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AXA Equitable 403b Review


2019 AXA Equitable 403b account review. AXA Equitable investing fees, annual/withdrawal/transfer cost, mutual fund performance, cons and pros.



AXA Equitable Overview


AXA has a wide range of products just like many insurance companies. Investing with any insurance company can have benefits, but these may be offset by the excessive costs. This review will focus on one product, the 403(b) plan for teachers, but their products that include mutual fund investing have similar fees and the same online platform.


Starting an Account


Starting an account with AXA is as simple as getting car insurance, but without the hassle of going into the garage to check an unknown license plate. An account can be created online, but for the 403(b), which is for teachers, the accounts are almost always created while sitting at a desk in school.


AXA Equitable Review


Agents show up at schools about twice a year. They bring trays of food and give a short presentation on their product. Most teachers have an account already, but new teachers are pushed to create an account and start contributing now. After a few fancy charts, all that is needed is information and a paycheck so they can start the automatic deductions. The 403(b) is a pre-tax plan so taxes are deferred for later.

The best part about having a retirement account with AXA is the automation. They do all the investing after you sign up. The account could be allowed to continue until retirement without a second thought. The problem with this is that it costs money to have someone else do everything.


AXA Equitable Fees and Charges


The fees for the 403(b) account are similar to other AXA investment products. Here are the numbers:

- 2% or $30 annual fee, whichever is lower, until the account is above $25,000
- 1.20% annual fee
- Withdrawal charge of 5%, if withdrawn within the first seven years
- Transfer charge of $65

Based on the prospectus, for all the fees listed or not listed here, the maximum charge is 3.4% annually. The lowest is 0.61% annually, although it is not clear on how to have fees below 1.20%. This fee that is a little above 1% is the average for all accounts.

The pros of investing with AXA are numerous for people who hate thinking about retirement or those who love the old-fashioned lunch with an agent. The cons are few but possibly overwhelming.


AXA Equitable Pros


Save Without Thinking

With automatic paycheck withdrawal before taxes, the only thing to think about is that number on the W-2 when tax season is here. Thinking about putting money away for retirement is no longer necessary.


Great Service from the Agent

Not only does the agent arrive with food to schools, but with other products, the agents are ready to wine and dine any client, depending on the potential new income for them. The agents are always ready to talk and modify your plan to fit your needs. From the beginning, there are options for what type of investment strategy is best suited to specific situations, and it can be changed at any time.


Online Site Easy to Use

AXA has made many improvements to the online aspect of their accounts. The allocations of funds can now be changed almost instantly, and you can decide the percentage of your funds to be allocated to certain investments. It does not include individual stock, but does have the main indexes and multiple funds for many possible goals. Statements are easy to view, and anything can be managed online.


AXA Equitable 403b Review


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AXA Equitable Cons


Fees not Clear

Because insurance companies are best suited to people who want to be hands off, there are some hidden costs. The agents and even the paperwork are not up front about how the fees are deducted from the account. If this is never asked, fees will never be discussed. The way that fees are deducted from the account is still mysterious. On the quarterly report in December, the $30 fee is seen, but there is no paperwork for the 1.2% annual fee. It must be taken out by increasing the net asset value for the fund or taking dividends, but it is not transparent.


High Fees

Any account that charges higher than 1% annually is excessive. Even 0.6% is high, which is what some of the competitors offer for this type of plan. This high cost offsets the benefit of pre-tax savings. Investing with an insurance company will almost always cost more than a brokerage.


Comparisons


Compared to other 403(b) plans, the fees at AXA are higher. The Legend Group’s average annual fee total is about 0.6%. This is little over half of AXA’s average annual fee. But with AXA, they bring the sandwiches and cookies, so it could be worth it for some. Also, the Legend Group has some added benefits like self-directed investing and advice to go along with it.

Compared to 401(k) plans, the fees are much greater, but the 403(b) gives pre-tax savings. If paying taxes later will save you more than 1-2% per year, then AXA’s 403(b) is good. But mostly pre-tax savings just give the appearance of saving more now while deferred taxes hit hard later.

Compared to more hands-on investing options that can be had through any online brokerage, AXA will cost more in the end but will save time. The performance of the mutual fund plans of AXA can be replicated by any safe investor without paying over 1% in fees.


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AXA 403b Review Conclusion


Overall, AXA Equitable has good service, flexible online options that make mutual funds seem easy, and automation that reduces time spent on retirement investing to zero. While there are advantages, the high fees and the lack of transparency about how the fees are applied detract greatly from their product.



AXA Equitable 403b Reviewed by Brokerage-Review.com. Rating: 3