I wrote an article a few years ago that was published in the OC Metro in Orange County, California called “Uncle Sam's Snake Oil.” This article was designed to wake up all the sheeple (that is a half person half sheep) that is just following along and believing that what you've been told to be true is true.
There used to be the 3-legged stool for retirement but then the company funded pension went way and the last two legs which were only supplemental have been used to fund a lifestyle after work and has become disastrous. The other two legs are Social Security and the 401k plan which was designed to supplement your retirement and can be decent if you get a significant company match but those are going away. The real key here is that as our deficit rises beyond $14,000,000,000,000 trillion that is a long number isn't it? As things rise ever second, we know the only solution is to raise taxes and most likely back to the tax brackets of the 1990s where the top was at 39.6%. If you add your state tax, in California it is another 9.3%, your at 48.9% of your income just to taxes to pay this incredible debt down. That means anyone earning $250,000 or more was taxed as this rate and we hear a lot about that $250,000 income today. However a family of 3 or more needs at least that much just to stay above water in their live in various parts of California s housing and goods and services are explosively high. The proposed Obamacare or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is going to send our taxes to at least these levels. We now have Homeland Security costs, War, underfunded benefits (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) and this is a recipe of inevitable higher taxes. In 1993 the family filing jointly and earning $89,000 to $140,000 was taxed at a 31% rate which is just 4% shy of the highest current tax bracket for multi-millionaires and we are destined to go back to such a rate.
All of this legwork does not even account for how things really work on deferred pension plans and few Americans realized how they are going to be taxed on their retirement plans until they arrive at retirement only to be horrified. Millions run out of money and end up work in their eighties in fast food restaurants or as greeters in front of discount department stores.
So here is a break-down of an average person putting away $4,000 per year for 30 years and reaping that huge tax-deductible benefit and how he ends up paying 10x in taxes back to the government.
This link depicts what it would look like to save $40,800 over the 30 years prior to retirement only to pay $532,800 in taxes over the time from age 65 to 85. As you can see that little savings in tax was no where near what you still end up paying, hence the perception of the deferred plan is snake oil.
How do these numbers stack up
We want people to know you have to start finding some form of tax-free strategy or you'll be penniless in a few years into retirement and back out looking for work just to make ends meet. Most do not qualify for a ROTH and you can only put away $5,000 per year which takes forever to get any real build up but there are strategies for the small business owner or solo practitioner to use 401k ROTH strategies…this is way too long of a conversation for this article.
There are muni bonds but which municipality do you feel comfortable with? Most of them are running their budgets like a ponzi and robbing Peter to pay Paul. Even though the interest paid on a municipal bond is tax-exempt, a holder can recognize gain or loss that is subject to federal income tax on the sale of such a bond, just as in the case of a taxable bond. I see a little too much risk in these going forward but a few might not be a bad thing. Unfortunately some folks have turned 95% of their wealth holdings into these which could give a whole new meaning to the word “junk bond.”
The last frontier is exploring tax codes to find access to places to build tax-free and we find that in 7702a which is for life insurance. Now contrary to popular opinion, insurance is not all about you dying. In fact it can provide one of the last vehicles to grow money tax deferred and access it tax-free if designed properly. The caveat is that you must fund for a few years and be consistent like anything else in life. Many let their policies lapse and then the cash values go to paying insurance costs rather than being allocated to a savings component linked to one of our stock indexes. As I've shown before, if you understand the equivalent taxable yield, you'll understand that if you only did 5.5% in return tax-free that is the equivalent of 7.65%, depending on your tax bracket…it could be a little better if your in a higher tax bracket.
The insurance approach also allows you to pass on a death benefit to loved ones and if you don't have anyone who loves you then think about it as a final expense policy to cover the costs of sending you to the great beyond which can cost anywhere from $15,000 and UP. You can be covered for disability and terminal illness and have supplemental tax-free retiree income all with one policy. For folks who don't qualify for ROTH IRA, can't do the solo 401k ROTH or have already done as much muni bonds as you're going to risk; the properly structured ‘savings grade' life insurance policy may provide a unique combative tool to slay the retirement dragon.