Leverage the Cash Value of Life Insurance to Invest in Real Estate

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1 Leverage the Cash Value of Life Insurance to Invest in Real Estate By Tom Rutkowski, MBA Disclaimer: Tom Rutkowski is a Licensed Life Insurance Agent in Florida. This paper is intended as an educational tool for Real Estate Investors and other Business Owners. It is not intended as a solicitation for business.

2 Introduction The cash value of Life Insurance is a widely overlooked source of funds for Real Estate Investors. The cash value in an insurance policy earns interest and provides security for a loan from the insurer. Leveraging this cash value of a life insurance policy allows you to make a higher return on every single investment you make. It is foolish to risk your own cash when you have this option available that can not only boost your return on investment but also offer creditor protection. The premise for this paper is how to leverage the cash value of your life insurance to purchase real estate. The concept is very simple but I what I really want to do in this paper is take the opportunity to build a strong case for not only how you can do this, but why you should do it and how it solves many of the problems that gave you the incentive to invest in real estate in the first place. I want you to understand how life insurance works so that you understand the tax rules that let you earn more on every deal you make. There is really no other source of funds where you can borrow money with as low risk as with Life Insurance. I m going to start by addressing some of the concerns that all investors have, not just real estate investors. I also want to spend a little bit of time discussing more traditional ways of saving for retirement so that we can compare and contrast, and I can demonstrate how this approach is even better. And, of course, I will cover some basics on Life Insurance so that everyone will have a full understanding of why this works and why it isn t too good to be true. After I have covered the basics, you will be ready to see how you can invest in real estate with the cash value of your life insurance. This approach isn t just limited to real estate investing. The principles that are covered in this paper apply to any business. You can build tax-free income for retirement by purchasing supplies for your break room! Why are you investing in real estate? Everyone has their own reasons. For some it s just the excitement of leaving the corporate world to do something that will give them financial freedom. But if you strip away some of the individuality, there are a few core reasons that, if they didn t play an immediate part in your decision, will become apparent to you soon after venturing out on your own. One of these is Stock Market Volatility. The stock market has been a wild roller coaster ride. Look at what happened to somebody who retired in 2000 or 2007/8 and had their retirement savings in stock mutual funds. In August of 2000 the tech bubble burst and the markets began a several year downward spiral. It took until 2008 for that retiree to get their money back. Then the market dropped again. If you retired in 2000, it took 13 years to get your money back if you hadn t spent it by then

3 Now Real Estate itself is a very volatile market to invest in, but if you are reading this, you ve probably decided, like I did, that you can manage that risk. Later in this paper I m going to share how some of the new Life Insurance Policies help you capture most of the gains of the market but eliminate the risk of losing money in the market. For now, let s continue with the next reason we have turned to Real Estate investing. The next reason is tax rate uncertainty. Many of you are investing in Real Estate with Self- Directed Roth IRA accounts. You have paid your taxes up front because you know that first, its better to pay tax on the seed than on the harvest, and second, that given our nation s $17 Trillion in national debt, that tax rates in the future may be much higher than they are now. Another reason is the fear of outliving your income. A real estate portfolio may be able to generate enough passive income to achieve financial independence. I bring up these reasons specifically because they really apply to all people, not just real estate investors. I m able to show them a way that they can leverage the cash value of their life insurance to eliminate or control each these concerns and sleep at night knowing that they are financially secure. I ll cover this later in the paper. Right now I want to set the stage for Life Insurance as a retirement planning tool by comparing it to traditional savings plans. Traditional Savings Plans & Tax Implications Most people have some familiarity with the traditional qualified savings plans: Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and 401(k). Surprisingly, many of my clients cannot tell me the differences when I ask. So, just to make sure we re all on the same page, I m going to briefly explain each. Traditional IRA IRS approved savings plan that lets you deduct your annual contribution, subject to limitations, from your taxable income each year. You cannot touch this money without penalty until you turn 59 ½ and then it will be taxed as regular income as it is distributed. In my opinion, you are giving the government a blank check for your tax bill. They can fill in any amount they want. And worse, the IRS is not only going to tax the dollars you contributed, but they are going to tax every dollar that your IRA earns. Roth IRA I m not sure why the IRS ever approved this. I guess they just couldn t wait until everyone retires to get their tax revenue. With this plan, you don t get to deduct your contribution, but since it was made with after-tax dollars, the investments in your Roth IRA grow tax free and can be withdrawn starting at age 59 ½. Since you already paid the taxes, the money can be withdrawn tax free. 401(k) These can be either Roth style or traditional. These are a company-sponsored savings plan. Rather than offer a defined benefit pension plan, the companies that offer these plans have shifted the burden of saving for retirement to their employees. Some will offer a small match, but it is nothing like the old days when companies actually put away money into a pension fund that their employees could live off when they retired. There are not a lot of companies that offer a Roth 401(k) plan so if you have one, consider yourself lucky

4 Self-directed IRA & 401(k) Savvy real estate investors use these to invest in real estate with their qualified retirement accounts. If you are using a Self-Directed Roth IRA to invest in real estate I applaud you. You are making a very wise decision to secure your tax-free retirement income. Your portfolio is growing tax-free and is not subject to stock market risk. Because this nation is $17 Trillion in debt, Social Security benefits are heavily taxed if you have other income, and Medicare benefits are means-tested, I believe that it is very important for everyone to create tax-free income for retirement. If you add the state debt and unfunded liabilities such as obamacare, the situation is even more perilous. I see only two solutions: reduce spending or increase taxes. Which seems more likely? I believe tax rates have nowhere to go but up. The following chart demonstrates this point effectively: This next chart shows us numerically why it is better to pay your taxes on the seed rather than on the crop

5 Tax implication of Deferred Taxes Roth IRA $3,300 per year $49,500 Total Tax Paid $348,854 Year 30 Value Assumptions: 6.5% Annual Growth 33% Tax Rate 30 year period $5000 per year Traditional IRA $5,000 per year $0 Tax Paid $498,018 Year 30 Value $164,346 Tax Due $333,672 Actual Value I hope it is clear that I advocate Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s over traditional plans. If you have your money in a Traditional IRA or 401(k), I believe you should think carefully about biting the bullet and converting to a Roth IRA. If you do have a Traditional IRA, check out the appendix to this paper that explains a better way to convert your portfolio to a Roth equivalent. The biggest problem I see with Qualified savings plans is the limit on what you can contribute. $5,500 per year is not enough to retire on. In the next section I am going to show you how you can get the same result as with a Roth IRA, but with none of the limitations. Insurance Basics There are two main types of Life Insurance: Term and Permanent. Term Insurance offers a fixed benefit for a limited amount of time such as a 10 year, $1 Million policy. When the term expires, you no longer have insurance. And, because you are now that much older, new term insurance will be much more costly to purchase. Worse, you may have health issues that prevent you from purchasing more insurance. Permanent Insurance, on the other hand, WILL pay a benefit someday. The insurance company knows that you will live to a ripe old age. They design their plans so that in the unlikely event that you die early, they will have the funds to pay the benefit. They also put a part of your premium into a cash account that is invested for you and belongs to you. If you live a nice long, healthy life, this cash will grow and pay the death benefit. This is also called the surrender value. If you surrender or cancel your policy, this is what will be returned to you. Again, and just to drive the point home, it is returned to you because it belongs to you. The cash value in your life insurance is an asset. Just like your IRA, mutual funds, or real estate, it is there and can be a resource for you. You can borrow against it just as you do with a home equity loan. Unlike a home equity loan, however, you will not lose your life insurance if you miss a payment on the loan. Don t miss a premium on your life insurance though! This shouldn t be a concern because you will be over funding the policy with excess premium to create cash value. And, I want you to note here, just as with a home equity loan, you do not pay - 5 -

6 taxes on income received from a loan. From this point on in this paper I am going to refer to the cash value or more technically, the surrender value of the life insurance as equity so that I am putting it into terms that you can more easily relate to. So, if you think about it, Permanent insurance is like a Roth IRA: you put your money into it with after tax dollars and it grows tax-free and you can receive it tax-free. But it has a lot of advantages that a Roth IRA (or Roth 401(k)) do not have. o There is no limit on the amount of the contribution that you can make. In 2014 an individual, depending upon income, can only contribute up to $5,500 in a Roth IRA. o Additionally, you don t have to wait until you are 59 ½ to receive income. The equity of your policy is available to you at any time. Even the day after your policy is issued. o Death Benefit. The primary goal of retirement savings is to start saving early and with steady contributions and growth, you will someday have enough to begin to withdraw and live on in retirement. It is much like slowly filling a bucket until it is full and then taking from the bucket once you have retired. If you are injured and cannot work, or worse, if you die, life insurance offers the opportunity to automatically fill up the bucket so that your family has everything that they need to move ahead. Having your spouse remarry is not a plan. Most importantly, the IRS does not tax Life Insurance Benefits. Life insurance benefits are received tax-free. But since when is life insurance an investment? Its not. Well technically speaking anyway. The word investment implies risk. A Life Insurance Policy is a contract between you and the insurer. The contract explains in detail how your cash value will be credited with interest and states that the death benefit is dependent upon the claims paying ability of the insurer. What follows is a simplified explanation of how the IRS treats life insurance. The IRS knows that Life Insurance is a great benefit. In the not too distant past, some insurance agents realized that the IRS had no rules regarding the over funding of an insurance policy. That is, paying extra premium to the insurance company in order to over fund the cash value. Agents were recommending that their clients put excess premium into policies so that the interest and gains provided a tax shelter for wealthy clients. In fact it got even worse. In the stock market you can purchase securities on margin meaning that you borrow money in order to purchase more securities. This, just as with real estate, means you are using other people s money to control a large amount of stock. Now just imagine what you could do if you used leverage to make very large premium payments. Because Life Insurance offers such safe returns, those wishing to maximize their returns and the tax shelter aspect of life insurance borrowed money at low interest rates to turn around and purchase life insurance that offered higher and safer returns. The IRS eventually caught on and corrected the abuse by requiring a defined amount of insurance for any given amount premium payment. Of note, though, anyone who had already purchased these policies was grandfathered in. So we now have rules that define a specific amount of cash value that may be funded for any given policy

7 Since the IRS has rules that define how much insurance you need to have for any given premium amount, then it would make sense to optimize your insurance in order to simultaneously minimize the death benefit and maximize the amount of cash value. In the prior paragraphs, I explained how the wealthy were leveraging their premium payments by taking out a loan. Why would a bank offer to finance an insurance premium? o Because they know it is safe o Because they know the cash value is liquid o Because they know that the cash value is collateral. In the early years of an insurance policy, normally the cash value is lower because of administrative costs of setting up the policy. In order to make this premium finance work for banks and the agents who wanted to close deals, insurance companies developed riders which make 85-95% of the premium available to be security for a policy loan immediately. That way the cash value is collateral for the loan. Be your own bank. I ve taken a very roundabout way to finally get to this point, but I wanted to make sure that you understand why you are able to leverage the cash value of your life insurance to provide tax-free income for retirement, funds for your real estate deals or funds for any business purpose. In order to purchase real estate by leveraging the cash value of your life insurance, you need to purchase a large, over-funded insurance policy that has been optimized to minimize the death benefit while maximizing the cash value. It is important that you work with an agent that is familiar with this concept because if you fund the policy with too much cash, you run the risk of turning the policy into what the IRS terms a Modified Endowment Contract. This is a taxable event and will nullify all of the advantages that a life insurance policy offers. You also need the riders that will lower or eliminate the surrender charges. And again, I can t stress this enough, you are borrowing against the equity in your policy, not withdrawing the equity. One is a taxable event and the other is not. And as long as we maintain positive arbitrage, that is, the interest rate we are earning on our equity is greater than the interest rate on the policy loans, then we can keep the equity growing in one account and covering the interest expense of the loan. If you are a business person, you can also think of your cash value as a working cash fund for your business. You can use the cash to pay off your debts, purchase machinery for a business, or invest however you want. All you need to do is have the insurance company wire the cash that you need for your real estate deal to your bank or title company. Purchase your house, fix it up, sell it and pay yourself back when you close on the sale. Another analogy. Just as if you took a home equity on one house to fund the purchase of another, the value of your original house may be appreciating as well. You are investing with - 7 -

8 other people s money. This strategy will allow you to keep your money working for you in two places at one time. You will earn a couple extra percent on every deal that you do. Is there a risk? Sure. The question to ask yourself is whether the risk is greater or less than other sources of funds. For Example, let s assume that you take out a home equity loan to purchase and rehab an investment property. After you start on the rehab you find out that you hadn t checked the roof carefully enough and it needs to be replaced. Your costs go up significantly and it impacts the timing to make a payment on your home equity loan. What is the bank going to do if you miss a payment? Now what will the insurance company do in the same situation? The answer is nothing because a policy loan is an unstructured loan. Rest assured that they are keeping track of the money they have loaned you and how much interest is accruing. But they know that they have a lien against the equity in your policy and they will not foreclose for missed payments. Remember, the retiree who is looking for tax-free income for retirement will never pay back the principal and interest on their retirement income until they die and the amount owed will be subtracted from the death benefit going to the primary beneficiary. The Ever Growing Bucket So hopefully by now you understand that your money is working for you in two places at the same time. Your equity continues to earn interest even while you have it working for you on a real estate investment. Since you have now read past the part where I showed you how you can purchase real estate with the cash value of your life insurance, I hope you have found this information in this paper useful and relevant. What follows is an important aspect of retirement planning using life insurance that may not be totally obvious to you at this point: the bucket of funds that you have been saving all your life will continue to grow even after you start taking out tax-free distributions! Again, as long as the rate of return on the equity in your policy exceeds the borrowing rate on your distributions, your entire bucket will continue to grow even after you start taking income. Here s how it works for the typical retiree with an IRA. The typical retiree will begin to access social security, pension funds, or make IRA distributions when they reach retirement age. So if a retiree has an IRA or a 401(k) with $1 Million in it and we assume that the stock market is growing at an average rate of 10% per year, how much can the retiree take out every year for the rest of his life? Ok. That s a bit unfair. Let s make it a little simpler. What if the retiree has all his money in cash, CD, or a money market account essentially earning 0%? Now how much can we take out every year for the rest of his life? It s still not easy because we don t know how long he will live. The point is, unless they are withdrawing less than the annual return on their portfolio, they will begin to slowly deplete their savings. It will run out at some point. And hopefully not before they die

9 Now what if we assume that someone retired in August of 2000 and they had all their retirement savings in stock mutual funds? How long would their portfolio have lasted? I m beating this to death to make a very important point that I think not only do most people miss, but also many of my peers in the financial services industry. Running out of money is a very real problem. Age, Market Performance, and unfortunately taxes (if you didn t have the foresight to listen to guys like me and take steps to build tax-free income for retirement. When you borrow money to fund your retirement, your bucket stays full. It not only stays full, but it also continues to grow for as long as you live. Again, as long we can borrow money at a lower rate than what we are earning, the bucket will continue to grow. The best thing you can do when you retire is liquidate your IRAs and qualified savings accounts over a period of 5 years and purchase an over funded, life insurance policy. It is the only way that you will be able to keep from running out of money. See the appendix for more info. How to Deal With The Stock Market Roller Coaster Let s talk about my earlier example with the person who retired in August of What happened to that person s portfolio over the next three years? It lost nearly 35% of its value. It took until 2007 before that portfolio returned to its August 2000 value. And then what happened in 2008? The market crashed again and this time lost nearly 40% of its value. People who retired in 2000 were wiped out. Their portfolios lost a tremendous amount of value and they depleted their savings much, much sooner than they anticipated. Since I m writing to an audience of real estate investors, I am probably describing one of the main reasons that you invest in real estate instead of the stock market. Life Insurance companies have a better way to invest your cash value that gives you market exposure but no market risk. It s called an Indexed Universal Life Insurance Policy (IUL). With an IUL you take part in market movement to the upside but none of the market movement to the downside. Imagine that you can lock in your principal every time that the market goes up. This kind of protection comes with one important limitation. There is a cap on the amount of upside that you can capture. The cap for most companies issuing IUL policies is currently at 13%. Since real estate investors are fairly sophisticated investors, I ll briefly explain how the IUL works. Insurance companies are large investors. Just like banks and investment firms, they manage large portfolios of mostly fixed income instruments (bonds & mortgages) in order to make sure that they make a profit and can pay all their claims. So what they do is take the interest they receive from these safe investments and use it to purchase options on a stock index. So to get a 13% return, they purchase an option on the underlying stock index that would lock in a 13% return. If the market falls, then the option expires worthless and no interest is credited in that period. That is where the downside protection comes from. If the market moves upward, the value of the option becomes more valuable and can be sold to lock in the return. If the market moves above a 13% return, then the option is exercised and the 13% gain is locked in

10 $2,500 Simulated Results of 13% Cap and Floor Strategy vs S&P500 $2,000 Value of $1000 $1,500 $1,000 $500 $ Year S&P Cap Historical rates of return vary by the period. To be conservative, most insurance companies will not illustrate anything above an 8% interest rate. The performance of an IUL over the period from August of 2000 until the present dramatically outperformed the market. As the chart above shows, the investor in an IUL did not realize the large double digit returns that the stock market indices achieved in the last few years, BUT the client who held an IUL didn t lose 35 and 40 percent of their portfolio value each time the market collapsed. Their lower returns where credited to an account with a much higher value to start with. Keep in mind that if the market drops 25%, then you need to make 33% just to return to the starting point. Also keep in mind that an 8% return in a tax-free investment is equal to a much higher rate in a taxable environment. A 12% return on a deal sounds great until you realize that after a 33% tax, you are left with only 8%. There is no wrong time to get started. In other words, age doesn t matter. Yes. It is better to start when you are young so that you can take advantage of compounding interest. But you are never too old to apply this strategy. As I stated earlier, one of the best things that you can do for yourself when you reach the age that you can tap into your IRA is to simply liquidate it and purchase an Indexed Universal Life Insurance policy designed to minimize the death benefit and maximize the cash value

11 Since the cost of insurance is higher on an older person, the IRS rules work in your favor. The ratio of insurance cost to cash value still has to stay under the IRS guidelines, but the amount or face value of the insurance policy is reduced. For example, if a 45 year old and a 65 year old each give me $100,000 per year for 5 years to purchase an IUL policy, each will have the same cash value in their policies at the end of each year. The only differences will be that the 45 year old will have purchased a much bigger death benefit for his premium and, since he has 20 years to retirement, will have a much higher tax-free income stream available when he retires. The Fox and the Hen House The only certainties in life are death and taxes. This strategy addresses both. Uncertainty is the norm. The strategy outlined in this paper works right now because the IRS rules allow it. They could change the rules on Social Security, Retirement Age, IRAs, 401(k)s, and the tax treatment of Life Insurance benefits. However, as long as nobody is guarding the hen house, the foxes will go in and grab a chicken. And continue grabbing chickens until someone discovers a way to keep him out. They may put a lock on the hen house door, but they can t make the fox return the chicken. Moral of the story: Tax Law changes are not retroactive. If what you are doing under current tax law is legal, they cannot make it illegal and backdate the effective date. Take advantage of these tools while you can. Conclusion The premise for this paper was why you should use the cash value of your life insurance to purchase real estate. The concept is fairly simple but I what I really wanted to do was take the opportunity to not only explain how it works, but explain why this solves many of the problems that gave you the incentive to invest in real estate in the first place. I wanted you to understand how life insurance works so that you understand the tax rules that make this strategy work. I hope you found the material useful and relevant. Please feel free to call or me with questions or feedback. I can be reached at and

12 Appendix Supercharge Your IRA Earlier in this paper I explained how your retirement savings are like a bucket that you fill slowly over the years as you save for retirement. I showed how with the traditional approach to retirement planning, a retiree will start to slowly take from the bucket and hopefully not empty it before they die. I showed you how Life Insurance affords the opportunity to create an ever-growing bucket because of the tax-free income that is provided via loans secured by the cash value of the policy. I also showed you how an Indexed Universal Life Insurance Policy lets you safely take part in market movement to the upside, but lets you lock in those returns so that you never lose money. If you have a Traditional IRA or 401(k) that is invested in fixed income investments earning poor returns or if you are still invested in risky Mutual Funds, my recommendation is that you liquidate your Qualified retirement savings account over a period of five years and use the withdrawals to purchase an Over Funded Indexed Universal Life Insurance Policy that is designed to minimize the death benefit and maximize the cash value. Again, be careful to utilize the services of a knowledgeable Life Insurance Agent so that you don t risk creating a Modified Endowment Contract. You can use policy loans to pay the taxes so that the full value of your retirement savings account is going to work for you in a safe retirement vehicle. If you time it properly, you can withdraw the funds from your qualified plan in January and not have to pay the tax bill until April of the following year! This gives you additional time to fund your policy and accelerate your cash value. Here are the benefits of this strategy: 1. You will have insurance that WILL pay a death benefit to your designated beneficiary. 2. Your cash value will continue to grow year after year. 3. Your savings will provide income for a much longer period than if it remained in the qualified savings account. Again, if you have any questions or feedback on this strategy, please contact me directly at or at

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