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

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Why did the chicken cross the road?

February 28, 2013

In November of 2009, I wrote a blog post titled: Why “the experts” confuse the average investor (here is the link). This topic popped into my mind the other day as I was talking with my 10-year old daughter. She asked me the classic question: “Daddy, why did the chicken cross the road?” Of course I knew that a rip-roaring joke was about to be laid out on the table…at least that’s how I had to portray it with her. Sure enough, she had a great answer and I busted out laughing. This got me thinking about my previously mentioned blog post because the answers to the question posed by my daughter are endless and they simply depend on who’s answering the question.

I thought, what if we asked this simple question about the chicken to various people, maybe even historical people? Would their answers have been the same or would they be different? So, here we go, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Their answers*

Dr. Seuss: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes! The chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed it, I’ve not been told!

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken nature.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

Colonel Sanders: I missed one?

Attorney: Chickens are invited to cross the road to join a class action lawsuit against all non-chickens.

Bill Clinton: I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What do you mean by chicken? Could you define ‘chicken’ please?

George Bush Sr.: Read my lips, no new chickens will cross the road.

Retired truck driver: To prove to the armadillo that it could be done.

Albert Einstein: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

This is all in fun of course but the theme here is very similar to the variety of instructions given to people about solidifying their financial future. Having a clear understanding and a concise plan can be almost impossible because financial professionals virtually always disagree with each other and they never provide the same answer. Most people have heard the following conversation over and over again whenever they speak with a new financial expert: “How much money do you have? Where is it? Oh my gosh, why did they put you there!? You need to come over here because we’ll do so much better.”

Climbing Mount Everest

So, who can you trust? Who really has your best interests at heart? This is often the hardest hurdle to get past. This reminds me of climbing expeditions up Mount Everest. What is the most important phase of the climb? This single phase is responsible for over 75% of all deaths that occur during the quest to summit Everest. It’s the descent. The plan DOWN is the MOST important part of the entire expedition.

Financially it’s no different. The “climb” to the summit can be viewed as the accumulation phase as you work towards your retirement. The descent is the distribution phase of your assets to ensure you have enough money to live on for as long as you’ve planned to live. What does traditional planning focus on the most: i) simply getting to the summit or ii) getting to the summit with a very specific plan on how to get down? ING put out a series of TV commercials (here’s one of them) asking you if you “know your number”. That “number” is the amount you need to retire or more specifically the number you need TO GET TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN! But ING, what is the plan once that number is reached? Our focus should be even more intent on that phase of life than any other.

105% increase in 10 years!

Truly, if you hired a guide for your climb up the mountain and you asked him for his plan to get you down the mountain, how would you feel if he said this: “I don’t know, but once we get there we’ll figure it out.” Remember, 75% of those who die, die on the way down. Look around, how are people doing? We have an aging population, a declining workforce, an inability to save, a national debt that’s beyond comprehension and a government whose only answer is to print more money. According to whitehouse.gov (Table S5 Proposed Budget by Category) if we wiped out the entire Federal Government and the entire Military (all discretionary spending for 2012) then we’d still be short by $8,000,000,000 due to the various entitlement programs (we did a video on this very topic). Let that sink in, the ENTIRE federal government and the ENTIRE military and we’d still be short. Now, if you do this exact calculation for 2013 then we’d have a surplus of $360 billion (again, only if we got rid of the federal government and the military – obviously never going to happen) but look at the “total receipts” (all taxes collected)…they’re predicted to go up by 17.5%! If you look at the total receipts predicted in just 10 years, 2022, it’s a 105% increase from 2012. Are you ready for that? What’s your plan to deal with this issue? How are going to get down the mountain? If you’re only being told that you’ll be in a lower tax bracket in the future then you better get a new climbing guide.

Reduce future taxable income

There’s an endless amount of Congressional Budget Office reports and Government Accountability Office reports informing you that your taxes are going up plus the dollar will continue to weaken (the hidden tax). How will all of this affect you once you decide to “come off the mountain top”? Please understand, there are strategies and solutions to help mitigate some of these issues but you must be prioritizing strategies that will reduce your taxable income in the future! You will most assuredly face fewer deductions, fewer benefits, higher taxes and a weak dollar; therefore, reducing your taxable income in the future will be the biggest and most important aspect of your plan to efficiently climb down the mountain and make it out alive. The only factor that determines success is the reaction of the government. Shouldn’t we be studying them and NOT the financial products? All other discussions are only focused on making it to the summit. Our clients come to know what it means to have a plan for distribution and how their plan will ensure that they will NEVER be poor. Our job isn’t to help you strike it rich. Our job is to secure that you not only summit the mountain but that you make it down safely regardless of the conditions or challenges you face.

So, I ask you, why did the chicken cross the road? My answer, because she knew she could make it.

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

303.578.9708

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*some of these answers came from http://grandfather-economic-report.com/


Velocity of Money Part 3

September 18, 2010

We hear every day, “I thought that I should pay extra principle to lower my interest expense?”

First, the banks are in a win-win situation no matter what you do. You see, if you don’t make additional payments because you understand that you are giving the bank control of more money, then they will just collect more interest over time.

If you do make additional payments the bank doesn’t just sit on it. Remember, they’ve mastered Defining Moment #1 and the velocity of money.  That additional money from you is used and lent back out to start the process all over again.

What would you rather do, follow traditional planning and make all attempts to have your $10 earn $1 more?  Keep in mind, you have to deal with all the other flexible factors that we discuss in our Why Traditional Planning Fails To Reach Its Goals (future posts).  Or, function more like a bank and have your $10 do the work of $50?

Yeah, I think the bank model works quite well. So what do we do? Well, here’s an important question: do you believe banks have your best interests at heart?  Most people say no. If you said “no”, then have you ever asked yourself why banks offer a lower rate on a 15 year mortgage than a 30 year?  If they don’t have your best interest at heart and they are giving you an incentive to go with a particular product, then maybe we should do a little math.

They understand perfectly AND IMPLEMENT the Defining Moment that money will never be worth more than it is today? They want as much of your money as soon as possible (ie a 15 year mortgage) in order to keep it moving, working, and earning for them.

They’ll even entice us by offering gifts for our deposits and they promote like crazy just how convenient it is to deposit our money.  You’ve seen the recent TVcommercials about the new technology for ATM deposits.  Isn’t it ironic that they also make us rely on credit scores which are a directly determined by just how quickly we pay them back?

If we apply this defining moment to our everyday lives the lesson becomes more and more apparent.   By taking a look at the country’s savings rate, there’s no doubt that our ability to hang on to today’s money, the money that has the most buying power, is dwindling.

In reality more of our dollars are going to someone else in the form of debt payments, taxes, and other financial transfers more than it’s working for us. The ability for Americans to save “today’s” dollars has all but diminished.

The traditional approach must change, and the sooner the better. What is really needed is more financial literacy.  It is so important to understand that “your money will never be worth more than it is today.” And equally important, how it may impact your thought process in your everyday life.

If you do, then maybe you’ll question the various strategies recommended to give your money as soon as possible to other entities.  Even if it means incurring some more interest expense.

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

303.578.9708

Website  –  YouTube  –  Facebook


How do you tell someone that their baby is ugly?

December 15, 2009

We run into this problem everyday. The majority of hard working people believe certain financial myths that require a conversation that is similar to telling someone their baby is ugly. The “conditioning” that has been experienced is frustrating, to say the least, but understandable…especially when you understand who has been doing the conditioning.

For example, and this goes out to all you Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman followers: why do banks offer you a lower rate on a 15 year mortgage than a 30 year mortgage?

Do you believe it is because they have your best interests at heart? If not, then why the discount? If the bank does not have your interest, the consumer, at heart then have you ever considered that maybe you should understand these reasons before you just accept what Ramsey or Orman say?

I sure wish they’d (Ramsey & Orman) take the time to understand because then maybe they wouldn’t lead so many people down a path of waste and wealth transfer. Speaking of wealth transfer, do you believe that Americans transfer more wealth than they accumulate? Come on now. Think of financing. Think of taxes. Think of, and wait for this one since NO ONE talks about it, think of….opportunity costs.

What are opportunity costs? Well, if you paid (or transferred) a dollar that you didn’t have to, not only do you lose that dollar but you lose what that dollar could have earned for you.

The answer to the first question will be the next post. I feel very certain that you haven’t considered the reasons for the discounted rate. As a matter of fact, there has yet to be an individual that I’ve met with, and I regularly meet with everyday-Joe’s to highly successful CFPs and CPAs, who has answered this question correctly.

So bring it on people. Give it your best shot. And if you say it’s because it carries less risk for the bank…you’re wrong.

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

303.578.9708

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Why “the experts” confuse the average investor

November 17, 2009

We have clients in our office every day who love to ask what our opinion is of the market and what are effective strategies to invest and win. Well, we have our opinions but I thought I’d refer to a few experts out there in the financial world to see what they say we should be doing. First, what’s the “attitude” of investors? Let’s see what the numbers say.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange’s Volatility Index (VIX), which tracks the volatility of the market, has dropped significantly; on November 20, 2008, the VIX was 80.86; on September 11, 2009, it was 24.15. So, it appears the market is “calming down” and the investors are too. Not so fast though. There are those who anticipate we’ll need another 12-18 months to gauge the change in the market before any true confidence can be determined.

Randy Carver, a financial advisor with Raymond James Financial, says “We believe the market will move higher over the next couple years, perhaps significantly so, but is likely to go lower before it does” (italics added by me). He sure covered his butt didn’t he?

The Senior Vice President at Raymond James Financial, Sacha Millstone, says, “If you got out of the markets, you have to honestly assess why you did that. Find an asset allocation you can stick with through hell or high water.” Alright, so she feels people were uninformed or made poor decisions if they “got out”.

Uri Landesman, Senior Vice President at ING (they’re pretty big) said this, “[I] don’t blame investors for pulling out of the market, as there was no way to know how far down the market was going.” So we shouldn’t feel bad for getting out? Do we really ever know for sure how “far down” it’s going to go? We knew there would be those who said it was okay to secure your principal and there would be those who said we were stupid. There will always be a variety of opinions (hey, at least someone will be right) but let’s assume that confidence is back, the “doom and gloom” is gone, and people are ready to “get back in”, what then do we do with our money?

Uri Landesman (italics added by me): “…try technology bellwethers (ex: Microsoft, Intel). If you think we’re emerging from a global recession invest in the energy and materials sectors…Investors who aren’t sure about the state of the economy can try investing in the health care sector.” Well, no matter what, he’ll have some clients happy and others who “made the wrong choice”.

John Osbon (founder of Osbon Capital Management): “New waders in the market should invest in a mix of Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund and Vanguard Total Bond Market Exchange-Traded Fund.”

Vahan Janjigian (chief investment strategist at Forbes): recommends Supervalu, Terex Corporation, and Tesoro Corporation. At least he provided some specifics but he does add the good old qualifiers of “if” and “could” when describing his reasoning.

Jeff Rubin (head of research at Birinyi Associates): “Stock selection is going to matter more instead of sector or some other type of selecting process (high dividend stocks, low P/E or what ever it is). As of now, I continue to stick to strength, such as Apple, Google, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase.” Okay, so the way of old is no longer. Got it.

Randy Carver: “We feel there is an opportunity in long tax-exempt bonds. We would avoid long taxable bonds, and we would add hard assets/commodities.”

Dave Ramsey (Fox financial pornographer): “Stick with your money markets for short term needs and go with a good mutual fund, like we say over and over, for your long term investments 5, 10, 20 years out.”

Sacha Millstone: “It isn’t about this or that particular investment. It is about a plan and a strategy and overall implementation.” Now I shouldn’t focus on product? These general platitudes have always confused me because my plan MUST pick particular investments and/or products in order to be implemented.

Robert Rodriguez (chief executive of First Pacific Advisors in Los Angeles): “[The economy] will be up and then down, up and then down. We will be far from normal for a very long period of time. People deploying capital will end up destroying capital.” That’s an interesting take. Now I’m really confused on what to do.

David Laibson (economist at Harvard University): “Investors expect that assets on which they personally experienced past rewards will be rewarding in the future, regardless of whether such a belief is logically justified.”

Jason Zweig (journalist for the Wall Street Journal): Responding to Laibson’s comment above said this: “[Buying] more of what has gone up, precisely because it has gone up, is to fall for the belief that stocks become safer as their prices rise. That is the same fallacy that led investors straight into disaster in 1929, 1972, 1999, 2007 and every other market bubble in history.”

How do you sum up all this information? This is only the tip of what we hear everyday on the radio and TV. Some say the economy is rising, some say it’s not, some say it’s flat. We’re told to invest and “suck it up”, we’re told that if we do we’re “destroying capital”, we’re told that we shouldn’t have gotten out, and we’re told we were foolish for doing so. We’re told specific stocks, don’t focus on specific stocks, focus on sectors, don’t focus on sectors, forget stocks and go bonds…AAARRRGGHHH!

An analogy just popped into my head that seems to wrap this all up quite well. It’s like standing on the tee box of a brand new golf course. There is no map of the course and no one has played it before. You’re surrounded by golf club salesmen who have played other courses but never played this one. Some of them have played for many years. Every one of them has an opinion about the wind and the obstacles ahead. Every one believes that their golf club is the right one IF all the factors come together properly (wind, swing, ball, layout of the hole, etc). So what do you do? Do you just pick the one salesman that you like the best and take a swing and hope it works? Dave Ramsey tells us that we should pick the one advisor that “makes us feel good” about our club choice (literally, he says that to us). No matter how hard I love my golf club, no matter how good it makes me feel, if I don’t have the right swing then it still doesn’t do what I want it to do…but at least it made me feel good, right Dave?

What about this choice? What if we worked on our swing first? Now, there’s a radical concept. Or, what if we walked the course FIRST to get an understanding of what we were hitting into? If all we did was ensure our swing was sound and then get a layout of the course, wouldn’t we be better off? Can you imagine what it would be like to NEVER care what the market is doing? Can you imagine what it would be like if you had access to capital that you could invest with a “product salesman” but they only made money IF they made you money?

I sure find it interesting…and so do my clients.

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

303.578.9708

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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.

Blessings,

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

303.578.9708

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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.

What?

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 – kelly.oconnor@mtnfinancial.com

303.578.9708

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