Happy Birthday!

“We are food for worms, lads”

So goes the line from a classic film about living your life and embracing the gifts you have been given.  Dead Poets Society is the film and it was released nearly 30 years ago.  For those unfamiliar, do yourselves a favor and check it out.

The entire film centers around breaking out of our own shell, getting out of our own way, and ensuring our lives have meaning, and the quote above comes from the pivotal scene.  A group of students are encouraged to look at a trophy case celebrating young men from years past.  Those pictured in the case were the stars of their day and they all have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Their hearts have played their final beat.  What would any of them give to be back on the other side of the glass and live for another day?

Yesterday I was at a talk where the presenter quoted Walt Whitman referring to his “barbaric yawp” (another scene from Dead Poets Society), and today is my birthday.  This somewhat random reference combined with 9/25 may not seem like much, but to me it sounds like a subtle reminder from above – seize the day.  It’s too easy to get stuck in a rut of your own making.  To check off another year and still be in the same place you were on your last birthday.  To only experience what you have in the past.

Help me celebrate my birthday by embracing the message in the scene above.  Make your life extraordinary, and you will bring others along for the ride.  Thanks for breaking out of the rut.

 

What’s your exit strategy, LIAM?

As we approach the end of Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM), it’s fitting to bring up one more financial benefit provided by Participating Whole Life Insurance policies.  Specifically, the exit strategy.  A properly designed PWLI policy should provide you tax exempt income when entering your new phase of retired life.  Ideally, this saving for retirement via the PWLI policy starts early in life, but you can still take advantage of the benefits in your later years.

No matter your age, for now let’s imagine you are going to attempt to climb Mt. Everest and you need to choose between two guides; do you choose the guide with a track record of getting climbers to the top of the mountain, or the guide known for getting you safely back to camp?  Your answer could help determine your preferred way to save and plan for your passive income years.

Similar to our imaginary Everest adventure, we have to decide what is more important to us with regard to our retirement funds.  Is it the total balance in the account, or the amount we have left once it is withdrawn?  Qualified plans, while being tax deferred, are still subject to taxes at the most important time.  And the Roth IRA may not be subject to taxes (for now), but the investments are still subject to market risk.  Why take the risk of not getting off the mountain when you have a guide that can help you avoid both taxes and market corrections?

LIAM is coming to an end, but the daily game/challenge of managing your finances continues.  When considering your options for saving and investing, remember the flexibility and guarantees provided by a properly designed PWLI.  We’re already on the mountain.  Let’s make sure we make it back to camp with stories to tell.

Confirmation that Universal Life is all Sizzle

The Wall Street Journal published an article[i] today that confirms what many of us have known for some time.  Universal Life (UL) insurance, along with sister products Variable Universal Life (VUL) and Indexed Universal Life (IUL), does not live up to the sales hype.  The article reveals several sad cases where customers have paid more in premiums than their heirs will receive when they pass on, due to the way the policies are designed.  While there is little to be done for the poor souls highlighted by the Journal, this piece may be a blessing to clients who have recently purchased any variation of a UL policy.

To be clear, this post assumes clients wish to create a guaranteed savings account that will provide a significant benefit to their heirs at the end of their life.  There may be people who don’t care about the size of the death benefit or the predictability of premiums.  It’s also possible there are clients who want to believe the UL policy they purchased is different.  This post is not for them.

From the Journal article (emphasis added) –

Universal life is among the reasons Americans are approaching retirement in the worst shape in decades[ii]. The insurance policy type emerged in an era nearly four decades ago when the Federal Reserve was fighting inflation with high interest rates. Some financial advisers suggested people forgo traditional “whole life” insurance and buy less-expensive policies that covered just a limited term, investing what they saved in the mutual funds and money-market funds then proliferating. Insurance companies embraced this mantra of “buy term and invest the difference” by inventing a new product.

After practicing the advice of ‘buy term and invest the difference’, many Americans are approaching retirement with little to show for it.  We don’t like using scare tactics to sell products, but do yourself a favor and re-read the snippet from the Journal.  Before you start (or continue) down the UL path, consider that this method has proven to be unreliable at best.  These contracts rely on assumptions that interest rates will remain at or above a certain level, and/or the stock market returns a certain amount annually.

Sadly, market performance and interest rates not only impact the performance of an individual policy, it can impact all UL policies sold by that company.  From the Journal again (emphasis added) –

With future profits expected to be hurt by low rates, at least a half-dozen insurers have invoked policy provisions that they say allow them to raise the rates used to calculate the annual cost of customers’ term insurance, according to ITM TwentyFirst, which provides policy-management services.

This means some customers see costs rising not simply because they are a year older, or because their savings account didn’t grow as planned, but because their insurer has changed its price formula. As a result, even some customers who kept their policies well funded are being hit with unexpectedly higher costs.

We like to say “it’s the process, not the product” when talking about the Perpetual Wealth Code(TM) and the benefits you can create.  In the case of UL products, it appears the product can actually derail the process even if you follow it properly.  Thankfully, there is a better way.

The objective when purchasing a permanent life insurance policy is to create a legacy that you can pass to your loved ones when you pass away.  A more immediate benefit is the ability to access your saved capital now and into retirement.  The gold standard for building both the legacy and accessible capital is a properly designed Participating Whole Life Insurance (PWLI) policy.  Premiums remain level, both the death benefit and cash values are guaranteed, and the insurance company cannot change the cost/benefit if the market declines.

Feel free to contact me with any questions on PWLI or how to incorporate the Perpetual Wealth Code(TM) into your life.

 

[i] – https://www.wsj.com/articles/universal-life-insurance-a-1980s-sensation-has-backfired-1537368656?mod=hp_lead_pos5

[ii] – https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-generation-of-americans-is-entering-old-age-the-least-prepared-in-decades-1529676033?mod=article_inline

Disturb us, Lord

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

~ A prayer given by Sir Francis Drake, prior to sailing the Atlantic Ocean (1577)

Stress! Financial and otherwise.

“Procrastination is like a smoke break” said Mel Robbins in the YouTube video posted below.  As I watched the five minute clip of her explaining how procrastination may not be what we think, while putting off the growing to-do list in front of me, the irony was clear.

This is a quick post so let’s cut to the chase.  We procrastinate when we get stressed about any number of things.  The example given in the clip relates to financial stress about lack of saving leading to lack of motivation to make necessary phone calls.  This can be applied to so many situations it is overwhelming to even think of additional examples.  Stress is rampant in our lives and procrastination is the natural next step.  It’s a vicious cycle.

How to stop the madness of the procrastination addiction?  Start small.  Ms. Robbins suggests making phone calls for five minutes, I decided to write this post.  What are you going to do?

Of course one option is to contact me to discover how the Perpetual Wealth Code can work for you.  Probably the best option.  Looking forward to hearing from you.  No more cat videos!

Happy Star Wars Day

It’s May the 4th, and I’m considering seeing Avengers: Infinity War again.  The debate is not if, it’s a matter of when.  While I’m working out my scheduling logistics, let’s consider how similar this film is to the best of the Star Wars series – The Empire Strikes Back.

As a young buck back in 1981, I was fortunate to see Empire in the theater and experience the jaw-dropping “I am your father” revelation.  No Internet back in the day, so spoilers were not quite as rampant.  Of course after Luke has his hand cut off, learns the face of evil is his father, and finds his best friend has been captured by the bounty hunter, the movie ends.  WHAT!?!?  This was not supposed to happen.  The good guys are supposed to win, right?  This was tough on a kid.  For a while there I did not appreciate the greatness of Empire because I was expecting more vanquishing of the dark side, not this “bad guys win” nonsense.

Flash forward to the epic nerd experience discussion with Joe Russo a few days ago and he mentions, specifically, that it’s tough to accept, but sometimes the bad guys win.  Avengers: Infinity War is my son’s version of Empire.  He’s a little more accepting of the ending of this movie than I was back in 1981, but it’s still got him thinking.  What just happened?  Wasn’t Thor’s epic quest supposed to end with Thanos cut in half?  No.  But at least the main character didn’t lose his hand after kissing his sister.

We’ll be back to posting about the Perpetual Wealth Code and other more responsible topics soon, but let’s take some time to celebrate today.  If you need some Star Wars meme inspiration, good stuff right here.

May the force be with you.

Virtual Mentors

I listen to a lot of podcasts.  It all started very small with just one podcast that jumped out at me after reading a blog post.  That one led to another and the avalanche of iTunes subscriptions was on.  There are so many queued up (with so many added every week) that I will not get to them all.  Even with the double-speed listening option on the phone, which I cannot recommend highly enough.  If I hear one of these podcasts in normal speed now I feel like they are playing a game of who can be more sloth-like.  That’s brutal, but you should try the double-speed option.

What’s the point of all this speed-listening?  Each of these hosts has achieved something that I admire and I am trying to emulate.  Better health, more efficiency, more financial control, you name it, these folks have seemed to master it.  And I’m looking for ways to improve.  The saying that is (and should be) beaten into your head goes – you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.  The reason for this is partially environment (if all your friends are dining on wings and beer…), but it extends to how you think.  How do you look at money?   Successful people?  Fit people?  Anyone who has something that seems out of reach?  This has been influenced by the people you spend the most time with.

While I fully believe that who you spend time with matters, I also believe that you can create virtual mentors for yourself to break out of the mental cage you have been trapped in.  Do yourself a favor and check out episodes from any of the following podcasts.  It’s possible some are more interesting to me than anyone reading this, but my bet is that you’ll find something useful.  And you will probably find a lead on another virtual mentor based on whoever is being interviewed.  Best of luck…

The James Altucher Show

The Time Ferriss Show

The Model Health Show

Fat-Burning Man

Kwik Brain w/ Jim Kwik

Wealth Talks

WorkLife w/ Adam Grant

The Urban Monk

Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 

Everyone should be in two businesses

“Everyone should be in two businesses.  Whatever business they operate, and the banking business.”  – R. Nelson Nash

The quote above comes from one of my early mentors and it’s just as valuable today as when I first heard it.  First of all, this applies to everyone, not just business owners.  When he refers to the businesses we operate, he’s including anyone who works as an employee and earns a wage.  Whether we are incorporated or not, we should all view ourselves as the CEO of “Me, Inc.”.  The idea of dueling businesses applies to each of us.

In the spirit of Small Business Week, I figured we could focus on the “small business” of our personal finances, which is what Mr. Nash is referring to when he speaks of the banking business.  I like to refer this as a money management system rather than a bank, but he has his own terminology.

Let’s start by making the obvious connection between your two businesses.  For sake of argument, pretend you are a contractor and you serve your local community.  You are rewarded for your service with nice green certificates of appreciation (also known as cash).  If this cash is going to be stored somewhere other than your wallet, it’s likely going into your checking account.  From there, you allocate part of the cash to savings, another part to paying for your truck, and the rest to your lifestyle.  So your primary business/job that drives your revenue/paycheck feeds your money management system.

When talking about financing your truck, or any other piece of equipment, the traditional thinking is that this is done through a commercial bank and that you make monthly payments over the years.  What if your money management system could finance the truck/equipment and the payments came back to you?  What if the interest earned on that money were now building in your money management system rather than just being paid out each month?  The answer is that you would now be in the banking business, as Mr. Nash recommends.

We refer to this system as the Perpetual Wealth Code.  It’s a simple, though not always easy, process of recapturing the interest and fees paid to money managers by accessing your own capital.  Whether you finance a work truck, a new copier, or fishing boat, the method and the results are the same.  More control over your finances and greater increase in your wealth.

There are many ways to go about this process, but it is much easier when you have a guide who practices what they teach.  Feel free to reach out with questions.

Small Business Week!

We are in the midst of “Small Business Week” and I will admit that I’m not sure what that means.  I think the idea is to encourage everyone to shop local and celebrate small businesses this week, but it feels a bit like Valentine’s Day.  It’s a made up “holiday” where you act like you should all the time.  Should you treat your loved one with love and kindness for just one day, or every day of the year?  Should you shop locally just this week, or whenever you need something that the local business offers?

We aren’t two dimensional beings so clearly there will occasionally be arguments against this, but I’m sticking with my Small Business Week = Valentine’s Day premise.

With all of that being said, be sure to celebrate your local small businesses early and often.  These people often have a stronger connection to the local community and show it by donating both time and treasure.  Not only do they support the community at large, they provide jobs and serve a specific need.

It’s easy to get caught in the trap of believing business is a zero sum game.  Someone has to win and someone has to lose.  And business people are generally bad.  Anyone watching TV and movies on a semi-regular basis will have noticed this theme.  Sadly, this theme has tainted the conversation about business in general and is just not helpful.  Business is a beautiful thing, as it serves a need that someone is willing to pay for.  When that exchange takes place between a local small business person and their neighbor, it’s that much stronger.

So celebrate your local small businesses every day and show your loved one some appreciation.  Can’t you feel life getting better already?

Nerdvana

Joe Russo is a living legend.  That may seem overstated, but he (along with brother Anthony) has directed the film with the biggest opening weekend in history.  It’s now a race to see how fast the movie will gross $1 billion.

The reason I find this so interesting is I had the chance to meet said legend and he was so down to earth and relate-able that it seemed like they hired a guy to play him.  His favorite bar is George’s in Iowa City, by the way, so come check it out.  For those who know George’s, he made a point of saying the only thing that has changed with the burgers in 25 years is the price.  Something along the lines of a pitcher and a burger for $1.00 back then.  Ah, the good old days.

The picture is grainy and probably not well placed, but some of us are still learning.

Like many “overnight success stories”, Mr. Russo talked about how it took him a good ten years overnight.  He related a chance meeting with Steven Soderbergh that connected them to a rising star in George Clooney that led to some network TV gigs that ultimately brought them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Most importantly, he talked about how Professor Jay Holstein shaped the way he thought about thematic storytelling and how to make that story interesting.  Professor Holstein didn’t teach film, but he taught the most popular class at the University of Iowa.  It was a religion class and Mr. Russo points to his experience with Prof. Holstein as the reason he was able to make Infinity War.  High praise.

Russo’s ability to tell a story and create three dimensional characters is what has made his films so successful.  The best part of these movies is the depth of the characters you are cheering for or against, not the CGI and million dollar special effects.  And the best part of this revelation is that we don’t need Disney budgets to create our own epic.  Many thanks to Joe and the folks at Film Scene for making some nerd dreams come true.