Qualified plans are not the only option

If you aren’t a member of your local Costco warehouse, you may not be familiar with the monthly advertising magazine (Costco Connection) that features a few articles to break up the ad space.

Each issue contains a Q&A column with Suze Orman who gives advice on selected financial questions. Though this piece doesn’t typically crack the five minutes I spend skimming the magazine, the answer to this question caught my attention.

The question – “What retirement plan would you recommend to self-employed women who are making over the stated Roth IRA threshold of income?”

Ms. Orman’s answer is the perfect illustration of the limit of the typical financial planning mindset, as well as the complexity of the qualified plan rules. A “qualified plan” is one that meets certain requirements set out in the Internal Revenue Code that allow for certain tax benefits. She briefly touches on using a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) and an individual 401(k) listing the restrictive contribution limits put in place by the IRS, and then refers the questioner to a tax professional.

So women who earn a decent living are limited to plans that restrict the amount they can invest and require the expertise of a tax professional? I think we have a better option.

First of all, don’t invest until you have a sufficient amount saved. Savings and investments are different terms and they are often used interchangeably, so be careful what you are asking for. It’s possible the woman asking the question has her savings in order, but the numbers tell a different story for the majority of Americans. The beauty of focusing on savings first is that it provides piece of mind in case of an emergency (or opportunity), and there is no need to consult a tax advisor.

The gold standard for savings vehicles, that happens to also be something you can utilize for retirement income, is a properly designed Participating Whole Life Insurance policy (PWLIP). Ms. Orman did not list this as an option for retirement because she has publicly derided whole life insurance while not understanding any of the benefits offered. This is unfortunate for the woman who wrote in and any other Costco member who happened to see this bit of advice.

The bottom line is there are options outside of the world of restrictive, fee-laden, qualified plans when it comes to savings and retirement income. The combination of a PWLIP and the use of the Perpetual Wealth Code is one such option. No IRS contribution restrictions, no fees to eat away at the growth of your capital, and no penalty for accessing your capital when you find an opportunity worth funding. Self-employed women (and men) would do well to check out this option.


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