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early retirement

Early Retirement

Maximizing Retirement Investments with Multiple Plans

Every so often I say something that starts a firestorm or causes my inbox to overflow. Since the laws of nature state I am one human being and have a limited amount of time to read and answer emails, most emails go unanswered unless from a current client.

It may have been something I said in a podcast or new readers enjoying a deep drink of my lovely prose triggering the question in question. (Yes, I wrote that intentionally.) The latest question storm revolves around retirement plans. The questions are all the same with slight nuances. As a human being with limited time to dedicate to cold call questions, I left most unanswered and the few I did respond to were given quick and to the point answers. And as I fired off these quick answers it occurred to me I misinterpreted the question asked in some cases. A fresh blog post on the subject should clear that up. If not, some ointment might also do the job.

The question stuffing my email is this: Can I have more than one retirement account? My accountant told me I can’t contribute to an IRA if I have a retirement plan at work. Is she right? We will address this line of questioning in a bit. There is a small twist to the question from some readers. Can I have two retirement plans in my business or side gig? I sent many a quick answer as follows: In most cases there is nothing in the Code disallowing such action, but it would be impractical to do so. My answer is wrong! I should have left questions unanswered if I didn’t have time for an adequate response.




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Early Retirement, Taxes and Investing

New Tax Law Changes Dangerous to Your Wealth

On a recent ChooseFI podcast where I was the guest speaker I mentioned the possibility the backdoor Roth and her sister tax strategy, the laddered Roth, could be going away. Many people heard me say it WAS going away. That is false. It is only a proposal at this time.

Because so many potential tax law changes now whispered in the halls of Congress have the potential to cause great damage to those in retirement or working an accelerated program toward financial independence (FI), now is the perfect time to review those with the highest possibility of happening. A word of caution before we begin. These are only ideas floating around Congress. They are NOT current tax law! Not all ideas whispered in the halls of Congress become law, but all laws start as a whisper in the halls of Congress. There is a difference.

Most ideas for tax law changes never see the light of day or are significantly modified before becoming a law. Some ideas become law in a few years, other may take a decade or longer before working through both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President. As we review the ideas now floating around Congress I will give my opinion on the likelihood the change will take place and how soon.

Remember, this is one guy’s opinion. My opinion carries weight because I have decades of experience. I also rely upon sources outside my own viewpoint, such as continuing education courses I’ve attended, The Kiplinger Tax Letter, and calls to several Congressmen. (It should be noted I rarely get to speak with an actual lawmaker. Usually I speak with a staff member. They can still be very helpful with potential tax law changes working through the system.)




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You’re Using the Wrong Definition for Retirement

Students are ready.

Old dogs can learn new tricks. Preconceived notions are not reality or facts.

Several years ago life was going fine for me. Business was good, the sky was sunny and I thought I had a firm grasp on how the world worked. An avid reader, I chanced across a blog that pulled me in deeper than any before. Normally I read several blogs with no blog standing out from the crowd. I digest what I can and move on. Then along came Mr. Money Mustache.

Some blogs are better than others. Quality is frequently an issue, but personal taste is too. To make matters worse, this Mustache guy had a serious following. High quality suited to my tastes with a massive audience started me questioning some of those preconceived notions.

Most issues I was in complete agreement with. There was one stand-out: retirement and what the word meant. At first I had an identity crisis. Was I really retired all along and didn’t know it? Is it wrong to have gainful employment?

The only way to figure this thing out was to attend personal finance conferences with like-minded people. That was two years ago. In the beginning it made the confusion worse and the crisis more acute. Then I developed my own definition of retirement to suit my needs. Finally, last weekend, I made what I feel is the final leap in my evolution toward a retirement definition I can use in my personal life.




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Why Saving Half Your Gross Income is Better and Easier Than Saving Half Your Net Income

People frequently look to their accountant for sound financial advice. Good accountants are up to the task; other, not so much. Finding a good one is easy; they tell you what you don’t want to hear even if you threaten to leave.

Advice sought from accountants runs the gamut. Selling or buying a business requires in-depth analysis and most people trust their accountant’s judgment regarding this matter.

Then the bizarre requests come. Over the years I have been pulled to the side by clients wanting advice on how to raise their children, gambling problems, infidelity, and divorce issues. Some of the requests have a hint of tax built into them. Gambling problems are also tax problems. I’m never comfortable helping anyone decide if they should end their marriage. It’s not my place or at least shouldn’t be. And even if it was I want nothing to do with that kind of conflict.

My favorite requests are about personal finance, intelligent tax reduction and retirement. These are the moments when I can shine. It is also an area of massive risk. My mantra, oft repeated, is simple, yet rarely followed. First the client is in denial (which is a river in Egypt last I checked). Quickly the client moves to tell me my advice is impossible to follow and nobody does it. (Oh, yes they do.) Finally, the client starts to bargain her way into a deeper hole. They think they can change the rules and make it easier. Don’t they know I already thought of every twist and shortcut possible? Clients usually bargain themselves into a deeper hole without even knowing it.




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It Pays to Have a Hobby

The demographic reading this blog does the things necessary to retire early. The same demographic believes in a side hustle to retire even earlier or to fill time once work becomes an elective. These facts make hobby rules an important consideration. The tax law has a massive loophole few use.

Accountants in the room will understand what I say next. A client walks in the door and his hobby finally turned a few dollars of revenue. No worries, the client says, I can lose money in my business for three years before I have to shut it down and start over. The client actually thinks there is a rule saying you must make a profit 2 out of every five years. By this yardstick, Tesla, a publically traded company, would have to shut down. (Tesla has a decade of loses as I write this.)

The rule people think applies to small businesses actually is a hobby rule meant to serve the IRS, not you. If the rule wasn’t there, people like me would have a field day. Self-employment tax would be a thing you only read about.

People want to be a business when they lose money and a hobby (if they knew the rules) when they have a profit. Race car drivers want to write-off $48,721 of expenses because they won $2,100 of prize money racing. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

But there is a strategy here you can use to seriously reduce your tax burden.




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Stop Paying Your Quarterly Estimated Taxes!

 

When life is good the revenuers have a way of raining on the parade. A large year-end bonus, mutual fund distribution, or large year-end sale at your business can crimp your tax situation in more than one way. A quick call to your accountant gives you the answer: Make an estimated tax payment.

But making an estimated tax payment can hurt you! A quick payment at the end of the year to eliminate a tax liability still subjects you to an interest penalty in many cases. What you need is a quick and dirty guide on estimated tax payments to avoid nasty surprises, and even better, a way to game the system. (Who doesn’t like gaming the tax system? It’s this accountant’s favorite pastime.)

Our goal today is to pay as little as possible for as long as possible. There are two reasons for this: 1.) The longer you keep your money the longer it keeps working for you earning interest, and 2.) When you know you owe money you start thinking of ways to reduce the liability you have to eventually pay. I understand interest rates are very low as I write this. Still, keeping you money invested longer in your account is better than paying the government. If you are in the “digging out of debt” phase of your wealth building, keeping your money longer means less debt for longer. Since debt interest is significant, the later you pay the better for you.Continue reading

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Thriving on Minimum Wage

Minimum wage to riches.

Complaints about wages are rampant in the current news. The common wisdom is wages are too low for people to save for retirement or even pay for basic needs. Today I will dispel this common wisdom and prove 1.) Minimum wage, while not very much, is more than enough to live on; 2.) You can get a pay increase even if the boss refuses to pay you more than the minimum wage; and 3.) Early retirement is possible even at minimum wage and in fact you are more motivated to reach early retirement goals when you are locked at the lowest pay scale allowed by law.

I know I’m coming across as a dick to many people. But I’m right and you know it. I can and will deliver on all three points above in one short blog post. The problem with reaching these goals is you and your spending habits.

My dad grew up on a farm and started his own agriculture repair business back in the early 80s. He noticed his employees were no better off regardless what he paid them. Some were paid very well and still were flat broke.

I see the same thing in my practice among employees and clients. With a larger group to sample, my data is conclusive: Income is not the problem, spending is. Where you live has nothing to do with it. Nothing! Living in a high-cost area of the country usually means minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage. Since a few will refuse to believe me, I also included point #2. If you are so underpaid you should be excited to know I can guarantee you a pay increase on a regular basis. That means minimum wage will be history for you, my friend, and your employer can’t do a damn thing about it.

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They Said It First . . . and Better

The hardest part of writing a personal finance blog is finding fresh material. Most things have been said before and better. All the important points have been regurgitated onto the screen thousands of times before. If a PF blogger wants to make a difference she needs to find something to add to the already large heap of material available.

The trick to wealth is a very short story: save half your income, invest in index funds, avoid debt like the plague. Everything else is opinion. Everything else is nothing more than ways to spend less and learning to live on half your income without feeling cheated so you stay the course. The real trick is to get readers to apply the simple message.

Then the truth hits home. Even brilliant new ideas come crashing to earth as the blogger reads the PF universe. The new idea was said before and without a doubt, better. It is a sinking feeling when it happens. You pour your soul out onto the page only to discover weeks or months after publication another PF blogger already wrote the story. You feel like a hack.

You keep writing, keep hunting for the elusive fresh story. It’s new to you so it does not matter. Your story, your writing, is a journey of discovery; a story you can’t keep inside; a story you must tell. So, several times a week you sit in your chair and push your index finger (in honor of index funds) down your throat until you ralph up another classic. And you hope and pray it all makes a difference for at least one person. Otherwise you are only wasting your time.

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