Jill Schlesinger from CBS Radio Interviews David McKnight

the power of zero

The best financial decision that David has ever made was to acknowledge that taxes are going to be dramatically higher in the future than they are today.

David is a husband and father of seven and has been in the financial services industry since day one. He was selling insurance policies at the beginning of his career and became an independent financial advisor in 2001.

David mainly deals with clients who are retiring or in retirement and focuses in particular on the tax outlook. He aims to maximize the amount of money his clients can take out in retirement.

David’s organization has about 160 advisors across the country. He self published The Power of Zero four years ago and sold around 150,000 copies, since then this lead to this movement around the concepts in the book. There are now quite a few advisors teaching courses to retirees all over the US.

David describes the current environment as a tax sale. You’re going to have to pay taxes sooner or later, so why not pay them before they go up.

It takes an act of Congress to prevent a sunset clause from happening. In order for that to happen, the same party has to control the Senate, the House, and the Presidency.

$0.76 of every tax dollar that the government brings in is spent on four things: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the national debt.

We are going to have to keep borrowing money to pay for Medicare. The cost for servicing all that debt will squeeze out all the other items in the budget. George Schultz says we are already at the crisis point.

We haven’t had taxes this low in the last 80 years. You can’t pay attention to just the number, you have to look at the income parameters that go with it.

The real question for 75 million Baby Boomers is “will they take advantage of this tax sale?” Every year that goes by where they don’t consider shifting money to a tax free investment, they are missing an opportunity that will never come back. 

The IRS says that if you make too much money, you can put after tax dollars into an IRA and in the same breath convert it into a Roth IRA. Since you have to pay the tax on the conversion relative to your other investments it can feel like a double tax. If you have money in other IRA’s it may not be a great idea to do the Back Door IRA. 

The rich man’s Roth is also known as the Life Insurance Retirement Plan. You buy as little insurance as the IRS requires of you and stuff as much money in it as the IRS allows to mimic the tax free benefits of the Roth IRA. 

Most Baby Boomers are dealing with a parent that is having a long term care event. There are a lot of long term care benefits that can make the Life Insurance Retirement Plan attractive to the right person. 

You can make your 401(k) tax free if you only take out your standard deduction. The best investment you can make is making the balance low enough so that your Required Minimum Distributions are low enough so that your they are equal to or lower than your standard deduction. 

The holy grail of financial planning is to find an investment that gives you a deduction on the front end, grows your money tax deferred, and you take it out tax free. If you have an IRA that’s so big that your required minimum distributions are dramatically higher than $24,000, you’re going to be in a tax bracket and it’s not going to be 0%. 

According to David Walker tax rates are going to have to double in order to keep our country solid. If that’s true, the best tax bracket to be in is the 0% tax bracket. If tax rates double, two times zero is still zero. 

Everyone recognizes that tax rates are going up in the future, the question is “why are we still putting money hand over fist into 401(k)’s and IRA’s?” The reason is we are addicted to the tax deduction. 

The true purpose of a retirement account is not to get a tax deduction. It’s to maximize cash flow at a period in your life when you can least afford to pay the taxes. That’s the real value of a retirement account. 

If you feel like your tax rate is going to be higher than it is now, you should stretch your tax liability out over 8 years. You want to shift the money quickly enough to do all the heavy lifting before the tax freight train hits but slowly enough that you don’t rise into a tax bracket that makes you uncomfortable. 

If you are in a position to manipulate revenue and be okay with your living standard, at the very least you should be maxing out your 10% and 12% tax bracket. 

You may not think that tax rates will double, but if your spouse dies your tax bracket doubles anyway. 

David’s clients will take advantage of these tax rates but ultimately, the tax breaks were irresponsible to make. Every other country in the world is getting their fiscal house in order other than the US. 

David’s worst financial decision was to buy a nice car, move to Puerto Rico, and then selling it only one year later. Cars typically make lousy investments.

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