New Survey Reveals Majority of Americans Now Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck Due to COVID-19 Pandemic… Here’s How to Avoid That

A new survey from Highland Solutions revealed some startling stats about Americans’ spending habits during the pandemic. How many of these describe your situation?

  • 63% are living paycheck to paycheck
  • 47% have run out of their emergency savings
  • More than one-third have opened up a new credit card since the pandemic to help cover expenses
  • 42% have taken on more debt than normal, and nearly a third have racked up over $10,000 in new debt (a recipe for disaster)
  • 82% could not cover a surprise $500 expense
  • 67% regret not having enough savings before the pandemic hit

So How the Heck Did We Dig Ourselves into this Debt Hole?

For starters, you only need to look no further than the conventional advice about emergency funds. [Read more…] “New Survey Reveals Majority of Americans Now Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck Due to COVID-19 Pandemic… Here’s How to Avoid That”

Why More Experts Are Now Saying It’s Time to Ditch Your 401(k)

A growing number of retirement planning experts are joining the chorus of people saying 401(k) plans no longer make sense for savers in recent articles on Motley Fool, Bloomberg, MarketWatch, and other major publications.

They’re lamenting that one of the biggest appeals of the 401(k) – the ability to make contributions with untaxed dollars in exchange for tax-deferred growth and withdrawals – is disappearing.

The national debt was already skyrocketing before the pandemic spurred the biggest fiscal stimulus programs in history. And a surge in unemployment has lowered tax revenue for federal and state governments.

What do governments typically do to counter budget deficits?

They raise taxes, of course!

And as taxes rise, deferring them in a 401(k) or IRA means you’ll pay more later – potentially a lot more.

Even before the pandemic, the Center for Retirement Research said people lose 25%-33% of the value of their 401(k) to taxes… and most people are shocked when it happens because they forget they’ll owe the IRS taxes on every penny they’ve put in and every penny of growth they’ve deferred.

Do you know what the tax rates will be in 20 or 30 years from now? For that matter, do you know what they’ll be next year or in two years?

[Read more…] “Why More Experts Are Now Saying It’s Time to Ditch Your 401(k)”

Pros, Cons and Why the SECURE Act WON’T Make Your Retirement More Secure

The SECURE Act of 2019 is supposed to help more Americans save for retirement. The new legislation will have an impact on retirement plans – and not all of them are good.

In December of 2019, Congress passed H.R.1994 – the SECURE Act of 2019 – which contains the most sweeping changes to government-controlled retirement accounts – such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRAs – in more than a decade.

The SECURE legislation – which stands for “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement” – put into place several provisions supposedly intended to strengthen retirement security.

Not surprisingly, the financial services industry spent many millions of dollars lobbying Congress to ensure passage.

So is the new legislation in your best interests? Is the SECURE Act really likely to increase your retirement security?

[Read more…] “Pros, Cons and Why the SECURE Act WON’T Make Your Retirement More Secure”

Shhh! Your Bank Has a “BIG” Dirty Little Secret – it Could Crush Your Retirement

Who can forget those dark days of the housing market crash of 2008? The vacant homes and neglected lawns.  The abandoned swing sets and forgotten barbecues. The bright signs and bold arrows that needed little explanation: “Foreclosure.” “Auction.” “Bank Owned.”

We’re told that the housing bubble and collapse was about predatory lending and high-risk borrowers who were duped into loans that they couldn’t afford. The massive regulatory response to the subprime crisis meant that banks were no longer allowed to behave BADLY… so they chose to behave DIFFERENTLY.

Shhh. Your Bank Has a “Big” Dirty Little Secret. Read this Very Carefully…

The largest source of mortgage lending in the United States is now being done by non-banks – financial entities that offer unsecured personal lending, business loans, leveraged lending, and mortgage services… but do not hold a banking license. As a result, they’re not subject to standard banking oversight and can engage in risky lending.

But where do they get the money to make these loans? You guessed it: Wells Fargo, Citibank, Bank of America and everyone else who got their hands dirty ten years ago. [Read more…] “Shhh! Your Bank Has a “BIG” Dirty Little Secret – it Could Crush Your Retirement”

How to Pay Zero Taxes in Retirement – Without Being Broke

Do you have money in a tax-deferred retirement account such as a 401(k), IRA or 403(b)? If so, you’re sitting on a tax time bomb.

I’m going to reveal the tax traps you face and show you how to move toward a 0% tax bracket in retirement (legally!) – but not by doing it the way most people do it, which is by being broke!

Conventional wisdom says, “Maximize your contributions to tax-deferred plans. Your money compounds without being reduced by taxes, and you’ll end up with more money during retirement.”

But like much conventional wisdom about personal finance, it’s not true…

The Society of Actuaries says if the tax rates are the same,

It doesn’t make any difference whether [the taxes] are taken away from you at the beginning (tax-exempt) or at the end (tax-deferred). It’s the same fraction of your money that is left to you.”

But most people look at their savings and think it’s all theirs. You may have forgotten you’ll owe Uncle Sam the taxes he let you defer all those years – on every penny you’ve put in and every penny of growth.

And according to Boston College’s Center for Retirement director, Alicia Munnell,

It’s a very big deal when people realize they only have two-thirds or three-quarters of what they thought they had.”

If the tax rates are actually lower during your retirement, you might come out ahead by deferring your taxes. But where do you think tax rates are headed long term? You must consider what tax rates might be during a retirement that could last 30+ years.

Most people we talk to think taxes ultimately must go up due to the aging demographics of our country and our unsustainable national debt. (Recently the debt passed $21 trillion for the first time.) If tax rates do go up, and you’re successful in growing your nest-egg, you’ll simply end up paying higher taxes on a bigger number. [Read more…] “How to Pay Zero Taxes in Retirement – Without Being Broke”

Why is the “Father of the 401(k)” Now Putting His Money into a Bank On Yourself-Type Plan Instead?

It caused quite a stir when the man who is credited with being the “father of the 401(k),” Ted Benna, recently announced that he’s put a substantial part of his own money – “probably the biggest part of my wealth” – into what is most commonly known as a Bank On Yourself plan.

You see, for at least six years now, Benna has been calling the 401(k) a “monster” that “should be blown up.”

Benna is credited with finding a way to capitalize on the tax code to create a way for working men and women to supplement the pension plans that many workers used to have. Those pensions plans have been disappearing, and 401(k)s were created to hopefully help pick up the slack.

But over the years, Benna watched Wall Street and Big Business pervert the 401(k) in ways he couldn’t possibly predict.

In a recent interview, Ted Benna discussed three reasons why we should be very leery of 401(k)s and IRAs:

  • The government may repeal the 401(k) and IRA, so you won’t be able to put any more money pre-tax into these accounts, or the amount you can put in will be drastically reduced (Congress considered doing that again last year!)
  • Benna believes the next stock and bond market crash is imminent and could wipe out 40% of the typical portfolio
  • Wall Street has hijacked these plans, and the excessive fees charged by mutual fund companies and plan administrators are robbing you of up to half of your nest egg

I’ve Been Sounding the Alarm About 401(k)s and IRAs for Even Longer than Benna

[Read more…] “Why is the “Father of the 401(k)” Now Putting His Money into a Bank On Yourself-Type Plan Instead?”

Is Your Personal Balance Sheet – Your Financial Snapshot – Giving You a True Picture?

A balance sheet shows you at a glance what you own, what you owe, and what the difference is. The difference is your “net worth” – and the greater your net worth, the more you’re in a position to meet life’s financial uncertainties.

A balance sheet for John and Jane Doe, showing assets including $300,000 in retirement savings; and showing liabilities.
Figure 1. A Simple Balance Sheet
It’s called a balance sheet because your assets minus your liabilities always equals – balances – your net worth.

If you owe more than you own, your net worth is a negative number, and that’s an early indication of possible financial problems or bankruptcy in your future.

Here’s a simple balance sheet. See Figure 1. We see that John and Jane have added up the fair market value of their major possessions – their house, car, furnishings, cash in the bank, and retirement savings – and have total assets of $570,500. But when we subtract what they owe – their first and second mortgages, car loan, student loan, and credit card balances – their net worth (the cash they could come up with if they sold everything) is $369,000. [Read more…] “Is Your Personal Balance Sheet – Your Financial Snapshot – Giving You a True Picture?”

Congress Considers Axing Your 401(k) Tax Deduction

Congress is considering proposals right now to take away the tax advantages of your 401(k).

To help finance the tax reforms being proposed, Congress is eyeing axing the up-front tax deduction for 401(k) contributions. And one proposal would also change the tax-deferred nature of 401(k)s by imposing a 15% tax on your annual gains.

Why would Congress consider tinkering with the tax benefits of such a popular program as the 401(k)?

For the same reason that notorious holdup man Willie Sutton gave for robbing banks:

Because that’s where the money is!”

The current taxation of 401(k) plans was estimated to have cost the federal government more than $90 billion in potential tax revenue last year alone, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. [Read more…] “Congress Considers Axing Your 401(k) Tax Deduction”

Why Does Ted Benna, the “Father of the 401(k),” Love the “501(k)” Plan?

The man widely credited as the “Father of the 401(k) Plan,” Ted Benna, is among those saying the plan is no longer a good way to save and invest for retirement. He cites concerns that the government may change the rules, and not in your favor; that an impending market crash will wipe out much of what you’ve saved for your retirement; and that staggering fees can eat up a large portion of your nest egg.

Benna has gone on record as endorsing something that has been creatively called a “501(k) Plan.” Ted Benna says,

I created a monster (the 401(k)) that should be blown up… I’m now putting most of my money in the 501(k).”

Don’t get distracted by the name “501(k).” Although “401(k)” refers to the section of the Internal Revenue Code that deals with retirement plans, “501(k)” is an obscure Internal Revenue Code reference that describes the educational status of certain child care organizations! Using “501(k)” to refer to some kind of retirement plan is a gimmick dreamed up by Madison Avenue types.

But all they did was take the Bank On Yourself concept, which is a proven 401(k) alternative, and give it a mysterious new name, the “501(k),” hoping you’ll pay money to find out what they’re talking about.

But while others are charging you money for this information, we’ve been giving it away for years! For FREE information about the Bank On Yourself method that others call a “501(k),” download our free report, 5 Simple Steps to Bypass Wall Street, Beat the Banks at Their Own Game and Take Control of Your Financial Future here.

History of the 401(k) Plan and Ted Benna’s Contribution to It

[Read more…] “Why Does Ted Benna, the “Father of the 401(k),” Love the “501(k)” Plan?”

Is “Tax-Free Retirement” Too Good to Be True?

Tax-free retirement—living a comfortable life in retirement without the obligation to pay income tax—comes as the result of planning and arranging your finances (following IRS guidelines every step of the way) so that when you retire, none of the money you receive is taxable—perhaps not even your Social Security income.

Tax-free retirement is good, and this article reveals how to make it happen.

Is Avoiding Taxes on Your Retirement Income Legal?

Reducing or avoiding taxes is perfectly legal. People take steps to reduce or avoid taxes all the time. They may donate to charity to avoid paying as much tax. They deduct their mortgage payments. They take legitimate business deductions. They may shift medical expenses, hoping to bunch expenses into one year and exceed the threshold for deductions that year. These are just a few of the legal tax-avoiding measures Americans take every day.

Many people even believe they have an IRA or a 401(k) to avoid paying taxes. But that’s a trap, because traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, and most other government-controlled retirement plans do not allow you to avoid paying taxes. They merely postpone tax day. We’ll talk more about that in a few minutes.

Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.” — Supreme Court Justice Learned Hand

So while avoiding taxes is legal, evading taxes is not. Maybe you don’t report your income. Maybe you take deductions you’re not allowed. Or maybe you just tell the IRS to take a hike. That’s tax evasion.

But make no mistake: A tax-free retirement can be achieved legally, using IRS-approved methods.

Ways to Avoid Income Tax in Retirement

[Read more…] “Is “Tax-Free Retirement” Too Good to Be True?”