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Financial Planning

New Jobs, New Life, Clean Slate

What relocation means for a couple's investments.


Moving from a rowhouse in Philadelphia to hilly northwest Arkansas requires a change in attitude as well as latitude. But George Fowler, 33, couldn't say no when he was offered his dream job as head of information systems for the University of Arkansas Libraries. His wife, Sophia, 38, landed a position at the school as an administrator, and the pair bought a large home for $199,000 -- a steal by Northeast standards. "This is a really nice place," says Sophia, a New Jersey native.

The couple see their fresh start as a cue to reassess their investments. That makes sense because a new job means new retirement plans that can complement -- or duplicate -- existing investments.

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The Fowlers have invested their IRAs in stocks and T. Rowe Price funds; they also hold some Price funds in a joint taxable account. In addition, they have a variable annuity and participate in Arkansas's TIAA-CREF retirement plan, to which the school makes a generous contribution.

Good move

All told, their holdings total $450,000, and the money seems to be well distributed, with 80% in stocks and stock funds. But the Fowlers need to determine how well their TIAA-CREF accounts mesh with their holdings at T. Rowe Price. The answer is, quite well.

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Sophia, who likes to take risks, thinks conservative TIAA-CREF is "not the greatest, but okay." But the TIAA-CREF accounts have their virtues, the most prominent of which is low costs, says Joe Downs, of Reality Financial Planning, in Sarasota, Fla. Downs, who works with educators and public employees, notes that most of the TIAA-CREF choices are index funds, and that's just fine. If the Fowlers stay at the university for many years, their TIAA-CREF balances will surpass the amount in their IRAs. The index funds can serve as the core of their combined portfolio.

The Fowlers can pursue aggressive stuff outside their retirement accounts. They have about 25% of their assets in higher-risk funds, including T. Rowe Price's Real Estate and Media & Telecommunications funds and several overseas funds. By combining the Price funds with the TIAA-CREF and annuity accounts into one omnibus portfolio for planning purposes, and making certain that they rebalance their funds every year, George and Sophia can maintain an appropriate level of higher-risk, potentially higher-reward holdings.

But one tweak is in order. The Fowlers have $87,000 in T. Rowe Price Value, and although it's a fine fund, switching half to Price's Growth Stock seems prudent, given improved prospects for big-company growth stocks.