JAILBREAK: How To Get Your Retirement Money Out of Prison, and In Your Control
There is Light at the End of the Tunnel
January 18, 2021
2020 was a tough year. We're all tired of lockups, lockdowns and being under house arrest if we live in the wrong state. We all breathed a sigh of relief: "Thank goodness 2020 is over!" many said. But then 2021 happened. A new administration that promised to raise taxes by $4 Trillion and is well on its way to raising the National Debt by $10 Trillion - more than the Obama administration.
This means huge tax increases - for everyone. Don't believe the political ploy intended to get Americans to approve of the tax increases: "These taxes will only impact the top 1%. They won't raise taxes on the middle class." If the taxed the top TEN percent of taxpayers 100% of their income, it wouldn't be enough to cover all their new spending. You WILL pay higher taxes - unless you are among the tens of millions that live off our taxes and pay none themselves.
Many of us have suffered financial hardships. Unfortunately, we will probably see worse in 2021 if the experts are correct. Often we have money, but it's locked in retirement plans that we think we can't access. I have good news for you. If you meet the requirements - and many of you do - you can withdraw your own money with any penalties and pay far less taxes than you imagine. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
"JAILBREAK" YOUR RETIREMENT MONEY
We will talk about how you can reclaim your money from any type of IRA and any of the “40’s” (401K, 403b, etc.) from government control, and invest it as you see fit. This is an important consideration, because between the laws limiting what you can invest in, and the incompetence of most retirement plan money managers, the average retirement plan had made you less annually than inflation stole from you. That means your plan is probably making nothing, while there are great investment options - primarily hard assets, as opposed to the paper your money is invested in now - that could make you far more money.
There are several types of “40’s”, so for convenience I will refer to the group as 401K’s from here on. This guide will help you past the maze of barriers the companies that control your money like to throw up to hinder you. And it will get your money out of “lockup” much more quickly.
Let me start with a disclosure. Everything I will write about is freely available on the Internet, including government websites. I am not giving tax, legal, investment, financial planning, or accounting advice in this piece. My background allows me to pull together all this information in a way that makes it easy to understand. But I am no longer a broker nor a financial planner, and this article is not investment advice.
Before we jump into the details, I should say that I am not a fan of most retirement vehicles. After 45 years of experience, I have learned that when the government encourages you to do something – especially when it offers inducements – you can bet that it is not for your benefit, but for the government’s.
As a stockbroker and financial planner, I was guilty of pushing the Kool-Aid of IRA’s and 401K’s. I have repented of that, but the only penance I can make is to try to make sure others don’t follow the bad advice I gave back then. My only excuse for pushing these plans was that I didn’t know any better – I was trained to believe that they were beneficial.
In my humble opinion, the only people who benefit from these plans are people who have little or no self-discipline. If you are disciplined, you can net far more money – after taxes – by the time you retire if you use the money you would have contributed to these plans to invest yourself. This is partly because of the nature of the plans (more on this later) and mostly because the "professionals" manage your money in these plans are not good at it. However, if you would tend to spend rather than invest your retirement money, then the forced savings of these plans might be for you.
In almost every case, “professional” money managers invest your money only in stocks. This is not only foolish; it is unscriptural. The Bible teaches that we should never have all our eggs in one basket. Worse, most use the lazy broker’s investment of choice – mutual funds. As of March 2019, over the previous 15 years fully 92% of mutual funds did worse than the benchmark Index, the S&P 500. Some try to disguise their malfeasance by listing mutual funds and ETFs separately. The problem is that ETFs are just another type of mutual funds. Some will also put a small amount of your money in money markets or bonds so that they can claim you are "diversified."
Then there is the issue of high mutual fund fees – some open and some hidden. Even those few funds that beat the Index often lose when fees are calculated. When I was a broker, I didn’t allow my clients to buy mutual funds. One of the reasons I felt so strongly about this is that is some cases the fund would report taxes you owe for minor profits the fund made – but you didn’t receive any money because the fees ate up your profits. So, you paid taxes on “phantom” profits.
IRA and 401K’s have both similarities and differences. The similarities are that – with exceptions – your money cannot be withdrawn until you are 59.5 years of age without incurring a 10% penalty. Also, when you withdraw money from plans other than ROTH IRA’s, you must pay taxes on those funds. When you consider that taxes will undoubtedly be much higher in the future than they are today, and that you will eventually pay them anyway, it usually makes sense to liquidate them. (Anyone who thinks taxes will be lower a year from now is smoking something they shouldn't be smoking.) But both the 10% penalty and the specter of taxes are tools that the government uses to keep you from accessing the money you have earned.
DEALING WITH THE BUREUACRATS
You thought that only the government had bureaucrats? Then you’re in for a rude awakening. Just as in the government, the financial services industry has both heartless pencil-pushers, and people who genuinely want to help. Pray that when you call you get one of the latter when you call. If in the first few minutes it is apparent that you are talking to a robot who will be of no help to you, ask to speak to their supervisor. Keep going up the ladder, asking to speak to the supervisor's manager, until you reach a human.
NOTE: They will often say, "My supervisor can't do anything for you that I can't do." My answer to that is always, "Well, if that were the case, YOU would be the supervisor."
Take careful notes. Every time you call, note the date, the time, and the name of the person you speak to and ask for a number and extension you can call “in case we get disconnected.” There’s nothing worse than spending a half hour explaining your situation to someone and then getting cut off (or hung up on) before you reach a resolution. Then you have to call back and start all over with someone else.
Ask for their full name. Most won’t give you their last name, but most companies require them to at least give their employee ID. If you have their number and either a last name or employee ID, it is less likely they will hang up on you or stonewall you.
MAKE IT VERY CLEAR WHAT YOU EXPECT
Make it clear from the start that you need expedited service. They will probably charge you for this, but it is worth it, especially if you plan to use the money for an investment that is on a strong upward trend. Also, make it clear that under no circumstances will you allow them to mail you a check. As dysfunctional as the USPS is, you could wait a week or more for the check, and then have to wait for it to clear. Too often, mail is being lost these days, as well.
Insist that your money be wired. There will be a fee for this, but, again, it is worth it. Be prepared with your bank’s wiring instructions. It’s not like the old days when you could get the bank routing number (ABA Number) and your account number from your check. Most banks now have different routing numbers for checks and wires.
Your best bet is to have your bank email the instructions to you (they won’t email them to a third party). Then, when you have completed your withdrawal, forward the email with the wiring instructions, preferably while you are on the phone to verify that they received it. If that is not possible, type in capitals at the top of your email, PLEASE REPLY THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED THIS EMAIL. Be aware that the company will only send the wire to an account with your name (or your name and your spouses) in the title. They won’t send it to your spouse, accountant, or any other third party.
In case they refuse to wire funds, first ask for a supervisor or manager. These companies receive wires every day, and they can certainly send them. But if they become obstinate, insist that they send an official check by overnight only.
If you find yourself dealing with someone who is totally unreasonable, ask to speak to their Compliance Officer. This person is the company’s internal cop. His or her job is to keep the company out of hot water and avoid lawsuits or problems with the SEC or other state or federal regulatory bodies. This is better than speaking to a manager, who is usually a glorified salesman. Believe me, whoever you speak to is much more frightened by the Compliance Officer than their local manager.
In all cases, stay calm, keep your cool, don’t make threats you can’t back up – but be firm. Many of these companies will do all they can to delay sending your money, or to talk you out of withdrawing your funds. If they ask what you plan to invest the money in, don't engage with them unless you enjoy long arguments. Just say, "That is my business. If I feel the need for your advice, I will ask for it."
Always remember that this is your money, and that they have no right to delay your receiving it even for a day.
He has written thousands of articles that have been republished in national newspapers and on hundreds of websites, and is a frequent guest on radio and television shows. His weekly Conservative Truth article (which is read by 250,000) offers a unique viewpoint on social, moral and political issues from a Biblical worldview. This has resulted in invitations to speak internationally at churches, conferences, Money Shows, universities, and on TV (including the 700 Club).
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