Five Retirement Investment Alternatives to Your 401(k) Plan

With something as vitally important as your retirement security, you need to be aware of 401(k) problems. And you have to ask yourself, “Do I really want to have to deal with all this? Are there good alternatives to 401(k)s?”

Let’s take a look at the drawbacks to 401(k)s and good alternatives to them. The 401(k) drawbacks include:

  • Unpredictable market performance, which means the very real possibility of losing a significant portion of your nest egg
  • Rules and limitations which can cripple your options and lock your money in a virtual prison
  • Fees, both visible and hidden, which can suck one-third or more of your hard-earned money in the plan
  • Tax deferral, which can siphon off another one-third or more of your income during your retirement years

Four Major Issues You Face When Planning for Retirement: Safety, Restrictions, Fees, and Taxes

Safety comes down to risk versus reward. Great potential gain brings with it great potential loss.

Investopedia sums up risk and reward this way: “Investing requires a degree of risk, and the bigger that risk, the higher the gain should be.”

The bigger that risk, the higher the potential gain should be—and the greater the potential loss will be.

What will you do if you don’t have enough to live on because of lackluster performance, restrictions, enormous fee, taxes on your income—or a major crash just before you planned to retire?

Will you work until you’re too ill to work, or you need to quit to take care of a relative, or you’re replaced by some kid one-third your age? (Nearly half of all retirees are forced to retire sooner than planned for just these reasons, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.)

Will you go on welfare or be shuttled back and forth between your children? Will you live under a bridge?

You can’t afford to lose your retirement nest egg, any more than you can afford to lose your next paycheck. And if you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford to risk it.

Yet government-controlled plans assume you want to invest your money in some endeavor with the hopes of making a profit. But investing, by its very definition, includes the concept of risk.

And the investment doesn’t need to be sketchy to involve risk! Investments in companies as “solid” as Blockbuster Video … Borders Books … Pan Am Airlines … Sharper Image … Enron … Polaroid … even Bethlehem Steel … have led to the downfall of millions of investors who thought they were being cautious, wise, and conservative.

Trillions of dollars have evaporated from 401(k) plans due to market fluctuations alone.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is blunt about the risks of investing:

All investments involve some degree of risk. If you intend to purchase securities—such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds—it’s important that you understand before you invest that you could lose some or all of your money. Unlike deposits at FDIC-insured banks and NCUA-insured credit unions, the money you invest in securities typically is not federally insured. You could lose your principal, which is the amount you’ve invested. That’s true even if you purchase your investments through a bank.”

Rules and Regulations That Strangle Your Access to Your 401(k) Money

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Government-approved retirement plans have more strings attached than Pinocchio before he became a real boy. It’s like your money is locked up in a maximum-security prison where someone else calls the shots—and you barely get visitation rights!

Contribute to a 401(k) plan and you’re contributing to a plan that tells you the maximum amount you can put in.

Your plan will also dictate what you can and cannot invest in.

You’ll learn that you can only borrow a relatively small amount, and you must pay it back on a strict schedule—or you can’t borrow at all.

These restrictions may seem normal, but not if you know the alternatives.

The government tells you how long you must wait to access your 401(k) plan money—your own money! You’ll pay penalties for taking virtually any distributions before you’re 59½.

Uncle Sam will tell you when you must access your money, and how much you must withdraw (and pay taxes on) each year. You’re forced to start taking distributions when you reach 70½—whether you want to or not.

Don’t get suckered into believing you control the money in your 401(k). Your plan is only tax-deferred because the government created it that way. And what the government created, the government controls.

The government can—and does!—change the rules any time it wants! The prison warden has your money under lock and key, and while your money’s in the slammer, he can impose any new restrictions or regulations he comes up with—and you have no recourse.

Do all retirement planning strategies come with those kinds of rules and restrictions? No! There are alternatives that we’ll discuss soon.

The Fees You Pay with a 401(k) Plan Compound Against You

Virtually every investment plan and most savings plans have fees or potential fees of one kind or another.

In 401(k) plans the compounding of fees works against you. It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose in the stock market, your stockbroker or the advisor managing your money will still get paid.

The impact of 401(k) fees is colossal. According to an exposé on 60 Minutes, fees “can eat up half the income in some 401(k) plans over a thirty-year span.” Yikes!

You really do need to know in advance exactly what effect fees will have on your balance. But just try to find out from your plan administrator or financial planner!

The Truth About 401(k) Plan Tax Deferral

Whoever talked you into starting your 401(k) probably told you what a great advantage tax-deferral is. “You can deduct the money you put into your 401(k), and it grows tax-deferred. You don’t have to pay taxes on your growth each year!”

If you bought into that, you’re in good company. An overwhelming number of Americans—and Canadians, with their registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs)—are in the same boat you’re in.

Many folks haven’t stopped to consider that when they retire—or when they’re forced by the government to start withdrawing from their 401(k) plan—they’ll pay income tax at the going rate on every single dollar they withdraw.

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They’ll pay tax on the money they originally contributed, because the government let them deduct that money from their taxable income. Now Uncle Sam is holding his hand out, palm up. And in his other hand, he’s holding a club.

And when folks withdraw from their 401(k) plan, they will also have to pay taxes on their earnings.

All those taxes were deferred—postponed—not cancelled!

Here’s what that could mean to you:

Let’s assume you’ve retired and you need $70,000 in retirement income annually to maintain your lifestyle and do some traveling.

If that income is from a 401(k) plan and you pay an average tax rate of 25%, your retirement plan will have to throw off $93,333—not $70,000—every year. You’ll need that extra $23,333 every year just to pay the taxes on your 401(k) income.

But tell me this: if your retirement plan could throw off $93,333 per year, wouldn’t you rather spend that extra $23,333 enjoying life more, rather than feeding Uncle Sam?

Why not pay your taxes up front while you know what they are, and then have income with no taxes due in retirement?

A Review of Some 401(K) Plan Alternatives

If you don’t like heavy-handed government-controlled plans, broaden your horizons. There are methods of saving for retirement that don’t depend on unpredictable market performance … that have very few, if any, government restrictions … that tell you in advance what your minimum account will be at retirement (and any point along the way)—after fees … and that don’t have any of the pitfalls of the tax-deferral trap.

Not every 401(k) alternative offers every one of these advantages. But there is one that does. It actually offers more advantages, as you’ll see. Let’s look at the five common 401(k) alternatives.

#1 IRAs and Roth IRAs as a 401(k) alternative

IRAs are like other government-controlled plans, with one exception: Roth IRAs. You fund a Roth with after-tax money (unlike traditional IRAs), and you can withdraw money from your plan in retirement without paying taxes, subject to various regulations and controls.

#2 Municipal Bonds as a 401(k) alternative

Municipal bonds are debt securities issued by government entities to fund day-to-day obligations and finance capital projects such as building schools and highways. Generally, the interest on municipal bonds is exempt from federal income tax.

#3 Gold, silver, and other commodities as a 401(k) alternative

Commodities are basic goods used in commerce. Examples are gold, beef, oil, lumber, natural gas, iron ore, crude oil, salt, etc.

#4 Real estate as a 401(k) alternative

Real estate may be raw land, or it may be improved with buildings, farms, homes, and so forth. You receive income from renting or leasing the property, and you may realize a gain when you sell it.

#5 Dividend-paying high cash value whole life insurance as a 401(k) alternative

Using life insurance as an alternative to a 401(k) plan may seem odd. But it’s not to the hundreds of thousands of individuals, families, and businesses, who are doing it every day. The cash value component of a dividend-paying whole life insurance policy can be used during the insured’s life to provide a guaranteed, predictable retirement income, and for other purposes.

Which 401(k) alternative is best?

What’s the best 401(k) alternative? The comparison chart below will help you decide.

Comparing 401(k) Plans with Alternatives

Does the plan …
401(k)s & 403(b)s
IRAs & Roth IRAs
Muni-cipal Bonds
Gold & Silver
Real Estate
Dividend-paying whole life insurance
Give you guaranteed, predictable growth? N N N N N Y
Lock in your principal and growth, even when the market crashes? N N N N N Y
Give you control of your money or asset without government restrictions and penalties? N N Y Y Y Y
Give you tax-free retirement income? N Only Roths Y N N Y
Let you use your money or asset without penalties or the possibility of incurring a loss, however and whenever you want? N N N N N Y
Let you use your money or asset, yet still have it grow as though you didn’t touch it? N N N N N Y
Allow you to fund your plan every year, without limits imposed by the government? N N Y Y Y Y
Finish funding itself if you die prematurely? N N N N N Y
Tell you the minimum guaranteed value of the plan or asset on the day you expect to tap into it, and at any point along the way? N N N N N Y

 

To learn more about a properly-designed dividend-paying whole life insurance strategy as a 401(k) plan alternative, and to find out what it can do for you, request a FREE Analysis. You’ll receive a referral to an Authorized Advisor (a life insurance agent with advanced training on this concept) who will prepare your Analysis and answer all your questions about the concept.

What Is a 501k Plan and Is It an Alternative for Saving for Retirement?

Let me cut through the hype and give you the scoop: The 501(k) plan is just the latest name the Palm Beach Research Group has given to the concept most people know as Bank On Yourself, which is based on a high cash value dividend-paying whole life insurance policy.

The Palm Beach Group has been bombarding subscribers to various email lists about a “warning” issued by the “Father of the 401(k),” Ted Benna.

The Palm Beach Research Group wants you to watch a long video interview they did with Ted Benna, where he reveals three dangers he sees coming that could impact your 401(k) and IRA accounts. He says these dangers could slash your savings by 40%. And you’re promised that by watching this long interview you’ll learn about “a non-government sponsored 501(k) plan” that may “be the only way left for most Americans to retire today.”

This secret plan is touted as a 401(k) alternative “account,” where Benna and some prominent members of Congress have put some of their savings, to shield them from these three dangers.

Unfortunately, even after you watch the lengthy interview with Ted Benna, you still won’t know what this “account” actually is—until you fork over $75 to $149 to subscribe to the Palm Beach Letter and get your copy of their “new” book, The 501(k) Plan: How to Fully Fund Your Own Worry-Free Retirement—Starting at Any Age.

You can’t judge this book by its cover

[Read more…]

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…]

The Truth About Whole Life Insurance and Why It’s More Than a “Rich Man’s Roth”

I came across an online article by an anonymous blogger who claimed that the only good purpose for whole life insurance was as a rich man’s Roth. He was certain whole life insurance was only for individuals whose high incomes made them ineligible for the tax-saving advantages of a Roth IRA.

That’s actually pretty funny. Why restrict the incredible advantages of whole life insurance—including the tax advantages—only to the wealthy?

Let’s look at how a Roth IRA works and then compare it to a Bank On Yourself-type whole life insurance policy.

How Does a Roth IRA Work?

A Roth Individual Retirement Arrangement (Roth IRA) is an IRS-approved strategy that allows you to invest money you have earned by making contributions to a Roth IRA plan you have set up. You are not allowed to take a tax deduction for your contribution as you are with a traditional IRA. However, none of the money you take from your plan in the future is taxable. As far as the money in your Roth IRA is concerned, you will not be affected by future changes in the tax rate.

How a Roth IRA differs from a traditional IRA

Roth IRAs are quite different from traditional IRAs.

Chart Comparing Key Differences Between Traditional And Roth IRAsWith a traditional IRA, your contributions are tax-deductible. However, when you withdraw money from your traditional IRA—and you must withdraw specific percentages annually, beginning soon after your seventieth birthday—you must pay taxes on everything you withdraw—at whatever the tax rate happens to be at the time.

See the table for a summary of the key differences between a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. [Read more…]

The Surprising Truth About What Happens to the Cash Value of Your Life Insurance Policy When You Die

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I proved the media’s financial gurus are wrong when they claim that it takes years to build cash value in a whole life insurance policy.

In this second part of the series, I’ll show you why all the self-proclaimed experts miss the boat when they claim that whole life insurance policies are a rip-off because you build up all that cash value, then the insurance company keeps it when you die and only gives your heirs the death benefit.

It doesn’t have to be that way, my friend!

Click on the policy statement above to see a larger version

Here’s an actual whole life insurance policy annual statement. (This is a different policy than the one I showed you in Part 1.)

This is a whole life insurance policy purchased on my life in 1992. The statement I’m showing you, issued 17 years later, makes some astounding revelations. [Read more…]

Here’s Proof That the Financial “Experts” Don’t Know About Bank On Yourself Whole Life Insurance Policies

Policy Statement Showing How Whole Life Policies Designed the Bank On Yourself Way are Different From the Policies Most Financial "Gurus" Talk About

Click on the policy statement above to see a larger version

Take a look at this life insurance policy statement. It’s for a policy I took out on September 15, 2002. I’m showing it to you because I want put to rest the misconceptions and untruths the so-called financial “gurus” are spreading about the cash value growth of well-designed dividend-paying whole life insurance policies.

The financial gurus tell you not to buy whole life insurance because your equity in the policy—your cash value—grows too slowly, and you won’t have any equity for the first few years.

This is simply not true of Bank On Yourself-type whole life insurance policies!

You’ll have cash value in the first year with a whole life insurance policy designed the Bank On Yourself way!

[Read more…]

21 Reasons Life Insurance Policy Owners Love the Policy Loan Feature

We recently published a 3-article blog post series inspired by an article that financial planner and investment advisor Michael Kitces wrote about the problems with “banking on yourself” with life insurance policy loans.

Then we invited our readers to tell us what their biggest take-away from these articles was, and to share their personal experience with Bank On Yourself policy loans versus other sources of financing.

The many comments left on these three blog posts demonstrated once again how insightful and articulate our readers are! We’ve published excerpts from some of the comments we received below, where you’ll find 21 reasons why using a Bank On Yourself-type policy loan to access cash beats any other way of accessing capital!

In the first article, we discuss four things Mr. Kitces got right about the Bank On Yourself concept, and then reveal what he got wrong, including five fundamental concepts.

Check out What Michael Kitces Missed in His Bank On Yourself Review, Part 1. [Read more…]

The 8th Wonder of the World? Here’s proof

Recently we “ethically bribed” our readers into learning more about what I’ve called the “8th Wonder of the World.”

You see, the two most common reasons people have for adding the Bank On Yourself method to their financial plan are:

  1. To grow wealth safely and predictably every year – no matter what’s happening in the market or the economy – and to protect themselves from losses in future market crashes
  2. To become their own source of financing when they want to make a major purchase or when an emergency expense comes up – so they can get access to money when they need it and for whatever they want – no questions asked

The second reason – the ability to become your own “banker” – is so compelling that once people use that feature of their Bank On Yourself plan, they often write to tell us what a powerful and emancipating feeling it is. [Read more…]

Michael Kitces’ Big Blind Spot on Bank On Yourself Policy Loans

In his review of Bank On Yourself, Michael Kitces repeatedly harped on the worst-case scenario of a life insurance policy owner taking out a life insurance loan with no regard for ever paying it back.

Kitces rightly pointed out there could be significant tax consequences if a life insurance policy were to lapse due to a large policy loan.

If the interest is not paid, it gets added to the loan balance. Eventually the loan balance could come so close to the cash value securing the loan that the life insurance company—after giving fair warning—would take the cash value to pay off the loan, causing the policy to lapse.

What Kitces didn’t mention is that if the loan balance ever does exceed the available cash value, paying some or all of the loan interest out of pocket generally solves the problem. And he didn’t tell you about the option of taking a policy “reduced paid-up,” as I discussed in our previous article on this topic.

So, we agree with Michael Kitces that a growing loan can cause a life insurance policy to lapse.

But Kitces mostly talks about “when the policy lapses.” Huh? “When”? That’s an odd assumption. It’s like saying, “Don’t take out a mortgage to buy a home, because when you default on your loan …”

Does he really think we are that irresponsible? [Read more…]

Here’s What Michael Kitces Missed in His Bank On Yourself Review, Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I explained that financial planner and investment advisor Michael Kitces wrote a review of the Bank On Yourself concept that redefined my trademarked phrase, “Bank On Yourself” to fit his interpretation of how the concept works.

Now I’ll show you how Kitces missed five critical key requirements of the Bank On Yourself concept—and why it’s so important that you don’t make the same mistake.

To review, to truly be banking on yourself

  1. You must use a dividend-paying whole life insurance policy
  2. The policy must have a “non-direct recognition” policy loan feature
  3. The policy must incorporate a flexible policy design
  4. You, as the policy owner, must be an “honest banker”
  5. You must work with a knowledgeable advisor

Let’s See How Michael Kitces Misunderstood—or Simply Missed—Each of These Five Requirements of Bank On Yourself:

1. You must use a dividend-paying whole life insurance policy

[Read more…]