning services include the creation of a detailed financial plan outlining the necessary steps to achieve their goals and objectives. The plan can address specific areas, such as college savings, estate planning and debt management.

More specifically, Altfest’s services include:

  • Investment advisory services and portfolio management (mainly discretionary but some non-discretionary)
  • Financial planning
    • Retirement planning
    • Trust and estate planning
    • Charitable planning
    • Education planning
    • Tax planning
    • Cash flow forecasting
    • Budgeting and strategic planning
    • Long-term care planning
    • Debt management
    • Divorce planning
  • Insurance and risk management
  • Workshops and seminars
  • Newsletters and publications

How Altfest Personal Wealth Management invests your money

Altfest Personal Wealth Management builds unique, customized portfolios for each client based on their time horizon, risk tolerance, income level and long-term goals.

As part of this analysis, the firm follows a system called Total Portfolio Management. Rather than only looking at a client’s investment history, the firm also gets to know their entire financial plan, including income, debts, spending requirements and future earnings potential. The firm uses this information to finetune a portfolio comprised of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and private funds.

Altfest Personal Wealth Management follows an active investment approach: this means the firm is regularly trading in an attempt to earn above-average portfolio returns.

Fees Altfest Personal Wealth Management charges for its services

For portfolio management services, Altfest Personal Wealth Management charges a fee based on a percentage of assets under management, with the rate ranging from 0.50% to 1.00%, depending on the size of the client’s portfolio. Altfest does not charge trading commissions or performance-based fees.

Portfolio Size Annual Asset-Based Fee
First $3 million* 1.00%
Between $3,000,001 and $6,000,000 0.75%
Over $6,000,000 0.50%
*If a portfolio falls below $2 million in value at the end of the quarter, the firm will assess an additional 0.10% fee on top of the asset-based fee listed above.

For “young professional” clients who don’t meet the firm’s portfolio minimums, Altfest charges the following fee schedule:

  • In the first year, the firm charges an annual fee of either 1.10% of assets under management or $2,500 whichever is greater.
  • After the first year, the firm charges 1.10% of the portfolio value or $1,500 per year whichever is greater.

This rate includes cash flow analysis, investment analysis, investment management and 401(k) recommendations. Clients who want additional financial planning services will be billed at a rate of $250 per hour.

If a client only wants standalone investment recommendations, Altfest Personal Wealth Management charges either an hourly fee ranging from $500 to $800 an hour, or a fixed fee of at least $3,500 for specific investment recommendation requests.

Finally, some of the investments included in Altfest’s portfolio recommendations may carry additional fees. Clients are responsible for covering these costs, though the money won’t go to Altfest Personal Wealth Management.

Altfest Personal Wealth Management’s highlights

  • Wide range of awards: Over the past few years, Altfest Personal Wealth Management has been recognized as a top investment advisor by publications including Barron’s, Forbes, Financial Times and Financial Advisor magazine.
  • Highly educated management team: The heads of the firm, Dr. Lewis Altfest and Dr. Karen Altfest, both hold Ph.Ds; Lewis is also an associate professor of finance at Pace University. In addition, many of the financial advisors at the firm hold the CFP designation.
  • Customized investment approach: Altfest Personal Wealth Management designs a customized portfolio for every client, tailored to their specific needs, and don’t lump people into one-size-fits-all funds as some firms may do.
  • Extensive financial planning in addition investing: Altfest Personal Wealth Management also specializes in financial planning. When the firm creates a portfolio recommendation, it goes over a client’s entire financial situation before designing the portfolio, not just their existing investments.
  • Specialty in advising women, executive and healthcare clients: The firm specializes in advising women, executives and professionals in healthcare. Additionally, Forbes named Dr. Karen Altfest one of the top women advisors in the country in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Altfest Personal Wealth Management’s downsides

  • Above-average investment fees: Altfest Personal Wealth Management charges an annual 1.00% asset-based fee on the first $3 million in a client’s account (plus an additional 0.10% per quarter if their portfolio value falls below $2 million). In comparison, the median investment management fee charged by firms for accounts over $2 million is 0.75%, according to Kitces.
  • High minimum to open an account: It takes at least $1 million to open an account with Altfest Personal Wealth Management. While the firm does waive the minimum at its discretion for “young professionals,” the typical investor would need to be quite wealthy to make use of the firm’s services.
  • Only has one location in New York City: The only way to visit the Altfest Personal Wealth Management office in person is in New York City, the firm’s only location.

Altfest Personal Wealth Management disciplinary disclosures

Whenever an SEC-registered firm or its employees or affiliates face disciplinary action, including a criminal charge, a regulatory infraction or a civil lawsuit, the firm is required to report that incident in its Form ADV, paperwork filed with the SEC. Altfest Personal Wealth Management reports in its Form ADV that it has faced no such incidents over the past 10 years, indicating a clean disciplinary record.

Altfest Personal Wealth Management onboarding process

To start the onboarding process with Altfest Personal Wealth Management, you can request a free consultation with one of its advisors. You can contact the firm either by phone at 212-406-0850, by email at [email protected] or by filling out a form on the firm’s website. As part of the onboarding form, the firm asks you to share your story, which helps the firm start determining whether you are a good fit based on your income and profession.

If it seems like a good match, the firm’s advisors will then get to work designing your customized investment portfolio based on your goals, risk tolerance and overall financial situation. When you’re ready to launch, the firm’s advisors would then take care of opening your new accounts, transferring over your existing accounts, making the necessary investments and keeping up with the records for your portfolio.

The bottom line: Is Altfest Personal Wealth Management right for you?

If you’re a high net worth individual or a young professional who wants personalized investment recommendations combined with financial planning, Altfest Personal Wealth Management could be a good choice. This may be especially true if you are in one of the firm’s specialty client categories: women, executives and healthcare professionals. Since Altfest Personal Wealth Management only has one location in New York City, however, the firm might be a better choice if you live in the Northeast rather than other parts of the country.

On the other hand, Altfest Personal Wealth Management’s comprehensive services do not come cheap. The firm’s fees are higher than average, and you’d need at least $1 million to open an account (unless Altfest waives the minimum because you’re a young professional). If you want a simpler investment strategy or prefer to manage your portfolio more on your own, you could find less expensive advisors than Altfest Personal Wealth Management.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.