Nick H recently emailed me a question about how much money he should invest in tax-advantaged accounts before adding to non-qualified accounts. Due to the large number of emails I receive I am unable to provide individualized tax advice unless you are a client. Nick’s question had a familiar ring. Several times per week I get a variation of the same question. Rather than ignore the request, I decided to put it into a post so all readers can benefit from my suggestions.
Here is Nick’s complete email:
Dear Wealth Accountant,
I have been a reader of yours for a few months now, and enjoy it very much. I was introduced to your site via a MMM post.
I have a question for you regarding investing in tax-advantaged accounts vs. normal accounts. Standard advice is that I should max out tax advantaged accounts before saving in normal accounts. However, with financial independence/early retirement in mind, if I do not make enough to max out tax advantaged accounts and save enough in a normal account for early retirement, I think that it makes more sense to put just enough into a 401k to get my match, then save everything else I can in a normal investment account.
I reach this conclusion because the goal of early retirement is to build up an income stream, unlike standard retirement in which you just achieve the largest possible pile of cash. Since there are significant limitations on access to the funds in taxed advantaged accounts, this seems like an inefficient method of saving. Again, assuming that I have to choose between the two.
PS. I also posed this question to MMM. I am very curious to get both of your perspectives on it. Thanks & hope to hear from you!
Nick makes a narrow assumption of either/or. He indicates he either has to max out his retirement accounts before funding non-qualified accounts or he will not have an income stream to fund his early retirement.
Nick also turns the tables on the standard advice by saying standard advice says to max out retirement accounts. I guess it depends on whose standard advice we are looking at. Most standard advice is geared toward generating larger fees for the investment house. Standard advice says you should save 10% of your income. It makes me nauseous thinking about it.
News over the years has deteriorated into biased reporting, slanted by political opinion. Finding quality news to form your own opinion is nearly impossible to find. Yet, without good information you can’t make informed decisions in your investing, business or personal life.
As bad as it is, there are ways to still get quality news reports. It requires effort to sift through the garbage to find facts you can use to improve your business and personal life. The BBC, The Economist, and National Public Radio still provide solid reporting with a minimal of political bias. Fox News is not news, except for those rare occasions when they report an event they have not had time to work a political angle on yet. CNN is somewhat better, but still contains plenty of bias.
Before you blame to broadcasters and the internet news feeds, remember, we are the ones feeding the beast. By consuming meaningless opinion pieces we encourage more of the same production. Our own personal biases will determine if we love Fox News or hate it. I don’t care for Fox News for a completely different reason I will share shortly.
Polarization and populism has taken over. People only want to hear what they want to hear. News no longer informs with facts; it reinforces already existing personal biases. It caters to base emotions like anger and hate. And let’s not pick on Fox News alone. I don’t watch TV so unless I am visiting family or in an airport, I don’t get much TV news indoctrination. I prefer internet news feeds. CNBC provides business news, The Economist provides a wide variety of news from around the world, and gasp, I also tend to sift through the dung pile of Yahoo’s news feed.
It’s that time of year again where we need to reconcile the previous year’s income for the government. The task can be daunting, but with armies of tax professionals and online software, many people can tackle their tax return with few issues.
The trick is finding the right tax software when you plan on preparing your own tax return. The most popular online packages are dummied down versions of better tax software programs. The Q&A required by most online programs can become daunting (and time consuming) if you have any tax knowledge at all. The biggest problem is finding tax software that is professional grade that offers just enough help to not be invasive.
I want to introduce you to an online tax program I think is superior to other online software: Drake Software. The banner below is a direct link to the software for individual users. It was featured last year on Mr. Money Mustache. It also happens to be the same tax software I use in my office.
Over 50,000 tax professionals use Drake software to file over 26 million tax returns. My office was one of the earliest adopters of the Drake interface (one of the first 200 if my ID number is any indication).
Back in the late 1980s I sought out a professional software package that was not only robust, but offered economical e-filing. Back in those days it was common for software to charge $35 or more just to e-file. Drake was an industry leader, charging only $1 per e-filed return. My office could offer free e-filing before anyone else due to Drake and their powerful software platform.
Time has only made this software better. Of course, my office still e-files for free, but it is so much more. Drake branched out into other areas of the accounting office. They also offered accounting firms like mine an opportunity to provide an alternative in the DIY tax preparation segment.
What I liked from the start was that Drake incorporated the entire professional grade platform in their online version for people preparing their own return. No other online software offers such a robust program to the general public, in my opinion. They market the program under the 1040.com name.
At a recent Camp Mustache where I gave a presentation I also offered one-hour personalized consultations. Most of the advice I give is identical among all people I consult with. Most themes come up again and again. About 20% of what I advise is unique to the individual.
This particular group was comprised of high net worth people. These people save a massive percentage of their annual income and are in a position to retire early; mid-30s is average. Incomes were all over the map. Some had high income; some had modest income. All invested heavily in index funds and/or real estate.
An attractive young woman was next in line for a consultation. She had amassed a reasonable amount of liquid funds and was planning her retirement strategy. I knew she wasn’t married by looking at her tax return. I asked if she had a special someone in her life. She said no. I then made the offhand comment, “If you ever decide to get married you will have a prenup.”
Prenuptial agreements are common so I felt the comment was just a reminder. She seemed surprised so I reiterated she will need a prenup if she gets married, especially since she has a sizable nest egg. She wasn’t so certain it was a good idea. I reminded her gold diggers don’t always have tits. It took a bit of convincing to get her to come around to my way of thinking. I told her if I ever found out she got married without a prenup I would be very unhappy with her. My final selling point was, “When you have money some people will lie to get you to marry them. Then when they screw around and leave, you will pay them half your net worth to screw another woman. It is a bitter pill you want to avoid.”
It does not take long when you wander the blogs of the ‘retire early’ community before you hear the common refrain: If everybody did this stuff it would kill the economy. To which I promptly call bullshit.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett managed to not spend over $100 billion of their money over the last few decades and the economy has done fine. In the 1950s the savings rate was much higher and the economy more vibrant. When the research is reviewed there is no doubt excessive debt, a low savings rate and excessive spending have more to do with an anemic economy than any responsible spending will do.
People look for any excuse they can to remain married to their poor habits and lack of self-control. It is easier to complain about successful people than it is to take responsibility for your own actions. Somehow these people have been bullshitted for so long they actually think poverty is the only way to keep the economy going. Really? They think the only way to survive is to spend every nickel they have. They think living on the financial edge of ruin from the first light breeze is what makes the economy purr and provides job security. Where does this nonsense come from?
Each edition of Camp Mustache gets better than the one before. Camp Mustache SE in Gainesville, Florida (January 13 –January 16, 2017) is the fourth in a series of camps, this being the first outside the Seattle area. I have had the honor of attending and speaking at all but the first Camp Mustache.
Stephen Baughier organized the event with guidance, advice and a helping hand from Emma Pattee. Emma’s experience organizing Camp Mustache in Seattle allowed Stephen to move up the learning curve faster. The added experience and hard work made Camp Mustache SE awesome on every level. For the record, I have already accepted the offer to attend Camp Mustache IV in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend in the states this May. There is no doubt the gathering will be an incredible place to learn and meet like-minded people in the FIRE community.
Several notable names were in attendance. Pete, the guest of honor, was, of course, there. J.D. Roth (Money Boss), Joshua Sheats (Radical Personal Finance), Brad Barrett (Travel Miles 101), Gwen (Fiery Millennials), Jonathon Mendonsa (Chosefi), Zeona McIntyre (ZeonaMcIntyre.com), Brooks Nelson (Gainesville Cohousing) and more were available for questions. (Hope I did not miss anyone.)
The following post is based on a presentation I gave at Camp Mustache SE in Gainesville, Florida on January 15, 2017.
There are several ways to convince someone to speak at your event. Stephen Baughier used the most sure-fire method ever. Stephen noticed I wrote a blog post back in August listing some people I would like to meet someday. He checked two people on the list and found JD Roth open to attending. He then called me and said, “Hey, Keith. I saw on your blog you wanted to meet JD Roth. Well, he is speaking at Camp Mustache SE in January. We would love to have you speak as well and you can meet a man you admire.” How could I say no?
Picking a topic of discussion is something I allow the event organizer to decide. If they have no preference I choose something currently exciting to me. In this instance Stephen thought something about organizing your stuff in preparation for meeting your accountant/tax guy would be a good choice.
I grimaced. My organizational skills are not legend. However, I do keep a tight fist on in financial organization.
Bookkeeping is not a topic which lends to filling an hour presentation. My first thought was to stand in front of the group and yell, “Shut up, and sit down!” while I stabbed my finger at them. “Enter your paperwork once a week and stop bitching about it.” Then I would grab a beer from the fridge and sit down. My first inclination had a slight flaw I thought might turn off the crowd and upset Stephen so I moved to plan B.
What started as a grand idea has morphed into a changed worldview. For decades I focused on the local community in my practice. I would speak for various organizations around the area, rarely traveling more than 50 miles. And I was happy with that.
My speaking engagements and traveling expanded during the 1990s when I entered the securities field. As memory serves, every presentation I have given outside the State of Wisconsin was for something related to securities. Until two year ago.
Two years ago I had this brainstorm to expand an area of my practice that had been an itch I had to scratch. It went horribly wrong and changed my life in ways I never expected. It was a simple idea. Swoop in on a personal finance conference, dazzle them with my usual charm, and sell an idea. It didn’t go according to plan.
My idea was accepted in a modified form. The problem arrived when I was offered an opportunity to expand my worldview like never before. Remember, I am an old farm boy from the backwoods of Wisconsin. This shit doesn’t happen around here. I was totally unprepared.
The result was this blog and a shout out by Mr. Money Mustache. I had to write this blog; I had no choice. The idea was on the back burner for years. Now I had to push forward with the project. People wanted to hear what I had to say.
And then there was the growing demand for my services and requests to speak to more groups. As I started to attend these events and communicating with many people in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community, I started to build friendships. I missed these people when they were not around.