Rethinking Asset Location - Between Tax-Deferred, Tax-Exempt and Taxable Accounts

23 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2013 Last revised: 4 May 2019

Date Written: 2015


The Asset Location (AL) decision determines which of the assets owned should be held in which account-type (tax-deferred, tax-exempt or taxable) in order to maximize the tax-reduction benefits of those accounts and to maximize ending wealth.

This paper argues against AL practices that
a) phrase general rules in terms of asset-types, instead of in terms of the metrics that decide the issue,
b) produce rules for AL that are shown to fail to maximize wealth,
c) ignore the impact of a change in tax rates between contribution and withdrawal, and
d) make the objective of AL to maximize the utility from mean-variance-optimization, while ignoring tax-reduction benefits and ending wealth.

A general model of the accounts is created that calculates their benefits and deconstructs the total benefit into its two sources. The two sources of benefits are analyzed to develop AL rules.

An AL procedure is illustrated to deal with the most complicated situations. The metrics used for ranking assets are the same calculations that deconstruct the accounts' benefits. The procedure is extended to include the Asset Allocation decision.

Keywords: asset location, asset allocation, tax-exempt, tax-deferred, taxes and retirement savings, portfolio selection, Roth IRA, IRA, RRSP, TFSA

JEL Classification: G11

Suggested Citation

Reed, Chris, Rethinking Asset Location - Between Tax-Deferred, Tax-Exempt and Taxable Accounts (2015). Available at SSRN: or

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