Using Qualified & Non-Qualified Plans

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Asset Protection

Using Qualified & Non-Qualified Plans
This section discusses two topics which are related and can contribute to the practice being both a Fortress and an Engine. However, the article is unique in that almost every Doctor takes advantage of the first option—qualified plans—while almost none utilize non-qualified plans. We will discuss both popular qualified retirement plans and less common non-qualified plans here, so that you can be aware of options that are available to you and, hopefully, get more out of your hard work, build greater wealth and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Use Qualified Retirement Plans
A “qualified” retirement plan describes retirement plans that comply with certain Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service rules. You might know such plans by their specific type, including pension plans, profit sharing plans, money purchase plans, 401(k)s or 403(b)s. Properly structured plans offer a variety of real economic benefits, such as:
· The ability to fully deduct contributions to these plans.
· Funds within these plans grow tax-deferred.
· Funds within these plans are protected from creditors.
In fact, these benefits are likely the reasons why most medical practices sponsor such plans.
For this chapter, we will include IRAs as “qualified plans” even though, technically, they are not. We are doing this because IRAs have essentially the same tax rules as qualified plans and have the same attractions to Doctors who can use them.
As you will learn in Lesson #6 on asset protection, qualified plans and IRAs enjoy (+5) protection in bankruptcy—for asset protection purposes.
You can learn more about their tax benefits (and drawbacks) in Lesson #7. You will see that the obvious tax benefits may be outweighed by the less obvious tax drawbacks.
With qualified plans (not IRAs), they must be offered to all “qualified” employees (within certain restrictions). For a Doctor owner, there may be some economic costs to having a plan which you must offer to, and contribute for, everyone at the office or at related businesses. With these mixed benefits and drawbacks, it is surprising how many Doctors (nearly 100%) use qualified plans and ignore their cousins, non-qualified plans, which are far less restrictive. Review the following chart so you can better understand the pros and cons of qualified plans.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Qualified Plans
Benefits
Tax deductible contributions
Highest level of asset protection (+5)
Tax-deferred growth Drawbacks
You must contribute to plan for all
eligible employees
All withdrawals subject to ordinary income tax rates
Penalties for access prior to age 59
Must take minimum distributions at age 70
May be taxed at 75% or more at death

post 10Your Qualified Plan “Bet” on Future Tax Rates
In other parts of the book, we cover most of the benefits and drawbacks of qualified plans in more detail. Here, we want to make sure you understand the bet you are making on future tax rates when you rely on qualified plans heavily for your retirement. Since all amounts that come out of qualified plans (and SEP and roll-over IRAs, of course) are 100% income taxable, there is no way to know how good (or bad) a financial deal such a plan could be for you until you know the tax rates when you withdraw funds.
In other words, if you contribute funds to a qualified plan today (when the top federal income tax rate is 35%) and withdraw funds when income tax rates are at the same or a lower level, the deduction today and tax-free growth over time is likely a “pretty good deal” for you. However, if you withdraw funds from your plan and the top federal tax rates are 40%-50% or higher, then the qualified plan/IRA may be a “bad deal” for you. Certainly, future federal income tax rates of 50% or more could make qualified plans a very negative long term investment proposition for you.
[Clarification Point: Some folks may argue that, in retirement, doctors are likely to have less income and thus the plan distributions will be taxed at lower rates. While this may be likely for 95% of taxpayers, many doctors will build enough wealth in retirement and non-retirement assets to be in the top marginal tax rates in retirement. The second highest marginal income tax rate (2% less than the highest rate) goes into effect when a married couple earns TOTAL income of only $200,300 in 2008. If you are single, divorced or widowed, that second highest rate applies to income above $164,550. Do you think that your total income will be less than $164k or $200k when you add in retirement distributions, Social Security, rental income, and any investment gains from non-pension assets? In many cases, doctors are going to retire only when their retirement assets will generate incomes equal to their last year’s salary. For most of our clients, this is the retirement game plan—retire only when they can maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed]
With this is mind, review the history of US income tax rates chart below. Putting aside politics, you must understand that it is certainly a possibility that tax rates can return to the levels they were for most of the 20th century. If they do, qualified plans utilized today by most doctors may turn out to be “losing bets” in the long run. Since we cannot know what future tax rates will be, we need to at least acknowledge the bet we are making and ask how we can reduce our risk and perhaps hedge against such a losing bet.

A New Concept for Investing—Tax Treatment Diversification
Does the fact that our qualified plans today may turn out to be losing bets mean that we should abandon them? In most cases, the answer is “no.” These plans generally have the strongest asset protection available and provide significant incentives for employees. We would strongly recommend, however, that EVERY doctor make investments that offer a hedge against potential tax rate increases.
The concept here is that you should have various More

Paying Bills Even If You Can’t Work

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Paying Bills Even If You Can't Work

Paying Bills Even If You Can’t Work
If you are like most of our other clients with high incomes, the single greatest asset your family has is your earning power. This reality motivates most people to buy life insurance as protection against a premature death. For most people, purchasing life insurance is “common sense.” While most people with whom we speak are underinsured, they do have at least some protection against a premature death. However, most Average American professionals, entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives often overlook a more dangerous threat to their long-term financial stability—their own disability. What is the risk that the average individual will suffer a disability? According to marketing materials of more than one life insurance company:
“Probability of at least one long-term disability (90 days or longer) occurring before age 65 is: 50% for someone age 25; 45% for someone age 35; 38% for someone age 45; and 26% for someone age 55.”
Inadequate disability income insurance coverage can be more costly than death, divorce, or a lawsuit. Responsible financial planning includes planning for the best possible future while protecting against the worst possible events. No one ever plans on becoming disabled—though half of those aged 25 will have a disability of three months or longer at least once. This chapter explains not only why you need disability insurance, but also what to look for in a disability policy.

The Need For Disability Insurance
In our opinion, the disability of the family breadwinner can be more financially devastating to a family than premature death. In both cases, the breadwinner will be unable to provide any income for the family; however, in the case of death, the deceased earner is no longer an expense to the family. Yet, if the breadwinner suddenly becomes disabled, he or she still needs to be fed, clothed, and cared for by medical professionals or family members. In many cases, the medical care alone can cost hundreds of dollars per day. Thus, with a disability, income is reduced or eliminated and expenses increase. This can be a devastating turn of events and can lead to creditor problems and even bankruptcy.
If you are older (near retirement) and have saved a large enough sum of money to immediately fund a comfortable retirement, then you probably don’t need disability income protection. Of course, you may have some long-term care concerns, but that is covered in the next chapter. On the other hand, if you are under 50 years old, or if you are older than 50 and have several pre-college age children, you should consider the right disability insurance a necessity. The challenge is determining what type of disability income policy is “right” for you.

Employer Provided Coverage Often Inadequate
If you are an employee of a university, HMO, or other large corporation, your employer may provide long-term disability coverage. The premiums are probably discounted from what you would pay for a private policy. We advise you take a good look at what the employer-offered policy covers, and buy a private policy if you and the insurance professional on your advisory team decide you need it. For many people, this makes a lot of sense because employer-provided group policies are often inadequate. They may limit either the term of the coverage or the amount of benefits paid. For instance, benefits may last only a few years or benefit payments may represent only a small part of your annual compensation. Since this is most commonly an employer-paid benefit, the money received during your disability will be income taxable to you. For most, this arrangement would result in your taking home less than half of the original amount in your paycheck after taxes are paid!

Give Yourself a Check-Up
Most people with employer-provided disability insurance coverage will find the benefits inadequate. To help you determine where your existing coverage may be lacking, we have provided some questions for you to ask when you are giving yourself an insurance check-up. When you are ultimately working with the insurance professional on your advisory team, you should keep some of these questions in mind as well. They will help you better compare coverage options from different companies so that you can find the best policy for your specific circumstances and goals. Below are a list of some questions you should ask yourself as well as short explanations of the appropriate answers:
· How long does the disability coverage last?
· How much is the benefit? (Some plans may cap the benefits at $5,000 per month)
· What percentage of your income is covered? (Generally, you cannot receive more than 60% of income and the benefit is capped at $7,500 or $10,000, depending on your age). Though most group LTD plans are good for the purpose that they serve, they are only a partial cure. Because of the limitations or ‘cap,’ they have a built—in discrimination against higher income employees—like you!
· Who pays the premiums? (TIP: If you pay the premiums yourself, and not as a deductible expense through your business or practice, your benefits will be tax-free.) You may be seduced by the income tax deduction of the premiums, but the extra tax burden today is much easier to swallow than the tax burden will be if you suffer a disability and have a significantly reduced income and increased expenses. When you and your family need the money the most, you will have more.
· Is the policy portable, or convertible, to an individual policy if you leave the group? If so, do you maintain your reduced group rate?
· If your business distributes all earnings from the corporation at year-end in the way of bonuses to all owners/partners (typical of C-corps as a way to avoid double taxation), you should see whether these amounts are covered by the group policy. If not, and if bonuses or commissions make up a substantial part of your income (which we have seen to be the case with many people), you’ll More