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You may not fully appreciate the benefits of tax-sheltered investing until you have to open a taxable account because you’ve topped up your tax-free savings account and registered retirement savings plan.

Not only will you have to pay tax, but you’ll also have to pay attention to the tax-efficiency of your portfolio and its holdings. Contemplating these tasks recently led a reader to contact me with a question: “At what point does a taxable account become so large that we should seek financial advice to possibly minimize our tax burden?”

This reader happens to be using exchange-traded funds, which are generally quite tax-efficient because of limited portfolio turnover. The less trading a fund does, the lower its taxable capital gains. All of this suggests that this reader need not be in a hurry to hire someone to scan his portfolio for potential tax savings.

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At some point, maybe when the portfolio reaches six figures in a taxable account, a consultation like this might make sense. I suggest a fee-for-service financial planner who offers consultations on an hourly or flat rate basis and is free from the conflicts that arise when someone offers advice and is compensated through fees received for selling or managing investments.

The cost of this consultation would vary widely, but $1,000 to $1,500 would be a reasonable expectation. Will there be enough potential tax savings to justify this cost? Likely not, but that doesn’t mean the consultation is a waste. It’s also an opportunity to discuss asset-allocation, retirement plans and other matters.

One more tax-related thought for this investor – consider using an accountant to prepare your tax return, and ask the accountant to pay special attention to your taxable investments. By doing this, you might get some insight into which of your investments are the most and least tax-efficient.

A footnote to this reader question: He prefaced his question by saying that he and his wife are renters. Sounds like they’re a textbook example of how to build wealth while renting as opposed to owning.

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