How To Boost Your Retirement Savings By 3% Overnight

Recently I wrote about the new Robinhood Gold Card. It pays 3% cash back on all purchases, making it one of the most valuable rewards credit cards available today. As I noted in the article, however, to qualify you must be a Robinhood Gold member, which costs $50 a year if paid annually. So what’s this got to do with retirement savings?

As a member of Robinhood Gold, you also get a 3% match on all IRA contributions. For those that max out their IRA this year with $8,000 in contributions, Robinhood throws in an extra $240. What I want to talk about in this article is the 3% match Robinhood is offering when you transfer an IRA to Robinhood. This is a limited time offer that expires on April 30th.

The question is whether this is legitimate and if there are any limitations.

How Robinhood’s 3% Match Works

The 3% match is straightforward. As a Robinhood Gold member, you can transfer your IRAs to Robinhood and receive a 3% match. This match, moreover, doesn’t appear to have any limits. If you have $10,000 in an IRA, Robinhood will match with $300. If you have $1 million in an IRA, Robinhood will match with $30,000.

Since discussing this 3% match on my YouTube channel, I’ve had viewers reach out to me who planned to transfer millions of dollars in IRAs to Robinhood. Some have shared their success stories, telling me that the 3% match did indeed hit their account shortly after their IRA transferred.

It does make one wonder how Robinhood can afford this. Many readers of Forbes and viewers of my YouTube channel have millions of dollars in IRAs. Transfer three or four million dollars in an IRA, and Robinhood is on the hook for a six-figure match. Nevertheless, that’s the deal.

From the Robinhood website: “For a limited time only, Robinhood Gold subscribers will also earn a 3% match on transfers and rollovers into your Robinhood Retirement account between January 17, 2024 and April 30, 2024, with no limit on the amount of match earned.” (emphasis mine).

What Are the Requirements?

As you would expect, there are some requirements involved. As noted above, you do have to be a Robinhood Gold member. Paid annually, this cost just $50. In addition to the 3% match and access to the Robinhood Gold Card, it also gives you access to a high-yield savings account the currently pays 5%. I track hundreds of savings accounts and can tell you that while 5% is not the highest rate available, it’s extremely competitive.

There’s another requirement that is more important. In order to keep the match, you must keep your IRA with Robinhood for 5 years. If you take your money out of the IRA or move it to another broker within the 5-year period, Robinhood will clawback the entire match.

This raises an important question. What if you leave the IRA with Robinhood, but before the 5 years is up, take a distribution? For example, you may be at the age where you must take required minimum distributions. Will taking an RMD from the IRA trigger a clawback?

How the Five Year Requirement Works

It turns out that taking a distribution from your IRA may trigger a clawback of a portion of the 3% match. You can find details of the 3% match here. I will tell you that I found aspects of the agreement somewhat confusing. As a result, I spent about 30 minutes in an online chat with Robinhood support. Here’s what I learned.

First, if a distribution causes the balance of the IRA to fall below the amount initially transferred to Robinhood, you must give back 3% of the difference. For example, if you transfer $100,000 to Robinhood and receive a $3,000 match, you would have a $103,000 balance. If you then distributed $13,000, leaving you with $90,000 in the IRA, you would have to return $300 of the match, or 3% of $10,000.

Second, the support representative told me that market declines by themselves will not trigger a clawback. So if you’re $103,000 drops to $60,000 because the stock market crashes, you still get to keep the 3% match.

Third, and this is important, let’s imagine the market crash has left you with just $60,000 in your IRA. At this point you decide to take a $10,000 distribution, reducing your IRA balance to $50,000. What the Robinhood support staff told me was that the distribution would trigger a clawback, and it would be based on the entire difference between your initial $100,000 transfer and what you have left in the IRA of $50,000. In other words, you would have to return $1,500 of the match, or 3% of the $50,000.

I encourage you to reach out directly to Robinhood before making any decisions. Needless to say, the 3% match may be best suited for those who have no plans on touching their IRA in the next 5 years.

Is Transferring an IRA a Pain?

I’ve initiated the transfer of one of my IRAs to Robinhood. I’m a sucker for free money. Having rolled over and transferred many IRAs over the last 20 years, I know firsthand what a pain the experience can be. I must say that Robinhood made the process as easy as I’ve ever experienced.

It took me literally ten seconds to open up an IRA at Robinhood on my smartphone. It involved three taps of the phone: one to open a new account, one to select a traditional IRA, and one to approve the terms and conditions.

Initiating the transfer of an IRA was almost as easy. A couple of taps on the phone, then I entered the account number of my IRA at the other broker, and then another tap and it was done.

What’s Not to Love?

The 3% match seems like a no-brainer. Yet when I asked whether others would take advantage of it on Twitter (I refuse to call it X), I received mixed results. Some had already taken advantage of the match, but many told me that they had doubts about Robinhood. They couldn’t always articulate what those doubts are. I suspect those who keep their money at the likes of Fidelity and Schwab just don’t see themselves as Robinhood account holders.

I’ve personally not been a fan of Robinhood. I don’t like how it glorifies trading on margin, trading options and crypto, and generally turning investing into a game. I suppose there’s some advantage of gamification if it encourages young people to start investing. But the investing strategies Robinhood promotes to me are not a reasonable way to build wealth.

At the same time, one can easily build a portfolio of low-cost index ETFs at Robinhood. They offer ETFs from Vanguard, Schwab and iShares, for example. Building a three fund portfolio with these ETFs is as simple as transferring an IRA to Robinhood.

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