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

“New” book? As it turns out, this is not a new book at all! They simply slapped a new title on a book they published a couple years ago about alternative retirement investments, and added a foreword by Ted Benna. The old book was called The Big Black Book of Income Secrets. In fact, at least once in the “new” book, they forgot to change the name and they call their “501(k) Plan” book The Big Black Book of Income Secrets.

You can read my review of this “new” book under its original title, The Big Black Book of Income Secrets, here. My review points out all the red flags regarding the strategies covered in the book that should cause you concern. In addition, many of these strategies are not new at all, and some are exceedingly complex.

The Palm Beach Group Used to Call the “501(k) Plan” “President Reagan’s Secret 702(j) Retirement Account,” and Before That, the “770 Account”

These are all names they gave to what most people know as the Bank On Yourself concept I’ve been talking about since 2001. They’re using sleight of hand, hoping to keep you from getting the full scoop for free. You can download my 20-page Report on this strategy—5 Simple Steps to Bypass Wall Street, Beat the Banks at Their Own Game and Take Control of Your Financial Future—right here for FREE.

When you download this free report, you’ll get the full story about the “501(k) Plan”—minus the misinformation and hype—that Palm Beach Group wants you to pay good money for. See what they got right—and wrong—about the Bank On Yourself concept in my blog posts about the 770 account and President Reagan’s Secret 702(j) Retirement account.

Why Does the Palm Beach Research Group Keep Changing the Names of Its Products and Strategies?

Because if you knew the earlier names they gave to their books and strategies, you could just Google them and get the scoop—for free. Google would direct you to Bank On Yourself and then the Palm Beach Research Group couldn’t trick you into paying as much as $3,000 or more for each for their newsletter and advisory services.

Something Happened That the “Father of the 401(k)” Never Foresaw

Photo of Ted Benna, Widely Credited as the “Father of the 401(k)”

Ted Benna, Widely Credited as the “Father of the 401(k)”

Ted Benna is widely credited with finding a way to capitalize on provisions of the Internal Revenue Code Section 401(k) to create a way for working men and women to augment their retirement savings, beyond the pensions many workers received.

But Big Business and Wall Street perverted the 401(k) concept in ways that Benna couldn’t possibly foresee, and in 2011 Ted Benna said he had created “a monster” that should be “blown up.”

Our hats are off to this man with integrity and the courage of his convictions.

3 Big Takeaways from Ted Benna’s Presentation on the 501(k) Plan

There are three key points that Ted Benna made in his recent interview for Palm Beach Group:

1. The first was the danger that government-sponsored retirement plans could be “repealed”

Benna says, “There could be a repeal of the tax advantages these plans offer. So either you won’t be able to put any more money pre-tax into accounts like 401(k)s and traditional IRAs, or the amount you can put in each year will be drastically reduced.”

2. Benna says he believes the next stock and bond market crash is imminent and could wipe out up to 40% of the typical portfolio

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He says, “If you’re retired—or on the verge of retirement—and you’re trying to plan a few years down the road, this is something you’ve got to pay serious attention to. Because, if you’re planning your retirement expecting your portfolio will grow at, say, 5% or 6% a year, what happens if another ’08 comes our way next month? What happens to your retirement accounts? … I lost more than I like to admit in my own 401(k) 10 years ago. So I try to learn from my mistakes.”

3. 401(k)s and IRAs have been “hijacked” by Wall Street

“The third danger is fees. This is more of a ‘hidden’ danger. And it’s already here. It’s hidden because it’s not as drastic as, say, a 40% drop in stocks or bonds. But, over the long run, it’s just as deadly. … The average household is paying $155,000 in fees over the course of their lifetime. That’s a significant amount of cash. And all this money is going to Wall Street.”

Benna makes the point that excessive fees charged by mutual fund companies and plan administrators are robbing you of up to half of your nest egg.

I’ve been warning of these dangers and others for years. For starters, see …

Want more information about America’s most popular (and scariest?) retirement plan? Just go to the Bank On Yourself website and type 401(k) in the little box that says “Search Bank On Yourself.”

Benna Says the 501(k) Plan, Better Known as Bank On Yourself, Avoids the Dangers That Traditional Retirement Plan Accounts Face

He’s right. In fact, I’ve been saying that for years.

Benna says that for these reasons and more (including the tax advantages), he has, in his words, “put most of my money in the 501(k).”

Ted’s got it right. The 401(k) is a troubled concept. In fact, the idea of individual wage earners investing their life savings in the stock market is a troubled concept.

And, as Ted Benna eloquently explained, a plan such as Bank On Yourself (which Ted and the Palm Beach Research Group have chosen to dub the 501(k) Plan) neatly sidesteps all those problems, and provides some additional advantages, as well.

So What Exactly Is a “501(k) Plan”?

“501(k) Plan” is just the latest mysterious-sounding name the Palm Beach boys have given to their strategy that copies Bank On Yourself. And Bank On Yourself, as we are always happy to explain, is a safe savings and wealth-building strategy based on a specific type of high cash value dividend-paying whole life insurance.

No, it’s not the kind of permanent life insurance that most self-proclaimed financial gurus love to hate. There are major differences. But it is a form of supercharged permanent life insurance.

Want proof that’s what the Palm Beach Group is talking about? In the transcript of their long interview with Ted Benna, Palm Beach includes a quote, attributed to the Wall Street Journal. Note that they’ve removed the Journal’s identification of the product and replaced it with their own vague words, “this account.”

A look at the Wall Street Journal report they’ve quoted shows what the Journal actually said back in 2010: “Permanent life insurance has ‘become a tax shelter for the rich.’”

We include that Wall Street Journal quote only to demonstrate what the Palm Beach Research Group is talking about. You will realize that permanent life insurance is not a tax shelter merely “for the rich” when you read our article, “The Truth About Whole Life Insurance and Why It’s More Than a ‘Rich Man’s Roth’.”

In the interview Ted Benna did for the Palm Beach Research Group, he discussed what you’ll find in The 501(k) Plan book they are promoting. He said you’ll learn the details of this “account” and how to open one, in the first chapter of the book.

And Chapter 1 of the book is all about “Income for Life,” which is yet another name the Palm Beach Group gave to the concept and strategy more commonly known as Bank On Yourself.

It’s crystal clear. The Palm Beach Group would like to sell you information we believe you’re entitled to have for free. And we’ve been giving that information away since 2001.

How to Open Your Own “501(k) Plan” or Account

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Get instant access to the FREE 18-page Special Report, that reveals how super-charged dividend paying whole life insurance lets you bypass Wall Street, fire your banker, and take control of your financial future.

… or what you now realize is better known as a Bank On Yourself plan.

You need to talk with a life insurance advisor who has been trained in the special requirements of high cash value life insurance policy design. But the Palm Beach Group makes an outrageously untrue claim, on page 46 of their book, The 501(k) Plan:

The government regulates the fees life insurance agents can charge you. So from a cost perspective, it doesn’t matter whom you choose. You’ll pay the same.”

Let me set the record straight: It absolutely matters who you choose to help you open your 501(k) plan …

The government does not regulate the fees, and even if the amount you pay were the same from company to company, which it is not, the advisor has great discretion in how he structures your plan. Done one way, he gets paid about what life insurances advisors traditionally get paid.

But done with your best interests in mind, the advisor’s compensation is slashed by 50% ‑ 70%, and that “extra” money goes into building your policy’s cash value. Bank On Yourself Authorized Advisors are committed to this concept and are willing to accept a compensation cut, knowing you’ll be so pleased with the performance of your plan that you’ll refer your advisor to your family and friends, as well. In fact, that happens all the time.

Talk to Someone with Your Interests in Mind to Start Your 501(k) or Bank On Yourself Plan

To talk with an advisor with extensive training in this area who cares about your welfare, you want to talk with a Bank On Yourself Authorized Advisor. It may surprise you to know that only about one out of every 20 insurance advisors who apply to become Bank On Yourself Authorized Advisors are actually accepted. The training and commitment required are that tough.

So go to the source that’s been open and straightforward with you from Day One, Bank On Yourself. Request a FREE Analysis and custom-tailored recommendations at no cost or obligation. You’ll get a referral to an Bank On Yourself Authorized Advisor (a life insurance advisor with advanced training on this concept) who will prepare your Analysis and personalized recommendations.

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…]

Austrian Economics—What the Heck IS It?

What is “Austrian economics”? Let’s break it down:

Economics: “A social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.” Ooo-eee! That’s gotta be a page-turner! Thank you, Merriam-Webster.

Austrian economics: “A school of economic thought that is based on methodological individualism.” Gads! But thank you, Wikipedia.

I never studied economics in college. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t take economics in high school either. Or if I did, I slept through it.

Ron Paul, 2012 Republican Presidential Contender

But “Austrian Economics” is a phrase you hear from time to time—even if it’s said in code, like what Ron Paul said following the 2012 Iowa presidential primary. “I’m waiting for the day when we can say, ‘We’re all Austrians now!’”

That struck me as odd. As Matthew Yglesias colorfully observed in his Slate article on Austrian economics, “The average Republican presidential candidate would sooner officiate at a gay marriage than praise Europe, yet here was Paul pledging allegiance to Vienna. What did he mean? Why would we all be Austrians?”

[Read more…]

52% of Americans Will Have to Reduce Their Lifestyle in Retirement

52% of American households are at risk of not being able to maintain their standard of living in retirement – even when factoring in potential proceeds of a reverse mortgage.

That’s according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Let’s take a look at three critical reasons for that… and what you must do now to protect yourself…

Problem #1: People continue to live longer, but aren’t working longer

According to the Social Security Administration, 25% of people turning 65 today will live past 90, and one out of ten will live past 95, yet most financial planners base their projections of how much money you’ll need on your living to age 85 or so.

What if you’re one of the lucky ones who hangs on until 100 or longer? And just how “lucky” will you feel if you can’t provide for yourself during those final years?

Solution: Assume you’ll live to at last age 100 when determining how long your money will need to last you.

Problem #2: Underestimating health-care and long-term care costs in retirement

The numbers are shocking, and almost no one is accurately accounting for this: A 65-year-old couple retiring now will need $245,000 just to cover out-of-pocket health-care costs during retirement, PLUS another $255,000 to cover one average stay for one person in a nursing home.

Whoa! That’s half a million dollars you’ll need just for medical care… but most people close to retirement don’t even have that much in total retirement savings. [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…]

Why Your Efforts to Grow a Retirement Nest Egg in the Stock Market May Disappoint You

You’re not reckless. You don’t like to take unnecessary risk. But you don’t want to run out of money in retirement. And your financial advisor says you must invest in the market to provide for a secure retirement.

Do you really have to take those risks? What if I told you that hundreds of thousands of people are building their retirement nest egg without even going near the stock market … or the real estate market … or precious metals?

When people think of “the stock market,” they often equate it with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) they see quoted everywhere.

The Dow is the most recognized market index in the world, and looking at its performance can help answer the question: Does your advisor’s advice make any sense?

The Dow has gone up over time – but has it gone up enough to make it worth the risk?

Only you can decide if it was worth the risk to you. But to make an intelligent decision, you first need the answers to two questions:

  1. How much has the Dow gone up?
  2. What were the risks?

Only then can you decide if it was worth it. [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…]

Here’s What Michael Kitces Missed in His Bank On Yourself Review, Part 1

Financial planner and investment advisor Michael Kitces understands a lot about many areas of money and finance. He has been to school. He has twice as many letters after his name as he has in his name. Literally.

Surprisingly, Kitces does not understand some basic fundamentals of the Bank On Yourself strategy for personal finance.

Kitces wrote a review of the Bank On Yourself concept. And while he got some of the fundamentals right, he missed some very important points.

From time to time, readers ask us about Kitces’ article, so I want to clear up the misconceptions in it. I’ll cover four things he got right about the Bank On Yourself strategy, then I’ll reveal the things Kitces got wrong—including five fundamental concepts.

Here’s What Michael Kitces Got Right in His Bank On Yourself Review …

In his Bank On Yourself review, Michael Kitces correctly stated four things:

1. Kitces: Permanent life insurance “gives an insurance company the means to provide policy owners a personal loan at favorable interest rates, because the cash value provides collateral for the loan”

Well stated! You can’t take out a life insurance policy loan unless you have a life insurance policy with enough cash value to serve as collateral for the loan. And the interest charged for policy loans is generally at competitive, below-market rates.

2. Kitces: “Even as cash value life insurance operates as collateral for a life insurance policy loan, it also remains invested, earning a rate of return that slows the erosion of the net equity in the policy”

[Read more…]