7 Warning Flags and Financial Risk Factors We Face Today

You know people have gotten too complacent about investing in the stock market and what it takes to grow real wealth when…

  1. People bragging about becoming 401(k) millionaires and posting their balances on social media has become a “thing” (remember when everyone from the company executives to the janitor were bragging at the water cooler about being real estate millionaires, just before the last crash?)
  2. People start to think they can actually retire comfortably on $1,000,000 (you can’t, because the IRS will take at least 25% – 33% off the top, and you’ll need $500,000 just to cover out-of-pocket healthcare and long-term care costs in retirement)
  3. The personal savings rate fell to its third-lowest on record at the end of 2017
  4. Consumer spending is rising, and more of it is being fueled by debt (the last quarter registered the second-largest percentage increase in charge-card debt in a decade)
  5. Inflation is taking a bigger bite out of Americans’ paychecks (real average hourly earnings of 80% of employees fell by half a percent in January – its fifth decline in six months)
  6. Hundreds of major companies have price earnings ratios that are higher than during the height of the 2000 and 2007 bubbles
  7. For a decade now, central banks have pretended they can print up prosperity (which they’ve done at a magnitude beyond imagination… and we’re supposed to have blind faith that they know what they’re doing)

[Read more…] “7 Warning Flags and Financial Risk Factors We Face Today”

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?”

Why You’ll Need $500,000+ in Retirement for Medical Expenses Alone

Retirees spend more than a third of their Social Security benefits on out-of-pocket medical costs, on average, according to a new study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Even after factoring in other sources of income, medical spending still took a huge bite – 18% – of seniors’ total retirement income.

A 65-year-old couple retiring now will need $275,000 to cover out-of-pocket health care costs during retirement, according to a study by Fidelity.

The news gets even worse, however, because these numbers do not include the cost of nursing home or home health care.

That can range from $40,000 a year for home health aides… to over $85,000 a year for a semi-private room in a nursing home, according to the Genworth 2017 Annual Cost of Care Survey: Costs Continue to Rise Across All Care Settings. And if you prefer a private nursing care room, you’ll have to cough up almost $100,000 a year.

Ignore the likelihood of needing long-term care services at your own peril: At least 70% of people over age 65 will require long-term care services, and more than 40% will need nursing home care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Based on the average cost of a nursing home room and the average length of stay – which is 2.8 years – you would need over $250,000 to cover a single stay. [Read more…] “Why You’ll Need $500,000+ in Retirement for Medical Expenses Alone”

Savings Rate Falls to 10-Year Low

Americans are saving much less and spending more – even though their real disposable incomes are unchanged.

The savings rate just fell to a 10-year low of 3.1%, according to the Commerce Department.

What’s most worrisome to economists is that savings rates below 4% occurred before the last two major market crashes, as people felt what turned out to be a false sense of security, due to rising stock prices and/or home values.

Looks like it’s déjà vu all over again…

I recently wrote how the current bull market is the second longest in modern history. If it manages to last until summer, it will become the longest-running bull market at 9½ years.

A bull market has never made it to its 10th birthday.

In addition, historically, the longer a bull market lasts, the harder and deeper it crashes.

Which indicates the optimism that’s caused Americans to save less and spend more is misplaced. And, to take a line from the movie Grease, that means a lot of people are cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

The vast majority of Americans have little or no savings outside their retirement accounts, according to the latest Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances. [Read more…] “Savings Rate Falls to 10-Year Low”

Nobel Economist Warns of Irrational Exuberance in the Stock Market

Richard Thaler, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in October of 2017, observed…

We seem to be living in the riskiest moment of our lives, and yet the stock market seems to be napping.”

Thaler has made a career of studying irrational and temptation-driven economic behaviors.

The current bull market is the second longest in modern history. If it manages to last until August 22, it will become the longest running bull market, at 9½ years.

No bull market has ever made it to its 10th birthday.

Which brings me to a very simple, but profound question…

What Happens When a Bull Market Ends?

[Read more…] “Nobel Economist Warns of Irrational Exuberance in the Stock Market”

Federal Reserve Survey: Your 401(k) and IRA Won't Give You a Decent Retirement

If you’re counting on your 401(k) or IRA for retirement income, I have some bad news for you…

A new analysis of the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances by the Center for Retirement Research demonstrates that 401(k) plans are destined to fail millions of Americans.

The Federal Reserve survey is updated every three years, and the latest one reveals that, in spite of the long-running bull market and an improving economy … the typical couple nearing retirement will only receive $600 per month from their 401(k)s and IRAs combined.

That $600 a month is not indexed for inflation, so its purchasing power will decline over time.

And that $600 a month is likely to be the only source of income people will have to supplement Social Security because the typical household has virtually no other savings outside of its 401(k) and IRAs.

The Retirement Savings Shortfall News is Even Worse for Younger Workers with 401(k)s

[Read more…] “Federal Reserve Survey: Your 401(k) and IRA Won't Give You a Decent Retirement”

Older Folks Say it's Not Fun Getting Old When You're Worried About Running Out Of Money

Record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working today, and millions are doing it by need, not by choice.

Too often, the work these folks find involves back-breaking, menial labor.

Many people are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances, according to a recent article in The Washington Post.

And polls routinely show that most older people are more worried about running out of money than they are of dying. They lament it’s not fun getting old.

Thanks to a massive shift from guaranteed lifetime pensions to you’re-on-your-own-good-luck-with-that 401(k)s and IRAs…

People are forced to guess how long they might live and budget accordingly, knowing that one big health problem or a year in a nursing home could wipe it all out.”

[Read more…] “Older Folks Say it's Not Fun Getting Old When You're Worried About Running Out Of Money”

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 devour 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.”

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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?

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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.

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.” 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?”