How Financial Institutions Make Money #2

September 20, 2013

I can’t believe it has been almost four years since my first “how financial institutions make money” post. Crazy how fast things go by so quickly. This initial post continues to be one of my most active even today and the primary path that people come to this post is through Google. It’s interesting that so many people are simply Googling (love that this is now a verb) the question: How do financial institutions make money? Honestly, I believe many people are pretty fed up with how things have been going financially and yet the Big Three (IRS, Wall Street, Banks) keep making money hand-over-fist.

For the most part, people are finally seeking to educate themselves first before just following another opinion. Opinions drive me crazy. I’m mean, I certainly like mine but who cares other than me, right? Mint Chocolate Chip is the BEST ice cream flavor of all time. No Kelly, says you, “_____ is the best ice cream flavor!” Who’s right? Who cares? Seriously, no matter what you say I still love Mint Chocolate Chip.

When it comes to the title of this blog “How financial institutions make money” there are no opinions. There’s only truth and the truth could care less about opinions. All of us must understand that there are four rules which are deeply cherished by the IRS, Wall Street and Banks. These rules allow all three to work together.  They allow all three to ensure that they’re winning. They allow all three to redirect the risk of success entirely upon you. I thought we’d review these four rules today. You’ll find that they are extremely simple but they have huge implications. It’s interesting to me that even the Bible talks of a cord of three strands being unbreakable…these three (IRS, Wall Street and Banks – from now on referred to as “IWB”) are most certainly intertwined together and are so hard, if not impossible, to break.

Rule #1: They want and need your money

Now, before you pass this one off as too simple to carry any weight then please take a moment to think about the importance of this one (it’s #1 for a reason).  This one does not require much explanation. All three, IWB, want our money and need our money in order to both operate and turn a profit.

Rule #2: They want and need your money on an ongoing basis

What would happen to Walmart, Coca Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds, Budweiser or any other company in the country if beginning today every customer only bought their product(s) one more time? That’s it. Just one more purchase. They would obviously have a HUGE day if every customer placed their order today but come tomorrow the alarms would be blaring. Nobody shows up again and these businesses are out of business very quickly. Think of all of the employees that would be unemployed or all the buildings that would be vacant or all the farmers who would have no one to sell their produce to…the results would be devastating and felt by all.

Is this example any different for the IWB? No. They must have your money and they must have it on an ongoing basis. If they don’t succeed at this very simple truth then they fail as well. Now, we could dig in real deep to show how, unlike the above mentioned companies, it is virtually impossible for them to fail. They can’t. They won’t. If they actually do fail then along comes Joe Taxpayer to bail them out so that they don’t fail. No matter what happens, they get our money on an ongoing basis.

So how do they accomplish Rule #2? They create financial products that we buy and that we “need”. Banks offer checking and savings accounts, CDs, money markets, loans, credit cards, etc. Wall Street offers financial investment accounts that we contribute to and hopefully grow and the IRS controls the tax implications and the rules behind all of it.

Rule #3: They want and need to hang on to your money for as long as they can

Does the bank like it when you withdraw your money? Of course they don’t. Keep in mind; their liabilities are their greatest assets.  Your money on deposit with them is a liability to the bank – they owe you that money at a promised interest rate; however, they’re turning that money over and lending it to others at a higher rate. We must understand that there is a difference between liabilities and debt. Debt is no good and we must get rid of it but liabilities when managed properly can create a bunch of wealth for us just as they do for the banks.  What happens if everyone goes to the bank the same day to withdraw their funds? It’s called a “run on the bank” and the bank would have to shut their doors or be faced with bankruptcy. They are never in a position to get everyone their deposits back on any given day because they don’t have it. They need our money, they need it on an ongoing basis and they need to hold on to it as long as possible.

The government is the worse with Rule #3. Why do they have so many rules when it comes to you using (whether you simply need it or just want it) your funds in your qualified plan accounts (IRAs, Roths, 401ks, etc.)?  First, let’s make sure we get something very clear here – any funds in your government, qualified plans are not your funds. The government owns and controls that entire transaction. If it is truly your money then why are there so many rules around accessing the funds? Why do you have to wait until you’re 59 ½ to touch it without penalty? What if you choose to retire at age 50? If these accounts are truly in your best interest then why is there any penalty at all? Why are you required to take money out if you hit 70 ½ (Required Minimum Distribution)? What if it doesn’t fit your plan or it’s not in your best interest to access those funds at that point? The number of rules and regulations on these accounts are insane.  You have NO control over them ultimately. Plus, the government can change the rules at any point to serve their financial needs. So, the IRS loves Rule #3. The banks love it as well. Wall Street makes a killing off of it too because they get to manage the money within these products. Think about it: you’re 35 years old with an IRA and you can’t touch it without penalty for 24 more years! Wall Street has a client for a LONG time!

They want to hang on to your money as long as they can and the rules and the product design allow them to do so.

Rule #4: They want and need to give your money back to you as slowly as possible

This one is similar to Rule #3 but it has a slight twist. They want to hold on to our money for as long as possible therefore they create rules to give it back to us as slowly as possible. If this isn’t the case then please explain the 10% tax penalty for withdrawing funds from a qualified plan retirement account prior to being 59 ½ years old. It’s your money (after all, you’re the one who made the deposits) so why are there so many rules and why are there penalties for you if you choose to access your funds? Answer: Rule #4. The government does not want you to be in a position of control because that takes away from their control so they create rules. These rules are based around them maintaining control so they limit your access. What’s shocking is that people continue to fund these accounts. Wall Street loves it because it creates a great deal of job security because they know you won’t access this money due to the rules and penalties so they have your money under management for many many years. The banks love it too because you’re not in a position to access capital for large capital purchases so they offer you a loan…and we know how much banks love that one.

These four rules are always at the center. When you begin to plan your trek up the mountain of retirement planning you can always find these four rules working against you…if you just pay attention.

Mt. Everest – descending is the most dangerous

Are there options? Are there ways to minimize the effect of these four and create a more effective plan up the mountain? Yes there are. Remember, for those who die climbing Mt. Everest, 70% of them die on the way down. The descent is the very most dangerous part of that journey. It’s no different financially. People are just climbing up without an understanding of how these rules affect them and more importantly, how they affect them on the way down. What do I mean by that statement? Well, if you have a large sum in your qualified retirement account, or that’s your plan at least, then please tell me the tax implications on that money during your retirement? You don’t know. No one does…it’s impossible because you’d have to literally know the future. You see, any financial professional can only plan one year at a time with those types of accounts because we don’t even know what taxes will be or what the distribution rules will be for next year. If you’re in this position then you can truly only plan one year at a time and that’s a very dangerous position to be in. The descent will most likely not work out in your favor. You must not only plan to effectively get up the mountain top but also to get back down to base camp alive (i.e. be financially independent through your life expectancy). With this knowledge your trek up the mountain may take a different path and while others are falling off you’re holding on just fine. That’s our expertise. That’s what we do for our clients.

There are solutions. There are answers to minimize the Four Rules’ overall negative effect on your plan; however, you have to be willing to learn. I don’t care what financial position you’re in, you must be willing to have a few discussions with a student-type mentality.

Kelly O’Connor – kelly.oconnor@mtnfinancial.com

303.578.9708

Website  –  YouTube  –  Facebook


Inflation: devastating or full of opportunity. Which do you want?

May 25, 2012

Banks lending again? What does that mean for you and your money? More than you may think.

Did you notice there are some banks that have begun to lift their tight lending requirements? For example, Key Bank here in Denver is now offering 100% financing again. So, what’s the big deal? Before we take a look at what this means, let’s ask a few questions:

  • Have there been any bad times before in the history of the world financially? Of course.
  • During those bad times, even the Great Depression, were there any people who made money? Of course.
  • Was it the people who planned and prepared or people who just let stuff happen to them that were most successful? Obviously those who planned.
  • So which one do you want to be and when do you want to get started?
  • If you could truly put yourself in a position to take advantage of the opportunities you have to earn your family’s financial independence even in bad times, then shouldn’t you be thinking the current economic situation is an opportunity and not a “bad thing”?

Inflation is going to do some real damage to our money if we’re not prepared. Stop and think about this, if you had $1,000,000 and you lost $200,000, you’re down to $800k and that money just stays the same. If we have 7% inflation that $800k is only going to buy $400k of retirement, or $400,000 of goods and services a decade from now.

  • What’s your strategy to make sure that you don’t get hurt by this inflation?
  • More importantly, are there any strategies available that would help you actually take advantage of that inflation to your benefit?

There are strategies that have been implemented for over a century.

Now, let’s get back to the banks…like what Key Bank is doing. The banking system received an unbelievable amount of [printed] money (inflation Step #1) that our government created when TARP was passed. We’ve discussed before but do you remember Step #2 that is required for inflation to take hold? Step #2, the printed money has to be circulated. You starting to put this together?

  • Did the banks circulate those monies initially? No they didn’t, at least not very much of it.
  • Even though they didn’t circulate a lot have we experienced some inflation because of those funds? Absolutely, all you have to do is go buy a gallon of milk today to see it first-hand.

Here’s the bigger problem, banks are beginning to circulate more of that money (i.e. Key Bank offering 100% financing again!). This will have a huge impact over the course of the next decade. Huge!

  • What happens to interest rates when inflation begins to roar? They go up. Remember the early 80’s after the inflationary pressures from the late 70’s?
Historical rates of great opportunity
If you don’t remember what interest rates were at that time then take a look at this graph. Opportunity? You better believe it but only if you were in a position to take advantage of it. What if all your money was in your house (equity)? Look at this graph. In 1982 would you have borrowed money at 16.08% in order to earn 15.12% for one year? Of course not.

There are always those who plan and those who do not. Over the next decade and beyond, you have the opportunity to take advantage of these opportunities but it requires one very important characteristic.

  • You MUST have access to capital, more specifically, guaranteed access to capital no matter the situation with the ability to collateralize those funds and earn a spread in a GUARANTEED and PREDICTABLE environment!
If inflation was raging right now and guaranteed rates, like CDs, were flying high, are you in a position to take advantage of it or are you currently positioned to be hurt by it? It’s a choice, not a matter of chance.
Since I’m on a roll, here’s some more questions for you
I love questions so here are a few more; however, these questions are designed for you to ask other advisors who want to invest your money. Those advisors MUST be able to provide an answer for each one these and we challenge you to ask them because, after all, it’s YOUR money and YOUR future.
  • What are you doing to do to make sure I don’t lose any money? What’s your strategy?
  • If I do lose, what’s your strategy to make back any money lost to get me back ahead of the game? What are your recommendations?
  • What impact are taxes going to have on all of this and could taxes prevent me from having a successful outcome?
  • Do you believe taxes will be higher in the future? If so, please answer the third bullet point again.
  • What strategy is there in place to keep taxes off my back going forward?
  • If you are recommending my money be put in a taxable position then please explain to me the specific reason why (especially if you believe taxes will be higher in the future) and the exit strategy to minimize those taxes in the future.
  • How can I take advantage of the pressures caused by inflation with your strategy?
  • What impact will inflation have on your strategy?
  • What is the impact of fees over time to the performance of your strategy? How can I get rid of or minimize those fees?

I hope it’s obvious by now but we have an answer, and a specific strategy, for each and every one of those questions.

You better be able to address each and every one of those. If not, then you’ll simply be one of many who didn’t plan…again, it’s not a matter of chance but instead a matter of choice.

We’d be happy to show you.

Kelly O’Connor – kelly.oconnor@mtnfinancial.com

303.578.9708

Website  –  YouTube  –  Facebook