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

Benefits to Leveraging Advisors

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Leveraging Advisors

Leveraging Advisors
Leveraging advisors is one application of Leverage that the wealthy believe is integral to their success, yet many Doctors ignore or undervalue it. Look at any wealthy person’s inner circle and you will almost always see key business and financial advisors who are involved in most of their decisions. The advisors’ charge is to help develop a plan, analyze how every step fits (or doesn’t fit) into their plan, and help them avoid numerous pitfalls that could arise from straying from the course.
Simply put, most successful business owners recognize that it makes more sense to hire advisors to help them handle their planning than it does to try to do it themselves. Doing it them-selves is not only a bad idea because the client undoubtedly does not have the experience and expertise in all the areas needed in planning, but it also violates the principles of Leverage.
By “doing it themselves,” Doctors would be spending their time sub-optimally, instead of in the desired highest and best use of their time. In other words, does it pay for a neurosurgeon to spend three hours of his time researching a disability policy when a disability expert could do it in one hour? Also, consider that those three hours could have been spent seeing patients and making more money than the disability expert will be paid. And do you think the Doctor would enjoy this research more than he would enjoy playing golf or relaxing on the beach? Probably not.
Finally, what is the likelihood that the Doctor will make the right analysis and decision on the policy? Is he an expert? Has he looked at hundreds or thousands of policies in the past? Why would you think he would do any better job performing this task than would the disability expert in performing a neurological exam?
Despite the obvious pitfalls of fighting the principles of Leverage, some Doctors make the mistake of foregoing advisors and attempting to “do it themselves.” They are stuck in the mindset of saving a penny and losing a dollar.
This leads us to a very important statement that may seem crazy at first:
Doctors must realize that time is worth more than money.
Instead of looking for ways to save money by doing things themselves, Doctors must look for highly qualified people to handle as many tasks as possible so they can focus on the best possible use of their valuable time. Since the right advisory team has expertise that physicians don’t have, the right advisors can do the job in much less time than the physician or the wrong advisors could. Since a job done poorly will need to be repeated, doing it right the first time, even at a higher hourly rate, can actually save money in the long run. Additionally, when a Doctor can pay someone to do what they do best, this gives the physician more time to do what he does best—which undoubtedly is what will make the most money (seeing patients, running a practice, investing in real estate, etc.).

Complexity Demands LePeople meeting at computer - Contemporaryveraging Advisors
We have found that, the greater the wealth of the individual or family, the more important the role of the advisor team. As the client’s wealth increases, the more complex the comprehensive financial situation becomes. As the situation grows more complex, the client’s need to Leverage the advisors’ expertise and experience to save time and maximize total benefit increases exponentially.
To illustrate how complexity grows exponentially, let’s consider the following two situations. The first chart below shows the relationship between two people. The second chart shows the six different relationships that exist when you have four people in a group.

Situation 1: Relationship Between Two People
In the chart above, you can see that John and Paul have one relationship. There is only one relationship when you have two people. This seems relatively easy to manage as you have two people and only one relationship. Let us see what happens to the complexity of the interactions when we have four people in a group. This is illustrated in the next chart.

Situation 2: Relationship Between Four People
In the chart above, you will see John, Paul, George and Ringo. There are two additional people than we saw in the first chart. Doubling the number of people in the group actually increased the unique interactions by 500% from 1 interaction to 6 interactions (John and Paul, John and Ringo, John and George, Paul and Ringo, Paul and George, George and Ringo). Though it only takes one good relationship for two people to work together, it takes six good relationships for a group of four people to work well together. If one of the six relationships is strained, the entire group may have to be disbanded.
This same analogy can be applied to the elements of your financial plan. All elements of your plan, and all advisors in your plan, must work well together. That means that it is at least 500% more work to manage four businesses or elements of a comprehensive financial plan than it is to manage two businesses or elements of financial plan. If you have eight businesses or elements of a plan, then you have 56 different interactions to monitor. You can see how the complexity of the situation increases quickly!

To see how this general theory of complexity can be practically applied to planning for physicians, we need to understand what the physician’s concerns are. Below is a partial list of common financial planning concerns among physicians:
· Managing growth of the assets
· Managing lawsuit risks from employees, patients, and competitors
· Protecting assets from eventual lawsuits
· Managing the investment risk while attempting to grow assets
· Managing tax liabilities to maximize after-tax growth
· Managing business succession and estate planning concerns
· Protecting family members against a premature death or disability
· Protecting family’s inheritance against lawsuits, taxes, and divorce
Surprisingly, physicians worry about all of the More