Death on the Descent: Mount Everest and Retirement Accounts

January 5, 2014

Pretend for a moment that you’re preparing to go to work. You’ve completed your morning routine and are just a few moments away from departing for the office but this particular morning is a little different. You have the means to get yourself to the office but not to return home. You hear the conversation run through your mind: “How are you going to get home? You don’t have access to public transportation. You don’t have money for a taxi. Your coworkers are not able to bring you back. There are no friends or acquaintances that can pick you up. You have no money and just enough gas to get you there. What in the world are you going to do?”

Would you even travel to the grocery store without the ability to return home? How about a vacation, would you plan a trip without specific knowledge of your return?

Plan my descent down Mt. Everest? No, I’ll just wing it

The answer is simple to these somewhat rhetorical questions; however, I wonder if those who set out to climb Mount Everest spent any time developing a plan to get them off the mountain? I would be willing to place a wager that not one single expedition up Mount Everest, let alone any mountain, has ever failed to plan a way back down. Not once. Why? Because summiting the mountain is only half of the journey. Unfortunately, the descent down Mount Everest is the most dangerous.

In a story from Scientific American back in December 2008, 56% of those who have died on Everest have died during their descent after summiting. Another 17% died after turning back (i.e. descending). That’s a total of 73%. Only 15% died on their way up or before leaving their final camp. The remaining died through various accidents like avalanches and falling ice at lower altitudes.

The descent is by far the very most dangerous, treacherous, threatening, unsafe, formidable, perilous and risky phase of the Everest exhibition. If there is no plan in place for the descent then failure surely awaits.

Retirement is just like descending the mountain

How does this real life example perfectly reflect the financial planning being pursued by virtually 68% of the population (Figure 7.5 The answer is simple: pre-tax investments.  You’ll notice that the Figure 7.5 is titled “Many U.S. Households Have Tax-Advantaged Retirement Savings”. Wow, is that ever misleading. Pre-tax investments are not in any way tax-advantaged. What is the advantage? Many financial pornographers, like Dave Ramsey, profess that there is a mathematical advantage to investing pre-tax. Math proves him wrong. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog on this very topic so I won’t duplicate it here. So if you think I’m wrong then read this post first…and then feel free to comment.

How does Mount Everest tie into this tax debacle for the everyday American? Well, if you have money in an IRA, 401k, SEPP, or another government-run retirement plan (even Roth IRAs) then you have an enormous tax problem. You see, you are climbing the mountain with no knowledge of how to get down the mountain. What are the tax laws when you decide to retire? What are the distribution requirements? What are the tax rates? Do you know? Does anybody?

Only the financial planner with a crystal ball

There is not one single financial planner on the planet that can plan a retirement (using assets to provide income in order to maintain a desired lifestyle) for an individual when the majority of their portfolio is made up of government-run plans. The professional certainly doesn’t know the answers to the above questions and therefore has no idea how long the money will last. How much is the government going to take? If you have an IRA or any other pre-tax vehicle (the balance is irrelevant) then I have one question for you: how much of it is yours? No one knows. And no one will know until you’re standing on top of the mountain…and at that point you’ll only know one year at a time.  It’s just like climbing Mount Everest with no plan to descend until you’re finally standing on top…very dangerous strategy.  It’s actually worse than that because are the rules going to be the same when you’re 75 as they were when you started using the funds at age 65? It’s like only being able to plan your descent every 10 feet and having no idea what’s facing you at the next 10 feet. That’s not just dangerous but perilous.

Kelly, I’ll be in a lower tax bracket. You will? How? Why does the government put far more restrictions on after-tax positions (Roth IRA) – like income and contribution limits – than they do on the pre-tax (no income limitations and you can contribute a heck of a lot more). Seriously, why? Because they know that the only mathematical factor that determines the winner is the future tax rate and only they control that factor. You don’t control it otherwise your taxes would be zero. Roths aren’t even safe because they can change the rules at any point. Could they choose to tax the gains? Yep. Social Security was supposed to be tax-free forever but that changed.

The government is absolutely working in my favor…or is it?

Do you believe the government has your best interests at heart? Do you honestly believe that they are fine with you not paying taxes now so that you can pay less in the future? Do you feel the government will do everything it can to ensure the math lines up in your favor so you can get down the mountain? Me neither. Yet almost 70% of households are doing this very thing and unfortunately, virtually all of them will face a “tax descent” that will be immensely costly. Here’s a video that goes into some detail on this issue.

When did all this begin in the first place? Could that give us any insight? It sure can. Pension plans worked very well so why did all of that change in the 1980s when the government realized it had the largest working population in all of history (American history)? Why did pension plans fall out of favor to be replaced by the government-run retirement accounts? Who had lobbyists in that room?

Certainly the government was in that room because they could then control the largest portion of the citizens’ retirement assets. There’s an estimated $19,000,000,000,000 held in these accounts. That’s $19 trillion controlled, not by the citizens, but the government. The banking industry was certainly present in the lobbying for this because the rules with these accounts do not favor the investor having access to capital. Penalties, unfavorable loan features and simply the denial of access to the funds in these accounts (can’t access more than the loan provisions on a 401k while employed with the company – why?) mean that the investor will need the bank. Wall Street was also at the table because this would put the once untouchable pension now in the hands of the investment broker. It also would provide incredible job security for Wall Street because the investor can’t touch the money until they’re 59 ½ years old. If you’re 25 years old and contributing to a 401k then that represents 34 years of security for Wall Street. That’s awesome for them.

Turn the coin over. Look at the other side. Follow the history. Dig in. Let the light shine on this a little bit and you’ll realize that NONE of it is for your benefit. None.

There are solutions but you must be willing to have some conversations. You must be willing to plan a descent and not just for the summit! Our job is to ensure you get DOWN the mountain because, after all, that’s the goal.

Kelly O’Connor –


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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 –


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Taxes (Defining Moment #2) Part 4

October 11, 2010

These two defining moments we have discussed so far – Your money will never be worth more than it is today and This may be the lowest tax bracket you will ever be in – are unique because they will have a direct impact on all the remaining conversations and even our videos (coming soon to YouTube – update: now on YouTube).

They certainly present a very clear challenge to our thought process. When combined together they confront head on some of the traditional thinking that has been branded into all of us.

If your money will never be worth more than it is today, due to inflation, and this may be the lowest tax bracket you will ever be in due to the demographics and government spending (my next set of blog posts – don’t miss these), then why is traditional thinking telling you to take as much of today’s money as you can and throw it as far as you can into the future, where it will have less buying power and be taxed the most?

That is such a strong question. I recommend you read it again.  Once you do, ask yourself, is that the thought-process or type of planning you want to pursue?

When you begin to apply these two Defining Moments to your everyday lives you may begin to process things a little differently. Like this: if you purchase a car which is a depreciating asset anyway, do you want to use as many of today’s dollars that have the most buying power and pay that car off as fast as you can?  Maybe not.

You may also think about the way you are approaching your retirement dollars. In qualified plans, such as IRA’s, 401K’s, one thing is very clear, the government controls the pen which gives them the ability…and the authorization…to change the rules at any point.

So you must then be able to answer this question:

who’s future are you financing, your’s or the government’s?

You must consider that whatever you have left after taxes, what will the buying power be of your money at that time? Understanding this may open your eyes to ideas other than what you’re hearing on TV or read in the financial magazines, and certainly today’s traditional thinking.

That’s what we do…we help you re-consider.  It’s Financial Caffeine.

Kelly O’Connor –


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Taxes (Defining Moment #2) Part I

September 27, 2010

I’ve spent some time over the last few posts about, what we call, Defining Moment #1.  This post dicusses Defining Moment #2 but lets first start with a quote from the former Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker:

“We are heading for a future where we will have to double federal taxes or cut federal spending by 60%”.

The rapidly changing demographics of our country are going to impact everyone’s lives in our nation. Simply believing we are a great nation will not continue to make us one.  To compete and survive we will have to change and that change may not come easy.

Alan Greenspan said “As a nation we have already made promises to coming generations of retirees that we will be unable to fulfill.” Keep in mind, he said this in 2004…well before the last two years of continued spending.

That’s why Defining Moment #2 is critical to understand, it states that “this may be the lowest tax bracket you will ever be in.”

As you are reading this post, the U.S. Federal Government continues to spend more than it takes in from tax revenues. The debt in our nation is growing over one million dollars an hour. And it keeps going up. What does that mean to every person in the United States? Well, in order to pay for this government burden every citizen in the country would have to pay about $174,000 or for every household $664,000 (as of September 2010).

The purpose of telling you this is not to scare you but rather to make you aware that all the conditions are in place for everyone’s taxes to increase.  We know this isn’t new information for you but you can’t just take this for granted. You must understand the importance of planning for not only the demographic changes but the serious problem our government has created for itself and exactly what it means to you.

Traditional thinking professionals may be willing to avoid this problem that is out there right now until it becomes a crisis for you.  For example, are you still being told to defer your taxes now by contributing to a qualified plan that will be most assuredly taxed at a higher rate later?  Times are changing and if you’re being told to just wait it out and see what happens, it is simply going to be too late to react to the problem.

Future taxes that you pay will be the largest transfers of your money that you will ever make. The size and amount of future taxes has not yet been determined but we do know that government debt will be a large determining factor.

You must not only understand this Defining Moment that this may be the lowest tax bracket you will ever be in but you also need to act upon that knowledge.

What if you in fact could be insulated against future tax increases and use your money tax free when you need it?  Would it make sense for you to do a little homework for yourself?  Truly, how much is that worth to you?

If you don’t have a plan to counter this defining moment then please understand, the government does.

We’ll continue to do our part in providing you as much free information and analysis as you need.  But, you need to step up to the plate and ask some questions.

Kelly O’Connor –


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The Velocity of Money #2

September 13, 2010

Do you remember the scene in the movie “Miracle” about the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team when coach Herb Brooks told the young men that today was NOT going to be the day that the Russian team would win?  It was a defining moment for that team.  Well, we talk about financial Defining Moments.

I don’t care how successful you are, if you do not understand how these financial Defining Moments effect you as you accumulate, preserve, and certainly as you distribute your wealth…well, then today they’ll probably beat you.

Defining Moment #1 is, “your money will never be worth more than it is today.” That sounds really simple and if you think about it, you’ll agree that EVERY financial institution masters this one lesson. Because of this, they also understand the phrase “the velocity of money.”

Money that doesn’t move or have velocity is like money that is stuffed in a mattress; it doesn’t create wealth or profits. To give you an example, the average bank in the United States spends a dollar about five and a half times. Have you ever thought how they do that?

Wouldn’t you love to spend YOUR dollar 5 ½ times?  Well, it’s simple.  First they TOTALLY embrace this Defining Moment.  You see, they take money, and it is not even their money, that is deposited in their bank and lend it to other people.

These people who borrowed the money make payments back to the bank and pay interest. The bank then takes those monthly payments and lends that money out again, over and over. This process continues repetitively about five times on each dollar they touch.

The collection of interest alone is very profitable for the bank. But they understand one rule that creates more profit for them than just collecting interest. They understand that MONEY WILL NEVER BE WORTH MORE THAN IT IS TODAY.

Due to inflation the buying power of a dollar decreases over time. The buying power of $1,000 today with a 3% inflation factor built in will have the buying power of only $412 in 30 years. The banks and lending institutions understand this clearly and they may even encourage you to make additional monthly payments on the money they lent you.

Wait a minute Kelly, I thought that I should pay extra to lower my interest expense?

Well, if you understand and, more importantly, apply Defining Moment #1, then maybe you should ask some questions.

More Financial Caffeine coming your way.

Kelly O’Connor –


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How Financial Institutions Make Money

June 22, 2009

***Updated this post with “How Financial Institutions Make Money #2″…don’t forget to check it out.***

I’ve never illustrated exactly how banks make money.  You’d think most people would understand but the majority of those I meet with don’t.  They typically have the basics down but don’t take the whole strategy from point A to point B.

This actually takes me back to philosophy class in college.  Remember when you’d create a logical syllogism?   You’d make a few claims that work together to prove a conclusion.  Here’s a Banking Concept syllogism:

  1. The banking business is very profitable.
  2. Banks succeed by attracting depositors, maintaining use and control of the depositors money for the longest possible time, charge fees and interest on the funds their depositors borrow, and return the money to the depositors as slowly as possible.
  3. Financial tools exist for individuals and businesses to function and succeed exactly like a bank.
  4. Individuals and businesses have a choice to either deposit their money as the depositor at a bank or to deposit their money into the financial tools that allow them to act like a bank.
  5. Therefore, if individuals and/or businesses funneled their money into these specified financial tools then they could profit from their own money and transactions INSTEAD of the bank.

Seems simple.  It is. That’s what we teach everyday.  Don’t think it’s legitimate?  Then why do you see banks on every corner?  How could any other business, literally, be successful like banks?  Imagine if McDonalds was on each corner of a busy intersection throughout America.  Could they really all turn a profit?  Of course not…there’s not THAT big of a need.  So how can every bank on every corner make a profit?  By functioning in the matter described above.

Let’s go a little deeper.

Banks make money differently than you do.  They first have to attract money to build their success.  Please understand, they produce nothing.  They ship nothing.  They manufacture nothing.  They are completely dependent upon you and others to deposit money.  These deposits are the bank’s “raw materials” to operate their business plan.

Let’s imagine that two accounts are opened at the time of your deposit: one for you and one for the bank.  The bank is required to keep a small portion of your deposit on hand but is free to use the rest as it sees fit.  The primary function of the remaining money is used to loan out to others, maybe even yourself, and earn the interest on those loans.

I like how Don Blanton, author of Circle of Wealth, explains it:

“The homeowner, who pays the builder, who re-deposits the money back into the bank, borrows this money.  After receiving the money from the builder, the banker quickly reactivates this process.  Once a small portion of these funds has been placed in reserve (as required), the bank loans this money out again.  Let’s assume the next loan is for a debt consolidation. Now you should start to see why being the bank is so advantageous!”

He continues, “Let’s continue with the examlple.  The money for debt consolidation will eventually be returned to the bank as payments.  After keeping the required minimum, the money immediately goes right back into circulation!  This time it could be used to provide a customer with a car loan.”

“As the money is again deposited, it could be used for installment credit on a credit card issued by the bank.  Can you see the cumulative results of this process?  The bank gets one dollar to do the work of several by focusing on multiple uses of your deposits.”

We hear and see advertisements every day of financial institutions telling us to deposit our money.  They’ll even give us an iPod or a new sweet toaster oven.  They have only two hooks: easy access to money and the opportunity to compound interest.  The strategy they themselves employ and the strategy that they want us to employ are very different.  They concentrate on deposits that can generate multiple returns while you are invited to leave yours to compound and receive one benefit: interest.

Truly, how many people do you know that have actually gotten ahead financially because of what their money did for them at a bank as opposed to how many banks have gotten ahead financially because of what your simple deposits have done for them?

What if you could redirect your “deposits” into an entity that you own and control and could therefore function just like a bank?  Wouldn’t it only make sense that you’d benefit financially in the exact same way as banks do?

Don’t use the bank, be the “Bank” and do what the wealthy have done for ages.


Kelly O’Connor –


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Cash Value life insurance is a horrible investment; however…

May 15, 2009

We’ve all heard it: Cash Value life insurance is a horrible investment.

Are you ready for this?  All those gurus and experts ARE RIGHT!

The problem, there’s a “however” that needs to be added to that claim.

It should read like this: Cash Value life insurance is a horrible investment; however, if it’s not used or designed for death protection and instead is designed to maximize the MEC (Modified Endowment Contract) rule, then there’s no better place to park money.


Let’s take a look at what was possible prior to 1986 when the government realized that the wealthy individuals had a tool that was too good of a tax shelter…got to love the government.  Prior to 1986 NO ONE talked bad about life insurance.  Why?  Because you could put as much as you wanted, no limits, into a policy and the insurance company would underwrite you for a small amount.

For example: someone with a million dollars could put it into an insurance policy and the insurance company would underwrite them for maybe $100,000 in death benefit.  Why would the individual do this?  For many reasons: All the money in the policy was safe from lawsuits, litigation, and even IRS liens.  The money was totally liquid and they had available what they put in.  Let me say that again: this money was completely liquid and could be used at anytime with NO qualification necessary and NO IRS involvement. The money also had guaranteed growth.

Real life example: the Denver Business Journal in November of 1999 produced what they called “The Century Book”.  This special edition provided a 100 year history of Denver and highlighted something or someone for each year of the century.  When you come to the year 1929 the event covered was of course the Great Crash.  Also within that article was the story of one of Denver’s most wealthy individuals and at the time Denver’s best market player, Claude Boettcher.  The article says this:

“When he returned (he was traveling in the Soviet Union when the market crashed), he fired the messenger who brought him news of his financial ruin.  He had the courage to wait for stocks to drop more before he borrowed $2 million for his insurance policy and bought stocks and banks – the reason he is still known to history.”

How much death benefit do you think $2,000,000 in cash value would have to have?  Back then, very little.  Notice, when the market crashed he didn’t lose his cash value.  It’s guaranteed. It can’t be lost.  He was “financially ruined” but did that effect his ability to access his capital? Nope. What is the one factor that saved him financially? Having access to capital. If this tool was not in his portfolio then Claude would have been just another story of riches to rags.  But still to this day his wealth lives on here in Denver.  Now if he was Denver’s best market player why in the world did he have so much in cash value life insurance?  He was obviously one smart man.

In 1986, the government decided that it was not fair that the wealthy had such a great tax shelter tool and decided to create what is called the Modified Endowment Contract.  Basically, this rule added the risk to the insurance company by creating a minimum death benefit for the premium being paid to fund the policy.  If a policy owner goes over this MEC line then the majority of all tax advantages are wiped out.  The policy becomes a qualified plan with the IRS all over it…forever.  This new MEC rule limits what I can do with my own money…thanks Big Brother.

Let’s get back to the original MYTH.  Virtually all gurus and experts say that Cash Value life insurance is a bad investment.  Let’s first prove they’re right before we illustrate the proper use of the MEC line.

If I had a healthy, 30 year old client who was willing to fund a policy for $25,000 per year, how much insurance do you think that would buy?  Probably around $2,500,000 in death benefit.  Why would this be a bad choice?  For the exact reason Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman say:  your cash value sucks.  Now Dave says you have no cash value for three years…even with this type of policy he’s wrong; however, it would take 12 years of paying $25,000 each year before you’d have available in cash value what you put in.  Not a good option.  If you needed $2.5 million in death protection then buy term and invest the rest.

Here’s the “however”.  However, if the policy is NOT designed to maximize the death benefit and “dance” on the MEC line then what do we have?

Same example: this client is willing to fund a policy for $25,000 per year but we use it to purchase the LEAST amount of death benefit in order to have the most cash value available.  The death benefit is only $900,000 and he has over $17,000 available DAY ONE.  When he makes his year three payment of $25,000 his cash value grows by $29,000…already getting back more than he put in.  At the end of year four when year five’s premium is paid, his total cash value exceeds what he has paid into the policy…NOT twelve years.  Let me ask you this: if you save for five years to buy a car by using a money market at your bank (which is what Dave Ramsey recommends), how much would have in the account?  What you put in right?  Plus a very small amount of interest; however, the IRS takes their share of that every year.  If Dave Ramsey recommends this type of account for purchasing items how is a policy designed in this matter a bad thing?  Keep in mind, the IRS doesn’t get their share.  Shoot, you even have a growing death benefit just in case…at year five the death benefit is over $1.3 million.

Insurance people think we’re the stupidest insurance agents around.  Why?  Because we don’t get paid on the cash portion of the policy.  The commissions would be incredible if we did the first example but we aren’t here to sell expensive death benefit policies we’re here to teach individuals how to bank.  Our commissions are significantly reduced.  Why would an insurance agent turn someone down this path when they can attempt to sell a huge policy and make a ton of money?  We don’t consider ourselves insurance agents, we’re bankers.

So why would we want to fund a policy like this? My next post will be how to USE these funds to redirect debt or purchase vehicles, equipment, etc.  Over time, if you implement this concept, you will NEVER pay another dollar in interest to another entity, you will NEVER need to finance with a bank, and you will NEVER lose a dime.

Cash Value life insurance is a horrible investment; however, if it’s not used or designed for death protection and instead is designed to maximize the MEC (Modified Endowment Contract) line, then there’s no better place to park money.  You get back everything you put in, there is no risk of principle loss, there’s a guaranteed return plus a tax-free dividend, compounding growth, gains tax-deferred but can be used later in life tax-free, no government involvement (they already ruled on all this), creates an immediate tax-free estate, and most importantly, it’s liquid and you have complete use and control of the money (read that one again – what other tool, other than a bank account, can you claim this).

You can have everything you need and anything you want. Don’t use the bank, be the “Bank”. Do what the wealthy have done for ages.

Kelly O’Connor –


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