Know Yourself: Conscious Retirement Planning

So you’re old enough to have finally purchased the house and made it a home.  You’ve molded your children into fine readers and artists as well as piano, soccer and lacrosse players.  You’re on the board of the local Y, you support the PTA and normally make a contribution to the offering plate when it’s passed.

How about your retirement plan—how is that coming along?  Do you have an inherent tendency making saving easy for you, or is it more difficult? Each of us has a saving personality on a continuum spanning a wide spectrum.  Are you a Spendthrift, a Spender, a Saver or a Hoarder (or somewhere in between)?  Your optimal retirement savings methodology depends on that answer.

 

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Most educators in the realm of personal finance take aim solely at those who find themselves on the left side of this continuum as if more is always better, so I’ll first address those predisposed to over-saving.   Hoarding is warehousing money simply for the sake of seeing it collect, not for a specific use or purpose.  This practice is idolized by far too many in the realm of money management, but hoarding is actually a financial disorder.  I’ve written recommendations for mandatory vacations in financial plans for hoarders to help break their addiction to stockpiling, and I don’t presume it’s a fault simply driven by greed—for many, it’s fear.

Those who lived through or felt the effects of the Great Depression saw such vast amounts of wealth decimated that many developed a scarcity complex.  A client I was blessed to call a friend passed away last year at the age of 87 with no lineal descendants and over three million dollars in liquid cash and investments.  The good news is that three worthy charities benefited from her generosity; the bad news is that she worked until she was 70, she never took a vacation (not once!) and she lived in a bad neighborhood in which she was burglarized and assaulted (but thought she couldn’t afford to move).

Conversely, a good friend and financial planning colleague of mine is living and battling with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease attacking the lungs which leaves its afflicted with a life expectancy of 37.4 years.  My buddy is married with two beautiful children and turns 37 this year.  He’s forced to be focused both on the future for his family’s sake (and hopefully for his sake as advances in medicine push towards a cure for CF), but he also recognizes the absolute necessity of getting the most out of every single day.  Tomorrow is promised for none of us, and our retirement plan should reflect that.

Am I, a financial planner, suggesting you could actually save too much for retirement?   

Absolutely!  I’m not demonizing any particular level of net worth, but you may be socking away as much as humanly possible for your future even to the detriment of your (and your family’s) present.    Many advisors will, driven by their economic bias to manage your money, use the save-for-your-family’s-future guilt trip to wrench more of your dollars into accounts they can oversee.

It is also important for me to acknowledge most of us are actually more inclined to lean in the direction of the spendthrift than the hoarder.  It’s easy to over-value the present because we can see, touch and feel it today.  And many of us have so many pressing concerns demanding attention and funding, it’s only natural for deferred gratification to take a back seat.  So my calls for balance between your future and present plans should not be received as a blessing to underestimate the importance of saving for the future.

The key, therefore, is to know yourself and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses pertaining to saving and spending tendencies and patterns.  

If you’re a spendthrift, you may likely need some form of intervention.  You may need to institute personal austerity measures—like the governments of Greece and Ireland—or introduce some level of accountability with a mentor of sorts.  If you’re a spender, it is likely you can effectively train yourself by setting up automatic savings mechanisms, diverting funds directly from your checking account (or paycheck) to the buckets you’re filling for the short-, mid- and long-term.

A sign you’re a natural saver would be that extra cash piles up each month—seemingly effortlessly—but you may also judge and condescend to family and friends without the same innate advantage.  If you’re a hoarder, you too may need intervention…to force yourself to spend!  One of the best ways to redirect in this regard is first to offer your services—not your money (at least initially)—to a worthy charitable organization, like a homeless shelter.  Or go on a mission trip to a third-world country and see how people live with nothing.  I’m not trying to guilt you into giving your money away, but to demonstrate how people with absolutely nothing may experience more happiness than you.  You’ll have to experience it to believe it.

Retirement planning is not a science, but behavior management is.  By better understanding yourself and controlling the only economic assumption over which you have absolute control—YOU—you’re likely to better enjoy your retirement, and all the days leading up to it.

*This post will also be appearing on TheStreet.com.

Gas Prices and Margin Management

Gas Obscured by deadly tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and revolutionary trends in the Middle East, the price of gas is rising and now threatens to impact all of us.  “According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and EIA, the average U.S. household purchases a little over 1,100 gallons of gasoline per year.” (Click here for reference.)

Only one year ago, gas prices nationwide were at manageable levels.  At $2.85, the average U.S. household was spending $3,135 annually.  A year’s worth of gas at today’s prices could easily cost $4,400—an additional $1,265 per year or $105 per month.  Not exactly pocket change.  And with some analysts predicting a near certain $5.00 per gallon, we must consider those costs—an estimated $2,365 more than last year or $197 more per month.

This is an increase that won’t be easily absorbed by the vast majority of households.  In addition to the pain felt directly at the pump, we also have a host of existing economic problems indirectly, but materially, impacted by the spike in fuel costs:

higher fuel costs = inflated cost of goods and services = reduced consumer spending

+ already wobbly economic recovery = possible double-dip recession (and all its friends)

What can you do?  That’s the wrong question to ask.  What will you do?  The short answer is to control what you CAN control.  Your argument with your brother-in-law, your Twitter gripe or Facebook rant may provide an opportunity to vent, but it isn’t likely to change U.S. energy policy or impact the actions of the Federal Reserve or start a revolution in the Middle East (wait a second).  I’m not suggesting we stifle a healthy, open debate, but we must not fool ourselves into thinking our responsibility ends with our voice being heard.  You have little control over U.S. energy policy and some control over your income, but complete control over your spending.

The number one indicator of a healthy financial household is its cash flow mechanism.  This is a two-fold process managing the present by analyzing your actions in the recent past and predicting them in the near future.  Some call it budgeting, but since that term has a tendency to draw as many readers as a detailed report of a colonoscopy, we’ll call it margin management.  Businesses without profit margin fail.  Why would we expect any different of our household finances?

The only constant in our financial lives is change.  Change requires flexibility.  Surprises require margin.  And failure requires grace.  So, if you’ve failed at margin management to date, give yourself grace.  Recognize the inevitability of change and submit to the most fundamental fiscal discipline of cognizant cash flow management.  And yes, deprive yourself of some level of comfort today to build margin into your financial realm so that when surprises occur, you’re prepared.

How does margin management work?  Margin is deliberately setting aside funds for the unexpected.  It’s simple, but it’s not easy.  (Check out this hysterical Saturday Night Live skit entitled “Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford.”)  It’s basic math, but behavioral management (especially our own) is horribly challenging.  We must set aside money today (which we’d like to spend) for future expenses (for which we’d prefer not to pay).  Each virtual envelope in our cash flow system should be filled with an amount slightly beyond our typical expenditures.  Then, we should have a distinct category labeled “margin” or “buffer” or “slush.”

My two favorite tools for margin management are Mint.com and YNAB.com.  Mint is the best free online personal finance tool I have seen.  It aggregates all of your accounts and does half the work of margin management for you.  YNAB stands for You Need A Budget (You Need A Margin Manager just didn’t have the right ring to it) and is a software-based tool with a $59.95 price tag.  It’s nothing short of a life-changer for those who dedicate themselves to its precepts and process.

Last night, for the first time since college (the ‘90s), I put less than a full tank of gas in my car.  I’m not going to lie; my pride took a hit as I arrived after and left before my fellow citizens who chose to fill ‘er up all the way.  But I completed the last leg of my journey home satisfied knowing I kept within the confines of my car expense budget for the month.

freedom from discipline = no margin = bondage

strategic discipline = margin = freedom

 

NOTE: This post first ran on Tuesday of this week in a new column I’m writing for TheStreet.com.

The Most Important Financial Planning Recommendation for Young Parents

Young-family-portraits If you queried a score of financial planners and hit them with the question, “What is the most important financial planning recommendation for young parents?” I bet 19 of them would mention something about investing, retirement planning, insurance, education planning or tax planning.  But the most important financial planning recommendation for young parents isn’t even completed by a financial planner, but instead, an attorney.

If you’re a parent with minor children, the most important planning strategy you can employ is to have a will written and a guardian established for your children in the will.  The guardian is the person charged with the day-to-day care of your children, effectively becoming their new parent.  If you fail to designate who should hold that penultimate office, your state of residence will decide for you.  Do you trust them to make the right decision?

There are at least two other officers you should appoint in your will—the personal representative (AKA executor) and the trustee.  The personal representative (PR) has the relatively short-term job of walking your estate through the probate process.  You want to choose an anal retentive (for lack of a better term) person who will follow the steps necessary to complete the detailed checklist to close your estate.

The trustee is the designee second in importance only to the guardian.  While the guardian is responsible to raise your children, the trustee is responsible to fund their upbringing.  Before you mistake the need for a trustee in your will as an optional estate planning feature reserved solely for the silver spoon crowd, let me assure you the vast majority of youngish households should be seriously considering the creation of a trust in their will and a trustee to manage it.  I’m not talking about a “trust fund” here but a testamentary trust, a vehicle not birthed until you and your spouse are no more.

The testamentary trust may not exist until you don’t, but you write the rules for it in your will.  It is likely to receive the bulk of your estate—your home and life insurance proceeds—and since most families with a proper level of life insurance will have a testamentary trust with over a million dollars in it, it is important to deliberate over the instructions you give for the trust’s use.  Many wisely give the trustee broad “HEMS” provisions, allowing for distributions supporting health, education, maintenance and support. Additionally, consider scheduling principal distributions over several years—for example, you may distribute one third of the principal at age 25, half at age 30 and the remainder at age 35.  You’re protecting the money both for and from the child.  After all, what would you have done with a million bucks at the age of 21?

A logical question many pose is, “Shouldn’t I just name one person for the personal representative, guardian and trustee?”  After I disclaim that I’m not an attorney and don’t wish to be misconstrued as one offering “legal advice” (an offense punishable by law) I may respond that I prefer to see the person best suited for each office named.  For most of us, it is not one person alone who is an optimal fit for each of the important designations in your will.  Is the person you trust most to actually raise your children also the most financial savvy and detail oriented?  Even if the answer is yes, you may still consider the benefit of having a healthy wall of separation between the guardian and the giant bucket of money in the testamentary trust created under your will. 

It’s not that investing, insuring, education planning, retirement planning and tax planning aren’t important—in fact, they have the highest probability of impacting your life and the lives of your family members, while the guardianship and trustee provisions in your will are unlikely ever to be exercised.  But in the unlikely case that you and your parental partner are both taken from this earth in an untimely fashion, you’ll make that transition much more peacefully knowing someone you trust is designated to care for your offspring and their financial wellbeing.  More succinctly, you can’t write a will after you’re dead.

Musical Genius (or Nothing New Under the Sun)

With the close of tax season, we all need a little break from discussions of dollars and cents.  So this week, I’m going entirely off subject to share a post I recently wrote for the Jon Maurer Band’s musical blog.  If that name looks familiar, it’s because it belongs to my brother who’s lent his talents and music to several of my posts and videos, including Making Financial Music.  I’ve had the privilege to bask in Jon’s musical glow as the drummer for the Jon Maurer Band, and here I’m discussing “Musical Genius.”

Music is miraculous, with the ability to well up thoughts, feelings and emotions that otherwise may never surface.  But for a musician, both playing and listening to music can also be a humbling experience.  As one endowed with an arguably broad but decidedly shallow depth of musical talent, I’m often given the opportunity to enjoy this humbling.

You see, every time the Jon Maurer Band performs—or even practices, where some of our best work is often produced, but never consumed—I represent the fourth in a quartet of otherwise extraordinary musicians.  This isn’t false modesty, nor do I believe it to be a hopelessly biased opinion of my co-laborers’ gifts, but an objective assessment of their innate talent—virtuosity even—and well-honed musical craftsmanship.  I really believe these guys—Jon Maurer, Nick Selvi and Dirk Frey—are musical geniuses.

Billy JoelOne of the qualities that seems to be universal among musical geniuses is a voracious appetite for the contributions of other musical phenoms—and not just from a select few genres.  Stravinsky is quoted as saying, “Good musicians borrow, great musicians steal.”  Indeed, the great Billy Joel is famous for ripping Beethoven’s Pathetique (first performed in 1798) in his “cover” entitled This Night (released in 1984)i.

But with the exception of Billy Joel’s homage to the great Romantic, I don’t think too many great musicians set out to copy the music of other great musicians.  Have you ever watched a great musician listen to great music?  It’s a sight to behold.  They immerse themselves so fully (and so often) in it that the offspring of their own genius is simply a natural byproduct of that which they’ve consumed.

Consider the ancient saying, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”ii   Is it possible that every great piece of music is a regurgitation of another (whether its creator knows it or not)?

If you haven’t, I’d like to invite you to explore the roots of music as you know it.  Few would doubt, for example, that Billy Joel’s influence played a role in the music created by my brother, Jon Maurer.  But before Jon knew of BJ’s existence, he was breathing in Bach, Handel, Mozart and the artist I humbly submit as his deepest influencer—Ludwig van Beethoven.

Beethoven was passion personified.  “But I just can’t get into classical music,” you say.  I submit the “Cliff’s BeethovenNotes” version of Beethoven—the movie, Immortal Beloved.iii   Although it likely contains as much fiction as fact, Gary Oldman seems to summon Beethoven’s ghost in his depiction, and the soundtrack alone is an excellent survey course in this great composer’s work.

Another musical great who demands to be in your consciousness and your collection is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Mozart preceded Beethoven and could be seen as the first great musical innovator.  Conveniently, his life and work has also been condensed for you in the Academy Award winning, Amadeus.  Mozart  Mozart practically defines the word prodigy, as he began composing and performing before European royalty at the age of five.  He set a bar for musical genius that may be beyond parallel.

Mozart’s story is sadly incomplete without mention of Salieri.  Antonio Salieri was an accomplished musician in his own right, but is rumored to have stewed with envy as the upstart, Mozart, began to strip every ounce of his fame—and eventually, his dignity.  (Check out this Salieri/Mozart scene depicted in Amadeus.)

Humility may be appropriate in the presence of musical genius—and many do resort to envy—but I believe the preferable emotion to be invoked when struck with greatness is simply… awe.  

If you’re into music, I highly recommend checking in with the Jon Maurer Band Blog regularly, where each of the band’s members contribute.  I especially recommend these posts on “The Wild World of Neo-Soul” and “5 Albums to Start Your Jazz Collection.”

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[i] If you follow the hyperlinks, listen to Pathetique first—at least the beginning—and then listen to the chorus of This Night… stealing, not borrowing.

[ii] This is wisdom from the ancient Hebrew King Solomon as quoted in Ecclesiastes 1:9 (New International Version).

[ii] If you’re thinking of introducing your children to Beethoven’s work through the movie, you may consider screening it first as the maestro’s zest for life spills over into a few seconds of nudity. 

 

90 Second Finance…Pay Off Your Mortgage?

Should you pay off your mortgage?  Well, before you can even consider it, you must have enough money to do so!  Beyond that, you have several economic and emotional factors to consider.  In this installment of 90 Second Finance, I discuss those factors.  I look forward to your comments and questions!

The REAL Roth Story

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There’s a battle underway in the financial realm. Those taking sides are academics, financial planners, personal finance bloggers and reporters as well as do-it-yourself investors. One side is from the country of Roth and the other, Traditionale (please read that with a French accent). At stake are your opinion and the home of your investment dollars. Who will win—the Roth IRA or the Traditional IRA?

You’ve probably heard or read something similar to this next statement regarding your prospective decision to contribute to a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA:

If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket in retirement than you are today, contribute to a Roth IRA. If, instead, you are likely to be in a lower tax bracket in retirement, contribute to a Traditional IRA.

By this logic alone, if your tax bracket would never change, there’s virtually no difference between the two. But, like many personal finance one-liners and rules-of-thumb, this one falls woefully short of giving you the whole story.

Which is better—a dollar in a Roth IRA or a dollar in a Traditional IRA? As long as you’re expected to pay taxesi  the answer to this question is always – 100% of the time – the dollar in the Roth. This is because the Roth allows you (and your heirs) tax-free growth AND distributions free of taxes. The dollar in the Traditional IRA, on the other hand, is subject to taxation whenever you (or your heirs) remove it. So, if you’re in a 25% tax bracket, your Traditional IRA dollar is actually only worth 75 cents.  The higher your tax bracket, the less your Traditional dollar is worth.

So, what’s all that stuff about the Traditional being better if you’re in a higher tax bracket today than you expect to be in retirement? In order for that logic to work, we must assume you take the extra cash on hand, born from your tax deduction specifically associated with your Traditional IRA contribution, and invest it for your future retirement.  If you make a $5,000 contribution to a Traditional IRA and you’re in a 25% tax bracket, your deduction should be worth $1,250. In order for the Traditional to benefit you more than a Roth, you must not only to be in a lower tax bracket in retirement, you also have to save that additional $1,250 for retirement. But what do most people do with their tax refund? SPEND IT!

What if you use your refund as a down payment on a car or for a vacation? The Traditional edge is eliminated. What if you didn’t receive a refund at all? Unless you write a check to invest the amount you should have received as a deduction for your Traditional IRA contribution after you write Uncle Sam a check, the Roth wins.

One of the great frustrations in financial planning is that most of the planning is based on assumptions of things we can’t actually control or change—annual income, inflation, market returns and, of course, taxes. So, you can contribute to a Traditional IRAii, calculate the proportionate amount of tax deduction and invest itiii —every year—and then hope the $14 Trillion deficit and a wave of increased entitlement spending somehow doesn’t lead to tax increases OR you can take control of one of those factors and pre-pay your taxes using a Roth IRAiv.

Still thinking????

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iThat’s where the Turbo Tax prompter would say, “Most people will fall into this category.” 

iiBy the way, if your company offers a retirement plan (like a 401k) and you make over $66,000 (in 2010 or 2011) as a single individual or $110,00 as a couple, married and filing jointly, you can’t DEDUCT your contribution anyway!  

iiiOf course, if you’ve maxed out your IRA contribution, you also have to invest the tax deduction proceeds somewhere else—likely in an account requiring you to pay taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains as they’re realized.  

ivIt’s quite possible that the most attractive features of a Roth don’t have anything to do with taxes.  Unlike a Traditional IRA or a 401k, a Roth allows you to take back your contributions at any time, at any age, for any reason without paying taxes or penalties.  Furthermore, you’re not required to take Required Minimum Distributions from Roth IRAs—ever.  So, unlike a Traditional IRA which forces you to accept fully taxable income after you reach your 70 ½ birthday, your money continues to grow in a Roth unimpeded.

90 Second Finance…The Bucket Plan

The "technical" term I use most in educating about personal finance is… BUCKET.  It’s useful in so many areas of financial planning.  You put your money into checking account buckets and set-up various budget buckets.  You contribute money to a 401(k) bucket during your working years and then take money out of that bucket in retirement.

This video is 90 seconds of instruction on the primary decisions you face in creating the optimal Will…the document you should have properly written before you KICK the bucket!

90 Second Finance…Don’t Panic!

In 2010, I released a series of videos with the help of my friend and audio/visual enthusiast, Ben Lewis, entitled Finance in 90 Seconds or Less.  The attempt was to force me to encapsulate meaningful and substantive lessons in personal finance with the aid of a whiteboard in 90 seconds or less.  I FAILED!  We released 14 of these 90 Second Finance videos and I think no more than two of them fell under the 90 second allotment.  Educational they may have been, but I called myself on false advertising.

So I’ve made a resolution in 2011 to continue the series, BUT to only release those videos that are, indeed, 90 seconds or less.  (We’ll continue to produce some longer “feature” videos, like Making Financial Music, but the 90 Second series will carry this mandate.)  So far, so good.  We’ve recorded three videos and I’m batting a thousand!  Here’s the first with three actions you can take to avoid panicking, even when market or economic news seems to call for it.

The Stuff Dreams Are Made On

Bogart We’ve all heard the phrase, “the stuff dreams are made of,” likely without questioning its origin.  Black-and-white movie buffs may remember Humphrey Bogart’s character, Sam Spade, used this phrase in the 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon.  His is really a mistaken reiteration of Shakespeare, when in The Tempest Prospero declares, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”  I could make a case that the prepositional switcheroo is really quite meaningful here, but I’d prefer to make a different proposal altogether:

The stuff dreams are made of (or on) isn’t actually stuff at all. 

Most financial planning focuses on the material realm—the acquisition of cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, business interests and other stuff.  Please don’t misconstrue my statement as imposing an inherently negative connotation on the word stuff or the things mentioned in that list.  I just think it’s ironic that these things appearing quite tangible are actually the most reliably temporal.

Cash, for one, is forever devalued.  In 1914, you would’ve been a “millionaire” in today’s relative terms with $45,500.  2007 taught us real estate is subject to losses and 2008, that the market is not necessarily a benevolent power pledged to making our dreams come true.  If you’re still holding onto the false belief that bonds can’t lose money, a broadening global sovereign debt crisis (that is, incidentally, deepening in many U.S. states) is likely to cure you of that logical illness.  And, with the exception of some very nice red wines, even those assets which appreciate in value over time don’t actually get… better.  My home, for example, was in better shape when it was built in 1969 than it is today.

Kieran1 Speaking of appreciation (and depreciation), my oldest son, Kieran, and I traveled with his Cub Scout troop this past weekend to the aging Battleship New Jersey, docked in Camden, NJ.  We got an exhaustive inside-and-out tour, ate two military-style meals and even spent the night on this magically floating metal monstrosity.  Many things about this experience were notable, not least among them the willingness of hundreds of men and boys to don bright neckerchiefs as they go about their days (just kidding, guys, I’m sure there’s a meaningful reason for that tradition I just don’t understand).  

The New Jersey is, according to our salty tour guide, Popeye (seriously), the most decorated battleship in U.S. history.  Launched exactly one year after “…the day that will live in infamy,” the New Jersey served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam before being decommissioned for the last time in 1991.  It was a day and night of “Wow!”s, but by far the most impressive thing for me was the entirely satisfied, albeit weary, smile on my boy’s face as we pulled away from the ship, knowing this was a memory we’ll likely have forever.

What tangible did we have to show for it?  Popeye’s business card and a $3.99 keychain trinket with a mini telescope.

Kieran2 My Shakespeare’s a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure when Prospero said “WE are such stuff as dreams are made on” (emphasis added), he wasn’t talking to (or about) his 401k, Roth IRA or even his FDIC insured bank account.  There’s no question, however, that larger balances in those can aid one in the acquisition of those non-material blessings in this life.  

I like the way my friend, Jim Stovall, puts it:  “There are only four things you can do with your money: Acquire stuff, buy security, create memories and make the world a better place.”  Neither Jim nor I would suggest the pursuit of any of these is wrong, but in a culture seemingly bent on the acquisition of the tangible, I encourage you to be deliberate in your pursuit of that which you can’t see or touch, but also never loses value.

Prolific Procrastination, Financial Time Travel…and the REAL Reason the Government Lets Us Do It

Even if you’re a prolific procrastinator, you can still make the most of your tax situation for 2010…even though it’s 2011.

Back to the Future That’s correct!  The government lets you go back in time—financially speaking—to take advantage of 2010 opportunities all the way through April 18, 2011.  For example:

  • If you’re an individual with earned income in 2010—or even the spouse of an individual who had earned income in 2010—you should be able to make a contribution to an IRA right now and label it a 2010 contribution.
  • If you’re an individual who made less than $56,000, or a married couple who made less than $89,000, you are able to make that contribution—and deduct it on your taxes, a single act that will decrease your taxable income for 2010 and increase your retirement savings for the future. 
  • If you’re under 50, you can contribute $5,000 per person—if you’re 50 or older, they let you drop in $6,000 per person.  If you fall under those income limits, you can pull money right out of Uncle Sam’s hands and drop it into your retirement account—not a bad deal.
  • If you made more than the aforementioned deductible IRA limits, but less than $105,000 as an individual or $167,000 as a married couple, you can instead exercise the option to contribute to a Roth IRA.  In this case, you won’t improve your tax refund or payment for 2010, but you will never again pay taxes on that money as long as you…and your kids… and maybe even your grandkids live (assuming, of course, the government doesn’t go back on its word… which it would never do… right?).
  • If you happen to be a business owner who had a great year in 2010, you may be able to legally “hide” up to $49,000 of your net profit (after expenses, not taxes) from the roving eye of the IRS in a SEP IRA.  

To what do we owe the pleasure of these little extensions?  When, you ask, has the IRS been known to make life easier on us?  The answer is this…they’re sending us a message.  The message is: WE don’t want to take care of you in retirement, so we’ll make it easier for YOU to do it YOURSELF.  

When the IRS let’s us go back in time, we should take advantage of it.