• The Expenses in your Retirement Plan are Blowing your Financial Independence

    Posted on November 9th, 2010 James 2 comments




    While incomes have gone up the cost of living has gone up much faster and in California the sales tax on your goods is through the roof. The idea of financial independence may be just an idea but it is supposed to be about replacing your current income so that you’re not working forever. Only a few tools will be reliable enough going forward to get you there. Everyone must simply have some tax-free retirement funds if they are going to survive and tools that might not be subjected to the Mandatory Retirement Distributions (MRDs) which require you to take funds out of your retirement plan whether you need them or not and if you don’t, you are penalized 50% on that distribution + the ordinary tax which usually equals 70%.

    The idea of pooling money together for investment purposes seems to have started in Europe in the mid-1800s. The first pooled fund in the U.S. was created in 1893 for the faculty and staff ofHarvard University and on March 21, 1924 the first official mutual fund was born. It was called the Massachusetts Investors Trust. It came to life when three Boston securities executives pooled their money together, not knowing how popular and lucrative the funds would become for the financial companies that peddled them.

    In recent commentary, insiders have adopted a more skeptical outlook on mutual funds. Richard Rutner, author of The Trouble With Mutual Funds, said in 2002 that “Most investors in mutual funds have no idea what they are invested in, which is the way the industry wants it.”[1] Others have said that mutual funds are troubled because they are rewarded for the amount of money they attract, not the amount of money they earn.[2]

    SEC Chairman Arthur levitt, Jr. warned of growing unfairness in the relationship between individual investors and mutual funds in January 2001. Mr. Levitt made the following comment:

    “There are a number of instances that, quite frankly, do not honor an investor’s rights. Instances where…hidden costs hurt an investor’s bottom line, where spin and hype mask the true performance of a mutual fund, and where accounting tricks and sleight of hand dresses up a fund’s financial results.” [3]

    What most people don’t know is that there are five separate bills that mutual funds charge.[4] The best way to determine if an investment is effective for you or not is to dollarize the benefit or the burden. When you invest in the typical mutual fund (assuming outside of a qualified retirement plan), you face costs that erode your benefit. Chances are you’re not aware of them, they’re not in your prospectus and your broker isn’t going to sit down and tell you about them. The five costs of mutual fund investing are:

    1. Tax costs – excessive capital gains from active trading.

    2. Transaction costs – the cost of the trades themselves.

    3. Opportunity costs – dollars taken out of portfolios for a fund’s safekeeping.

    4. Sales charges – both seen and hidden.

    5. Expense ratio, or “management fees” – no end to increases in site. This is a calculation based on the operating costs of the fund divided by the average amount of assets under management.

    How do fund expenses affect you? Well, with the expense ratio, which averages 1.6% per year, sales charges of 0.5%, turnover generated portfolio transactions costs of 0.7% and opportunity costs of 0.3%—when funds hold cash rather than remain fully invested in stocks— the average mutual fund investor loses 3.1% of their investment returns every year just on fees. While this might not seem like much on the surface, costs and fees alone could consume 31% of a 10% market return. Think about that. You could be losing almost a third of your return before it’s even taxed. You’re losing a third of your return just for the cost of maintaining your investment. Add in the 1.5% capital gains tax bill that the average fund investor pays each year and that figure shoots up to 46% of your return being lost to fees and expenses, nearly half of a potential 10% return.[5] When you hear that, don’t you feel like you’re taking one or two steps back instead of going forward?

    According to Richard Rutner, “No one denies that the average mutual fund returns 2% less per year than the stock market returns in general (see below on the breakdown). Yet the mutual fund industry spends billions of shareholder dollars to promote its money managers as experts who can manage investor’s dollars with skill. The vast majority of mutual funds (94% according to a recent five-year survey by Lipper Analytical Services) have underperformed the stock market as a whole.”[6]

    James Burns

    Retirement Rescue Solutions <click>

    [1] . The Trouble With Mutual Funds, Richard Rutner; 2002.

    [2] . George Soros (paraphrased). Soros is famously known for “breaking the Bank of England” on Black Wednesday in 1992. With an estimated current net worth of around $8.5 billion, he is ranked by Forbes as the 27th-richest person in America.

    [3] Arthur Levitt. The Future for America’s Investors. http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/spch457.htm.

    [4] The Trouble With Mutual Funds, Richard Rutner; 2002 at p. 57.

    [5] .Bogle Financial Markets Research Center. March 2001. http://www.vanguard.com/bogle_site/march212001.html.

    [6] . The Trouble With Mutual Funds, Richard Rutner; 2002 at p. 7 – quoting Lipper Services. http://www.lipperweb.com/..

  • Uncle Sam’s Snake Oil

    Posted on October 4th, 2010 James 1 comment

    Uncle Sam and his band of merry-men, better known as Congress, have been pushing snake oil on the unsuspecting public in the form of retirement plans. But wait, isn’t a pension plan one of the perks we look to when shopping for an employer? Well, not all pension planning is created equal and in most cases, quite disastrous.

    Distributions from all qualified plans must begin no later than April 1st of the calendar year following the year that the participant attains age 70 1/2, or the calendar year in which the employee retires. Special rules apply if the distribution is made to a 5 percent owner of the business. The purpose of minimum distribution rules for retirement plans is to force the owner or participant of the pension plan to withdraw money from the plans, thus triggering an income tax on these monies. On April 16, 2002, the Internal Revenue Service issued final regulations as to these distributions.

    Generally, the idea pursuant to the regulations is to have the owner or participant of the pension plan begin taking the money out of the pension plan beginning at the later of when he finishes working or age 70.5. One purpose of this is to insure that these monies will be subject to income tax prior to the death of the owner.[1]

    Based on the current system the government has created with pension plans, the average retired couple will pay eight to twelve times more in taxes on their IRAs and 401(k)s during their retirement years than they saved during their contribution and accumulation years.[2] Generally, it is understood that you put money into your pension plan and tax is deferred and this is a great thing. Unfortunately, you may well be in a higher tax bracket if your pension accumulation is done right.

    In addition to a higher tax bracket upon reaching retirement, many people find themselves with a free and clear home; they no longer have mortgage interest deductions to offset income tax. Many Americans find they are now paying back everything they saved in taxes during their accumulation and contributions years within the first two years of distributions. Therefore, there is an insidious income tax awaiting most people and if they didn’t plan their estates, double taxation in the form of both income and estate tax.

    Many postpone the transfer of their qualified funds until age 59 ½ in order to avoid the 10% tax penalty. Sometimes by delaying the payment of taxes, retirees will find themselves in a higher tax bracket after age 59 ½ because Congress could raise tax rates because of a political change. Inevitably, one must pay the piper now or later.

    What is the answer? Simple, savings grade life insurance. This type of life insurance is not the same as the one you get countless letters about in the mail. This is life insurance that is focused on building up a triple compound because it is tax deferred. The difference between the deferral that life insurance experiences and pension plans is that when it comes time for payout, life insurance is received as a loan. This is a powerful concept because the proceeds will not be taxed; loans are not a form of taxable income. However, as a loan you will have interest on the payments. Most people mistakenly think they are going to pay interest on their own money with life insurance. While in theory that is true, the best insurance carriers provide for zero wash loans where the interest basically is forgiven or taken out of the death benefit when a person passes on. We are talking about real life insurance not the typical death insurance that most people have because you use it while you’re alive.

    The best candidates for creating amazing wealth with Savings grade life insurance are those in the age rages of thirty to fifty. Once committed and in the proper product it is foreseeable they will retire wealthy and without the annoying taxation that surrounds a pension plan. There are even strategies to start a contribution plan to your investment that only requires repositioning your current finances.

    Social Security received a 2.7 percent boost in 2005, but Medicare will continue to eat up much of the increase and when the 79 million qualifying Americans sign-up – for Social Security look out below. This does not even account for the bail out with TARP funds that President Obama awarded bankers and the fact we are headed for Debtflation.

    James Burns, Esq.
    949) 231-9979

    [1] . Mitchell J. Kassoff, Basic Taxation and other Implications of Pension Plan Distributions, <http://www.franatty.cnc.net/pension.htm>

    [2] . Douglas R. Andrews: Missed Fortune – Dispel the Money Myth-Conceptions- Isn’t It Time You Became Wealthy? p. 226.

  • Long Term Nursing Care – are your prepared?

    Posted on September 29th, 2010 James No comments

    Many states have a high cost for long term care and nursing but California is very explosive in expenses.

    State Median Annual Care Costs for 2010 are:

    Nursing Home Care

    1. Private Room                                                      $87,345
    2. Semi-private Room                                          $73,000

    Assisted Living Facility

    1. Private, one bedroom                                     $42,000

    Adult Day Health Care

    1. Adult day health care                                    $20,020

    Home Care

    1. Home health aide                                           $46,904
    2. Homemaker Services                                   $45,646

    The statistics are that 7 in 10 people will require one of these types of long term care in their senior years. The question is what have you done to take care of this potential problem?

    You need to look at a long term care policy or better yet, an insurance policy that provides for supplemental retirement income but also has living benefits if you need them like nursing care. To ignore the numbers is to ignore a fact like you’re going to get old and that everyone has to pay taxes. You need to be responsible to your loved ones and in order to preserve all that you are and have worked for from going out the window to pay for this.

    James Burns, Esq.


  • Domestic Financial Terrorism – How do we defend?

    Posted on September 27th, 2010 James No comments

    The level of destruction on our financial system is incredible compared to what even Timothy McVee did as a domestic terrorist. You have to ask yourself who do some of these bankers and investment firms work for when you look at what they’ve done to the once wealthiest nation in the world.

    Right now we’ve got $2 trillion in short-term debt that has to be refinanced this year of 2010 and China, India and Russia are not buying. This is not counting the extra deficit spending which should top $1.35 trillion this year…more or less. The fact the countries we’ve relied on are not buying means we have to fire up the printing presses again. We would already acknowledge that we are at a 10% inflation but the money folks have been using tricky phrases like “core inflation” which ignores half the things we spend money on so that way they can keep the numbers looking low.

    A great book called This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen Reinhard and Kenneth Rogoff shows that EVERY TIME a nation’s debt went above 90% of GDP or Growth Domestic Product…the nation failed. The book studies 25 countries over 800 years and there were NO exceptions to the 90% rule. Every nation that ran their deficits to this 90% ratio is now off the map or turned Third World.

    Right now, the US is above 90% and there appears no way to bring it down for decades unless some obscure genius comes out of the woodwork as they are not in the White House, Treasury or Fed.

    It is unclear what Americans will do, especially for their retirement as the very tool our bankers use against us (stock market) they expect us to hand over our life’s savings and just be ok with negative 30 or 40% loses. You know, its just the market reacting and it goes up and down. Why is that Ok? Why should we accept losses that take us forever to recover just to get back where we started be considered alright?

    We need to redo some of the Healthcare Reform Act that President Obama so valiantly promoted before 2013 when our investments could be ravaged with a sur-tax just because we are in a certain income bracket and that bracket is not hard to be in if you live in a state with a high cost of living. Where is Sarah Palin and the Tea Party when we need them.

    It is time to look at guaranteed opportunities that does not go down when the market goes down. When Wall Street was once honorable a man named Benjamin Graham (mentor to Warren Buffet) extolled what was an investment. It preserved principal and gave an adequate return. We need to get back to this simple idea and quit trying to find home runs since base hits get you to home plate just as well.

    We also need tax-free strategies to weather the storm our own government and their brainy bankers have left before us. It was like turning on the gas to an already smoldering economy.

    James Burns