Financial security expert Pamela Yellen, author of Bank On Yourself: The Life-Changing Secret to Growing and Protecting Your Financial Future, believes that business owners are prone to making financial mistakes that undermine their efforts to build wealth. Here are the top five mistakes she sees and strategies on how to avoid them.
- Deferring your taxes: Business owners love the idea of deferring taxes. That's a big part of the appeal of tax-deferred retirement plans, such as 401(k)'s. But what direction do you think tax rates will be going over the long term? If, like many people, you believe taxes are going up, consider that if you're successful in growing your nest-egg, you'll only end up paying higher taxes on a bigger number. Even if tax rates stay the same, I estimate that by deferring your taxes, you'll ultimately pay 10 to 20 times more in taxes over a 30-year period. Consider paying your taxes up front - at least you know what they are.
- Confusing "saving" with "investing": Wall Street and the financial planning industry have led us to believe that saving and investing are the same thing. They are not. The money you have in savings is money you don't want (or can't afford) to lose. Money you invest is subject to loss. Most people today invest to save, and as a result, have no idea what their nest egg will be worth when they plan to tap into it. Don't put money you can't afford to lose into stocks, real estate or other traditional investments. Before investing, ask yourself if your money didn't grow for 20 or more years, or even went backwards, could you live with that?
- Following conventional financial planning strategies:Following traditional financial and retirement planning methods is what got us into the mess we're in. If those strategies were working, most Americans wouldn't be wondering if they'll ever be able to retire, and what they'll have to give up in order to do so. Consider proven and time-tested ways to grow a substantial nest egg - without the risk or volatility of stocks, mutual funds, real estate, and other investments. A dividend-paying whole life policy grows by a guaranteed and pre-set amount every year. Little-known options can be added that supercharge the growth of your equity in the policy. In addition, the growth is exponential, meaning it gets better every single year you have the policy, simply because you stick with it. This gives you some protection against inflation and provides peak growth at the time you need it most - retirement). It's possible to take a guaranteed and predictable retirement income from these policies with little or no tax consequences, under current tax law.
- Giving up control to financial institutions: The financial and credit crisis has made us painfully aware of how little control we have when we rely on other people's money. And credit still remains very tight for entrepreneurs who need capital to start or expand their businesses. Many believe that paying cash for things - rather than leasing or financing them - is the answer. But this ignores an important, but little-known principle of economics - you finance everything you buy. Let's say you've decided you're going to beat the financing and leasing rackets by paying cash for major purchases. So you start putting money aside into a savings or money market account. When you hit your savings target, you pull your money out to pay cash for that item. You're earning zero interest on your money at that point, which is why financing, leasing and paying cash are all losing scenarios. You're either going to pay interest to others to finance things, or you're going to lose the interest or investment income you could have earned, had you kept your money invested instead. Specially designed dividend-paying whole life policies can be used to bank on yourself and become your own source of financing by answering just one question: How much do you want?
- Not demanding guarantees from your financial advisors: Do you know what your retirement account will be worth in 10, 20, or 30 years, or on the day you plan to tap into it? If your answer is "No" or "I'm hoping it will be worth $X" - you don't have a plan. If you're relying on a financial advisor, stock broker or plan administrator for advice, ask them if they can tell you what your account will be worth on the day you plan to retire. Then follow it up with, "And will you give me a money-back guarantee if you don't hit that savings target?" If they say "No" - fire them.