Reinvesting dividends and capital gains in a taxable account

Up until now, I had all my mutual fund dividends and capital gains distributions set to automatically reinvest in my taxable brokerage account.

This creates a bit of work when it comes to calculating the basis on my holdings when I sell a fund, but I don't mind. And with online brokerages, it is not much work at all. Etrade keeps track of the basis and I assume other brokerages do too. So as long as I note the basis before I sell and the holding no longer shows in my portfolio, and the records are accurate for holdings I bought before I started using Etrade, there is no work to do at all.

There are four reasons I turned off automatic dividend reinvesting, anyway:

1) If you sell a no-load no-fee fund within 90 days of purchase you are penalized a fee of $49.99. I do not know that this applies to automatic reinvestments (I assume it does), but I'd rather not worry or risk the hassle.

2) If I think I want to sell a fund, I typically don't add anything to it for a year before I sell so any gains are taxed as long term gains. I have two funds I have not been adding to since last June, thinking I might sell after my last addition to the funds is a year ago or greater. In December the funds distributed and reinvested automatically. This complicates the tax implications of a sale unless I now wait until next December which has slightly agitated my calm.

3) I invest regularly adding small amounts to some holdings to keep my overall portfolio balanced as I want it. Taking gains and distributions as cash and manually adding them to the funds I want to gives me more control over keeping my overall portfolio in balance. For some people (those who would let the cash sit) this might not be a good idea, but I have seen that I regularly take the cash I save in my brokerage and invest it, so this should work well for me.

4) Even though Etrade keeps good records of all my purchases, when Etrade bought my previous brokerage, the old electronic details did not convert over. I assume if Etrade goes under or another firm buys Etrade, or I end up with a new brokerage for any reason, the balances will transfer but the details about my basis will not. Sure I can keep track of everything myself, but to do so is more hassle than it is worth.

If you have an Etrade account that is not a retirement account, or even if it is a retirement account, and you want to un-enroll from automatic reinvesting, simply go to the online service center and type in a request to customer service for them to make the change. For mutual funds, you cannot do it yourself through their interface.

I left my Roth IRA alone so it still automatically reinvests. Since I only add to the IRA once a year, and I cannot add enough to rebalance all the holdings by adding to the market sectors that trailed the year before, and I don't have enough in the IRA for the dividends and distributions to be significant, and the IRA is not taxed like a non-retirement account, it make sense to me to allow the dividends to reinvest.

On an unrelated note, check out the Coyote I saw romping around in the snow in my driveway the other day!

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