Yesterday, I was motivated to further clean up my excess financial accounts. After a long delay, I moved my main accounts into a revocable living trust, a legal entity I created earlier this year to keep my finances in the best order possible.
As I visited Wells Fargo yesterday to move my primary checking account into the trust, the customer service representative was surprised that someone so young would be establishing such a trust. I intend to live a long time, but it’s better to be safe. After years of an expanding portfolio of financial accounts, the purpose of which has been to review savings, checking, and investment accounts for the benefit of Consumerism Commentary readers, I crossed the point of sensible manageability and am now consolidating and closing what I can.
Banking Deal: Earn 1.15% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Barclays.
A few weeks ago, in the effort to clean up my financial accounts stemming from the desire to put as much as possible under the umbrella of my trust, I sold what remained of my former employer’s stock that I had previously earned in the form of significantly discounted shares. The last time I sold my former company stock was in 2011.
Overall, the sale locked in good profits, selling at multi-year highs, but had I held on a little longer I would have benefited from an even higher stock price. Timing the market never works, but I can’t complain too much.
These shares were held at E*TRADE, though it wasn’t my choice. The company required all employees participating in any of its stock-based incentives, like the company stock purchase plan that offered shares at a discount of at least 15 percent, to hold an account at E*TRADE.
Over the years, I hadn’t encountered any problems with E*TRADE other than slow transfers from external accounts. I’m not a fan of the $20 fee to sell shares awarded by my former employer; in fact, the whole situation seems like a racket considering the requirement to use that particular account for all company stock incentives.
Closing an E*TRADE account isn’t very intuitive. At first glance of the brokerage’s website, I didn’t find where to submit an account closing request. I then did what most people would do: I searched Google. The top results pointed to a content farm website, where would-be writers submit articles and videos and get paid little if anything for their editorial contributions. The website aggregates possibly millions of articles supposedly explaining “how” to do various things.
The website’s articles on this particular topic, supposedly helpful for people like me looking for a clear guide on how to accomplish a task companies generally try to dissuade their customers from accomplishing, were incorrect, and the video was completely useless: Summarized, “First, open the website. Then, follow the instructions to close your account.”
Undeterred from low-quality help, I spent some more time wandering around E*TRADE’s website. Of course, financial companies would prefer their customers not close their accounts, so they make the process more annoying than necessary. I discovered this reality when I looked into closing a Bank of America checking account in the face of their latest fee increases.
If you’re wondering what the process for closing an E*TRADE account is today, here is what you do:
- Once you log in, you’ll see your Complete View. Below your account list, there is a link: “Need help? Click Customer Service Online.”
- If you click those words, you’ll be presented with a customer service page, with the first tab, “Customer Service Home,” activated.
- Click the second tab, “Self Service.”
- When the Self Service page is displayed, you will find a link for “Account Closure Request” under the heading “Account Service Requests.” Click that link.
- On the “Close Account” page that comes up, select the account to close if you have more than one at E*TRADE. Select your reason; account consolidation is always a good choice.
- Repeat the process for any other accounts you may have at E*TRADE.
My account has been ready to close for the past few weeks. After selling what remained of my former employer’s shares, I transferred the proceeds to an external account. I’d use the money for further investment or to pay current expenses — it doesn’t really matter, since once the money is in my bank account, a dollar from investments is the same as a dollar from income or other sources. All dollars are created equal once they’re mixed together.
When I logged in yesterday to close the account, I saw I had $0.03 in accumulated interest. Before closing the account, I initiated a final transfer to move the $0.03 to a linked checking account. I didn’t immediately see an option for letting E*TRADE keep the interest remainder, and it seems counterproductive to initiate a transfer, which probably costs E*TRADE about $0.10 per ACH. Also, I’m not exactly the type of person to pick up a nickel off the street. But the three cents were there, so I initiated a withdrawal, then proceeded with closing the account.
With my E*TRADE account closed, I’m getting closer to full investment consolidation. Just about all of my investments, retirement and non-retirement, are now at Vanguard. There are still some stragglers, notably the retirement accounts at Fidelity and TIAA-CREF. I also have a few shares of an exchange-traded fund in the telecommunications sector, IYZ, at ShareBuilder, where I also hold a few shares of Toyota, Akamai, and Microsoft. All have paid off well since I purchased them despite some turbulence, except for IYZ.
Take Control of Your Investments
Track and Analyze your Investments for Free: The easiest way to track and analyze all your investments, regardless of where they are located, is with Personal Capital’s free financial dashboard. By far the best financial tool we’ve ever used, Personal Capital enables you to connect all of your 401(k), 403(b), IRAs, and other investment accounts in one place. Once connected, you can see the performance of all of your investments and evaluate your asset allocation.
You can also see the fees you are paying through Personal Capital’s Retirement Fee Analyzer. I was stunned to learn that the fees in just my 401(k) could cost me over $200,000, requiring me to put off retirement for 3 years! They also offer a free Retirement Planner. This robust tool will help you plan for retirement and show you if you are on track to retire on your terms.
Updated June 6, 2017 and originally published June 12, 2013.