Don’t Interrupt Your Compounding

JOURNAL & TOPICS

Journal & Topics Media Group | Serving Chicago’s Great Northwest Suburbs

January 2020

THIS WAY TO WEALTH

by Chris Everett

Let’s take a look at the cost of interrupting the compounding in your investments.

  1. Borrowing from your 401k is a no-no!  So many believe that borrowing from their 401k is borrowing from yourself?  Not true.

Figure 1 is a chart of Tom’s retirement plan.

He’s been saving $500 per month for the last 20 years.  He ends up borrowing from his plan every five years or so.  Each time he does, he has the next five years to pay it back plus interest.  The interest goes to the lender, not him.  The result: he literally starts over every five years.

If we assume Tom makes a 6% rate of return on his account, he would have had $220,714.  But, because he continues to interrupt the compounding in the plan by borrowing, after 20 years he only has $33,823.

All that borrowing cost him $186,891!  That’s a huge loan cost no one ever explained to him.

If he only put half as much into his plan and didn’t borrow against it, he would have $110,357.  It’s not enough, for sure, but it’s 33% better than his previous strategy.

He is better off saving the other $250 outside of his plan in an emergency account.  He should also hire a fiduciary financial planner to learn other ways to plug all leaks he’s created.

  • A 529 Investment Plan (Figure 2) is more costly than you were ever told.   You should save for college, just not in a 529 plan. When you contribute to age-based 529 investment plans, the investment mix starts out more aggressive and over time become more conservative.  That’s why it’s not uncommon for those plans to average about 4% long term. 

If you invest $500 a month in a 529 Investment Plan and agree to increase your contribution each year by 3%, in 18 years, you’d have $184,113.  Not bad if you only have one child to educate.  They can withdraw $39,000 with a 3% annual increase for four years.  Looks like a successful plan, right?  And there’s an extra $35,504 left over if your student attends for an extra year – which happens all too often.  The plan is interrupted at the very time it was about to really take off and grow.  They would have $387,898 at retirement. Of course, they couldn’t do that.  #3 below offers a better way.

  • Use a Properly Structured Cash Value Life Insurance instead. To make it properly structured, sacrifice death benefit for maximum cash value.  Most agents won’t show this to clients because it lowers their commission. But it’s how to get more for your money. 

My client Nancy, a 32-year-old new mom in excellent health, will put $500 a month into her cash value policy for only 17 years and will have a death benefit for life. Her policy has a death benefit of $816,585! 

When it’s time to pay for college and to protect the compounding in her policy, she will take a policy loan. This places a lien against the cash value but does not interrupt the compounding.  She borrows the same amount as the 529 strategy but will have $189,478 of cash still in her policy. After college, she will repay the loan back at $1,500 per month so it’s repaid before she retires. If she needs to stop or restructure the payment she can. At retirement, she will have $24,000 a year in tax-free retirement income with an annual 3% cost of living adjustment.  She and her family are much better off with the life insurance strategy.

Plus, she will have a permanent death benefit. After paying for college and taking years of increasing tax-free retirement income, if she lives to age 100, her death benefit is over $1.6m.

By the way, if she needs to access the death benefit during her lifetime for long term care expenses, she can.

Many people find this hard to believe.  I think it’s because they are used to outdated designs.  If structured properly, all this is possible.  Hire a fiduciary who is really on your side to make this work for you, not the insurance agent.

Bottom Line:  Stop Interrupting Your Compounding. I have happy clients . . . and I continue to love my job.

Stop Kowtowing To Your Banker

The Daily Herald Business Ledger

BANKING AND FINANCE: published July 19, 2019

by Chris Everett

Last week while listening to a client complain about the hoops his banker makes him jump through for an equipment loan, I asked him why he doesn’t do his own financing?

“I don’t have $125,000 laying around,” he said.

But he DID have it. He just forgot.

He forgot about the $300,000 growing in his cash value life insurance policy.

“But that’s for my retirement!” he said. “I’m going to get a tax-free pension out of that when I retire!”

I told him it was possible to have those insurance dollars do more than one job simultaneously. In fact, every dollar he was contributing to his cash value life insurance policy was already doing more than one job: It was creating a growing tax-free death benefit for his beneficiaries.

A lion’s share of the death benefit was available to him for long term care expenses. If he became disabled, the premium would be paid by the insurance company. If he needed a cash withdrawal or loan, he could get it in about 5 days. This safety cash was earning at least 4% plus a dividend tax free. Banks are not paying that. And when interest rates rise, the rate on this cash-stash would rise as well.

But for the immediate issue at hand, his need to borrow $125,000, I reminded him that a loan against his life insurance cash value is not a loan of that cash value. It’s a lien. Therefore, his cash value would continue to enjoy uninterrupted compounding. That’s “breaking news” right there. But I digress.

He smiled when I reminded him that the borrowing cost in his insurance policy was lower than the bank rate.

And while a lower interest rate may be enough motivation, the beauty of this strategy goes further than that.

Most obvious — You don’t have to kowtow to a bank any more to get the money you need. If the money’s there, the insurance company doesn’t care why you want to borrow. They don’t even care if you ever pay the loan back. The loan is collateralized by your cash value. Of course, it’s in your best interest to pay the loan back. Especially, in his case, since he wants to access his cash values in retirement as tax-free income.

Retirement Advantage — What if he ends up not needing to or wanting to take tax-free retirement income from the policy as planned? Those cash values give him another advantage.

What if he set up regular withdrawals from his market-based retirement account and the market corrects? He can call us to stop the regular withdrawal and instead, take the cash from his life insurance policy … tax free. Because it’s tax free, he can take less than what he needed to take from his Taxable Retirement Account.

Now he can wait for his retirement account balance to recover before he takes another withdrawal.

Most attractive — You can design the payback any way you want. For example, you might decide on a five, 10 or 15-year payback structure or even longer. You can even amend the payback structure any time you want — a great business advantage if or when you experience a cash flow challenge.

If you die during the loan, the insurance company would simply deduct the remaining debt from the death benefit.

Tax deduction — You can still deduct the cost of the loan as a business expense in the same way you would if you borrowed from the bank.

Interest Rate Changes: The policy loan rate remains constant, at least in his case. There are policies with variable rates, therefore understand your policy.

My client thanked me and walked out of the office with a bit of a pep in his step. I love what I do!

The “Not So Secure” SECURE Act

JOURNAL & TOPICS

Journal & Topics Media Group | Serving Chicago’s Great Northwest Suburbs

THIS WAY TO WEALTH: published May 2020

by CHRIS EVERETT

The SECURE Act, enacted January 1, 2020 stands for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement.  Sounds positive, right? 

PRO: You used to be forced out of your pre-tax accounts like IRAs, 401ks, TSPs, etc. when you were 70½ to take required minimum distributions, commonly referred to as RMDs.  That was either good or bad depending on your other income.  Now, you can wait until you are 72 before taking required minimum distributions. You have until April 1st following the year you turn 72.

This only applies if you turn 70 ½ in 2020 or later.  If you turned 70 ½ in 2019, you will not be able to delay until 72. And, if you turn 70 ½ in 2020 and are still working, you can make IRA contributions.  When you reach 72 though, and are still working, you will be required to take an RMD.  For example:  Lois is 72 in 2020 and working, earning $55,000 per year.  She has an IRA worth $400,000.  In 2020, she can make contributions of $7,000, but she is still required to take an RMD.

CON: Politicians are such master manipulators. According to https://usdebtclock.org/current-rates.html, As of  May 3, 2020 every tax payer owes $314k for their share of the U.S. public debt.

The SECURE Act is just a way to get your beneficiaries to give up more of their inheritance.  This should have been called:  The Way We Get More of Your Money And Don’t Care If It Impacts You Negatively Act. 

The stretch provision has been eliminated for non-spouse beneficiaries.  That means inherited pre-tax retirement accounts must be distributed within 10 years, instead of over the beneficiary’s life expectancy.  This change will likely increase taxes for beneficiaries since distributions from these accounts are taxed as ordinary income.

While there is no distribution requirement within those 10 years, giving some flexibility on timing of your distribution, be careful.  Remember, when you take the distribution, it’s taxable.  If you are a non-spousal beneficiary, you have several things to consider.  Your own income for one.  Those distributions are added to your regular taxable income.  If you inherit $500,000, and decide to spread your withdrawals over ten years, that’s an extra $50,000 of taxable income, not accounting for growth.  That will place most beneficiaries into a higher tax bracket. If you are parents of college bound students, that inheritance distribution may cause you to lose out on need-based financial aid.  On the bright side, if you inherit after you retire, it may be a welcome ten-year supplement. 

Some beneficiaries are excluded from the 10-year rule. Spouses are because a deceased spouse’s IRA becomes the property of the surviving spouse. If you are disabled or chronically ill, you can still stretch distributions over your lifetime.  If you are less than 10 years younger than the decedent, you can also stretch distributions. If you inherit the pre-tax account as a minor child, you can stretch distributions until you reach the age of majority, which in Illinois is 18.  Imagine an 18-year-old inheriting $500,000.   God help them.

Obviously, get good tax counsel and hire a fiduciary to help you mitigate the negative impact of The Secure Act on your family.  Yes, there’s help but you need to do some strategic planning.

Open Your Financial Kimono

Journal & Topics

Journal & Topics Media Group | Serving Chicago’s Great Northwest Suburbs
June, 2020

THIS WAY TO WEALTH:

By CHRIS EVERETT

Why in the world do you need to open your financial kimono to a financial planner?

Isn’t it obvious?  It’s like going to a doctor for the first time.  They want to see everything, right?  If not, find another doctor.

The same is true for your finances.

Hire a fiduciary financial planner who can help you see what you can’t see.  Eight out of ten people I see are leaking significant amounts of money unknowingly and very unnecessarily. 

If a fiduciary helps you rescue minimally tens of thousands of dollars, and in many cases hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime, they are well worth the cost.

And for those “Do-It-Yourself” investors, you can still do your own investing if you want, just get clarity about the structure.  If you are focused on investments only, you are probably seriously leaking.  I see it over and over again.

Here’s an example:  Don was a trader and he was making his wife uncomfortable.  She had seen large swings in their financial comfort over the years and could not get him to commit to a second opinion. What she was really saying is that she wanted him to stop trading.

What?  There’s no way to make a tiger change his stripes. I told her it wasn’t necessary for him to stop, and she gave me one of those very puzzled looks. 

It’s simple.  Just ask him to commit to come together to see the big picture.  It worked because he learned I was not going to try and “get” his investments under my management.

So, we had both of them pull all their data and expenses together.  I also had them do a communication profile that helps me understand how they process information, manage change, face risk and problem solve.  A little side note, these are valuable reports, but they are also great date night fodder.  They ended up using this report to create new language in their relationship which was lovely.

Back to their story.  Don was unaware of a lot. And as a self-confessed bread winner, he was apologetic to his wife when I showed them.  Here’s his list of must do’s:

  • Upgrade their liability protection because many of their assets were exposed and could have created a $3m wealth leak.
  • Fix their life insurance since it was about to run out and he wasn’t paying attention – a $3m potential wealth leak.
  • Get the beneficiaries correct – that was a rude awakening for her – a $1.5m potential wealth leak
  • Upgrade his disability insurance – if he goes down, so does the ship – with 10 years to go until retirement, a potential $4m wealth leak.
  • Diversify their asset container type to have different tax outcomes and a lower tax result longer term – a potential wealth leak of approximately $500k.
  • Finish their legal work that had been started three years ago
  • And yes, we also looked at his investments and gave him more to consider to smooth out his results.

During the course of working together, he referred me to some of his friends.  He said I never made him feel stupid.  He said it was cathartic and removed some of the stress.  He got clarity and a step-by-step process to follow as they repaired what was broken and potentially very harmful to their financial security.

I love what I do.  It is our pleasure to offer a pre-Discovery phone call or Zoom meeting if you are interested in a fiduciary relationship.

For more information or to schedule with Chris Everett visit www.EverettWealthSolutions.com or call 708-771-7777.  Everett Wealth Solutions, Inc. is a registered investment advisor providing fee-only financial planning and asset management services. Everett Wealth Solutions is located at 407 Marengo Avenue in Forest Park, IL and because of technology works with clients around the country. She’s a Retirement Shield Class Instructor and also heard on WGN, WBBM News Radio and seen on Business Firm AM Television.