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

First, Do No Harm

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Protecting Assets

One common financial disaster that can result in a significant loss of assets is a civil lawsuit. Lessons #5 and #6 will offer almost two dozen specific solutions to help mitigate litigation risks. Though malpractice lawsuits are a significant risk for physicians in today’s society, they do not pose the most significant risk to one’s wealth if proper insurance is in place.
This Lesson will explore those additional—and more devastating—financial disasters that must be addressed if you wish to achieve and maintain wealth. These risks include both health-related and financial events. More specifically, this section of the book will teach you how to:
· Protect your family from an unexpected death
· Keep paying your bills even if you can’t work due to disability
· Handle long-term care expenses before they arise
· Make sure you don’t run out of money in retirement
· Avoid healthcare and insurance threats
· Avoid employment threats
· Obtain insurance to protect against business and personal risks

post 7Protecting Your Family From an Unexpected Death
The emotional distress caused by the premature death of a loved one cannot be exaggerated. Long before the psychological scars begin to heal, financial devastation for surviving family members may begin. If proper planning is not undertaken, the value of the medical practice, which could be a saleable asset to help the family, may be lost.
There are various obstacles to successful financial planning in the case of unforeseen death simply because none of us knows when our time will come. The 2003 National Safety Council’s study on deaths (http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds.htm) and the 1999 US Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States, which surveyed the year 1997, reported the following statistics in regard to unforeseen death types:
· There is a 1 in 24 chance (4.17%) that you will ultimately die from a stroke
· There is a 4% chance you will die from an accident or the adverse effects of one
When you add these two risks together, you can see that approximately 1 in 12 people will die from an unforeseen risk. In addition, a number of people will find out they are terminally ill and their families will not be able to purchase personal life insurance to help them manage the financial burden created when they pass away.
Another obstacle to successful financial planning in the case of unforeseen death is that most people don’t enjoy contemplating, let alone discussing, the death of a family member. As a result, few families are financially or emotionally prepared for this traumatic event.
In this chapter, we will discuss two financial losses that can occur at the time of death:
· Loss of income
· Loss of an estate (via estate taxes and probate costs)
Physicians and their families can use particular insurance planning strategies to efficiently manage the risks which often result from the premature death of a family member. In addition, proper legal documentation must be created to allow for efficient handling of financial matters at death—including offering the executor of the estate the legal power to effectuate a transfer prior to the estate going through probate. If there are unnecessary delays in this process, the patients will seek another practitioner, thus diminishing the value of the practice further. This chapter aims to teach you how to protect wealth from the death of a patriarch or matriarch. Let’s explore how this can be done.

Income Protection
A key to successful planning is an ability to put one’s fear of death aside and focus on the financial impact a death may have on a family. The first financial impact of death, especially for younger families, is the lost income. Once a father or mother has passed away, they obviously will not earn any more income. If the family hasn’t met all of its saving goals (most don’t until they are well into their fifties), there will be a significant financial strain from the death. The key to maintaining wealth is making sure that no financial catastrophe wipes out the family. To show you how significant this loss of income can be, consider the following.
The present value of twenty years of lost income for the Average American family (with $45,000 of annual income) is approximately $636,000. That means that, at the time of death, the family would be in the same financial situation if they had 20 years of income OR had a lump sum of $636,000.
For the family of a physician who earns $300,000 per year, the present value of twenty years of lost income is over $4,200,000. For the family of a very successful specialist who earns $1,000,000 per year, the present value of 20 years of lost income is $14 million. The simple estimate implies that a family needs approximately 14 times the annual income of the breadwinner to replace twenty years of lost income. If you have a younger breadwinner or a breadwinner who just intends to work 30 more years, the multiple used to approximate the present value of future income is 18 times one year’s income.
What these examples illustrate is that a family needs life insurance in the amount of at least 14 times the annual income of each wage earner just to keep them on track to meet their financial goals (assuming that their current earnings were keeping them on track before the death). Also, this estimate assumes no adjustment for inflation. Over twenty to twenty five years, the value of a dollar is reduced by 50%. For that reason, you could estimate that a family needs between 14 and 28 times one year’s after-tax salary to replace twenty years of income. Do you have enough life insurance to protect your family and leave them in a position to meet their goals if you were to die?
In addition to lost income, the practice asset will be lost if proper estate planning doesn’t establish a trustee with a power of sale. This is the best possible option since More