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

Smart Doctors Don’t Want to “Fit In”

Posted by & filed under Business, Business Owners, Doctors, Healthcare.

We hope that you now understand that there are significant differences between Doctors and Average Americans—at least in terms of basic demographic data. This book will hopefully teach you how you should act when faced with financial and legal issues. These very different attitudes and methods of approaching wealth planning are integral to your success.
We also hope that you have gained some insight into why nearly every newspaper, financial website and financial magazine is forced to focus its content on a group of subscribers or readers that have a very different set of concerns than Doctors. These media outlets need to provide “common sense” advice to the general public (i.e. Average Americans) to fit their business model of attracting the most eyeballs. There are simply far more Average American “eyeballs” than there are wealthy, or more specifically Doctor, “eyeballs.”
It stands to reason that, if financial “common sense” has been developed for (and should generally be used by) Average Americans, then this common sense will not apply to physicians. In fact, the only way Doctors can achieve desired levels of wealth and have peace of mind is to follow advice that doesn’t make “common sense.”
Going against “common sense” is not easy. There are many deeply rooted psychological factors that push someone to go with the crowd, rather than against it. This is certainly true in the financial planning context. As an example, consider this proposition:

It is a bad financial idea for a Doctor to pay off a mortgage and own a home outright. For many of you reading this now, this may be difficult, if not impossible, to believe. It is exactly the opposite of what your parents told you (and they are the smart people who taught you so many life lessons). It is the polar opposite of what Suze Orman and hundreds of websites, magazine articles, and television programs suggest. Further, it just may not “feel” right, because it goes against what all of your friends are doing. Keep those feelings and thoughts in mind when you read the other Lessons in the book.

Why Ignoring “Common Sense” Is So Difficult
Most children and adolescents try desperately to “fit in.” As we get older, we try to find the right groups in college. In our first jobs, we want to toe the company line. All states have laws that govern our behavior. Most religions have commandments, rules, or other codices of condoned and forbidden activities.
Most people avoid actions they fear their friends and relatives would criticize—or at the very least, they refrain from sharing details of their potentially critical activities with their family and friends. We are not implying that Americans are sheep. Rather, we are saying that society typically rewards those who are similar and creates more challenges for those who are not.
This is not a particularly astute observation. It is merely support for the significance of the #1 challenge that must be overcome if you are to truly work less and build more. To do so, you not only have to admit to being different from Average Americans, but you also have to EMBRACE the fact that you are different.

Embrace Affluence And Your Differences: A Key Lesson
If you want to successfully achieve or maintain wealth, you must be comfortable with your unique circumstances and be comfortable doing things differently than your friends. If your only comfort comes from doing something and knowing that “everyone else is doing it,” then you are destined to achieve and maintain mediocrity. Wealthy Americans became affluent by being different or by doing something different. If they did what everyone else did, they would be like 80% of Americans who earn less than $80,000 per year and they wouldn’t have achieved the wealth they now have.
Savvy physicians don’t want to “fit in.” They understand that Average Americans work very hard to pay their bills while scratching to save for retirement, occasional vacations, and precious luxury items. Savvy Doctors understand that the two groups have very different financial challenges that require different types of advisors and strategies. These physicians don’t need the financial and legal advisors and firms that cater to 150,000,000 Average Americans. Doctors don’t need techniques, strategies, or products that are adequate for the needs of the many. Doctors don’t need free checking, higher money market rates, lower online trading costs, do-it-yourself legal documents, or the advisor with the lowest hourly rate. Doctors don’t need advisors to tell them how nice their shoes are or how wonder-fully decorated their home or office is. They know these things are nice—they bought them. Doctors don’t need to be surrounded with “yes” men or women who agree with all of their suggestions. They need advisors to question them, challenge them, and help them consider all alternatives before taking action. Smart physicians shouldn’t put much stock in advisors who send calendars, fruit baskets, or sports tickets, or seek out advisors who will take them golfing or out to dinner. You can pay for all of those things yourself.

Good Dr.'s Don't Want To Fit InDoctors need to understand that there are millions of attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, and financial planners who would all like their business. You should know that many of these advisors and their firms regularly give away “special perks” to try to convince people to become new clients or to guilt them into staying with the firm. You should understand that an advisor referred by a friend is a good start, but a referred advisor from a friend who is in a different financial situation is likely a waste of time. There is an entire section on how to build your advisory team in Lesson #3: Accept Referrals to Specialists. The third lesson is a must read for anyone who picks up this book. Doctors have family and friends just like Average Americans do. You want to spend your valuable and limited free time with your friends (and some of it with family—just like Average Americans). When you spend More