7 Strategies the Rich Use that You Don’t (But Should)

7 Strategies the Rich Use that You Don’t (But Should)
by Jim Wang
After reading all the hoopla about Mitt Romneys tax returns (I think it would be fascinating to read his returns just to see what sorts of loopholes and tricks his accounting/tax team uses I dont begrudge him for doing exactly what Id do minimize tax payments by following the rules as written), I start doing a little research into the sorts of strategies the rich use to avoid as much income tax as possible. When the wealth have marginal tax rates north of 30%, its amazing how much low tax rate income they must have to bring that number down into the low teens.

Here are a handful of strategies that they use that, while not always 100% accessible to the average person, are at least within the realm of possibility: (i.e. you wont see carried interest mentioned once!)

Build a strong network
I wanted to start the list off with something that anyone can do but that the wealthy, especially those who derived their wealth in business, do very well networking. One thing youll recognize very quickly is that the most successful individuals often know the most number of people. While it may appear that it has to do with the wealth they’ve generated, thats often the result of the network itself. Think about some of the more successful people in your workplace, the people who can get things done and a lot of it has to do with the other people in the organization that they know. When I worked at large companies, some people were able to circumvent the arduous process cycles to get their work at the head of the line or completed with extra attention to minimize errors. Its entirely based on networking (read: friendships).

And networking is a delicate process. We all know about the guy who introduces himself and within minutes has his business card in your hand. Or the friend who just joined a multi-level marketing business and wants you to buy [insert products here]. Networking is about being a nice person, finding out what other people do, and then, at some later time, figuring out if you can work together. You have to build a network before you need it because rushing the process will turn people off. (what this really means is just be nice to people and dont think about networking as building a network, think of it more like making a lot of friends that you hope, one day, you can help somehow in a tangible way)

This will be the only non-directly financial strategy of the list so enjoy it.

Harvest investment losses
No one ever bats 1.000, so when you make a lot of investments, some of them will not pan out. Fortunately, you can use the losers to offset some of the winners and take some of the edge off that loss. Harvesting investment losses is pretty easy, you just have to watch out for the wash sale rule. If you have more losses than gains, youre able to take $3,000 of that against your income. But wait theres more! As an added bonus, you can carry forward losses indefinitely. So if you recognize $10,000 in stock losses this year, you can reduce your income by $3,000 and then carry the $7,000 into next year.

Unfortunately, you cant take advantage of this in tax advantaged accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA. Since you typically dont recognize gains or losses in those accounts, you cant use them to your advantage either. You end up on the better side of that trade off because you dont have to pay taxes, and reduce your investment amount, each time you transact.

Defer income
Deferring income sounds easy but not all of us have income to defer. The wealthy typically take advantage of their flexibility by timing the sale of their assets, like stocks, for when its most beneficial. Selling a stock on January 1st, 2012 means you dont have to pay for it until April 2013 thats over a year later (they make sure that they pay enough taxes to avoid any penalties).

When you get paid a salary from your employer, you get a regular paycheck and your income comes in on a regular basis. You cant, usually, opt to get paid later just for the tax benefits. You can, however, defer a little bit of income by contributing more to retirement accounts. Every dollar you contribute to your 401(k) is a dollar you wont have to pay for until you retire and start taking disbursements from your account.

More long term capital gains, less ordinary income
Why does Warren Buffett pay a lower percentage of his income in taxes than his administrative assistant? Long term capital gains. When you own a stock for more than a year and sell it, you are taxed at a much lower rate. When you start a business and sell it after a year, thats usually long term capital gains. When youre paid a salary and issued a W-2 at the end of the year, thats ordinary income. Ordinary income tax rates are much higher than long term capital gains rates.

Unfortunately, theres very little you can do to change this because its not like you can quit your job, start a business, and start paying lower rates. What you can do is start taking some of your savings and, based on your appetite for risk, invest in dividend stocks as a way to general income that is taxed at long term capital gains rates. Its riskier than a CD but it offers up higher yields coupled with a lower tax rate.

Avoid expensive debt
Avoiding expensive debt is easy when you have a lot of cash on hand. The wealthy may have plenty of loans, usually favorable ones with single digit interest rates like home mortgages, but they will rarely carry credit card debt charging double digits. It simply doesn’t make financial sense to pay 19.99% when you have cash in the bank.

The takeaway from this is that everyone should be avoiding double digit interest rates. Live without that special something until you can pay for it all at once or get a favorable loan to buy it.

Create multiple streams of income
Have you seen the tax returns of some of the Presidential hopefuls throughout the years? Very few of them derive their income from one job. They often take on different roles and generate income from a variety of methods, to include investments in the stock market. Multiple streams of income, especially if they are mostly passive, is valuable because it makes your financial status more stable. Losing one stream, such as your main job, wont be pleasant but it doesn’t derail the entire system.

The takeaway from this is that you should always be investigating avenues of generating additional income. Whether thats something as straightforward as investing in dividend stocks for a little trickle of income to starting a side venture that generates a larger torrent of income, the constant search is what matters. Always be investigating and learning.

Consider heirs
There are a variety of investment vehicles, life insurance policies, and other financial games the wealthy can play when it comes to estate planning. In many cases, those games are on the pricier side but they come with significant tax benefits. Tax benefits that outweigh the cost of the vehicles themselves. For example, permanent life insurance plans (plans where a sum is paid out at the end of the policy and where the plan accrues a cash value so whole life and universal life, but not term life) let you accrue value without paying any taxes until that value is withdrawn. Its a way for you to defer income (in this case, the income that would come from the increase of cash value in the life insurance plan, not cash you contribute), see gains, but not be taxed on them until the plan ended.

So how is this related to considering your heirs, rather than deferring capital gains? When you die, the death benefit that is paid out to a beneficiary is not included as income for that beneficiary (it is, however, still included as part of the estate). You can avoid this if you involve a certain type of trust (it starts to get more complicated than I prefer to get and outside my area of expertise, so Ill defer on this one), but basically you make it the owner and beneficiary of the policy, have it collect the death benefit, and then have the trust manage the money.


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Find your ‘Millionaire Code,’ then your new career

Find your ‘Millionaire Code,’ then your new career
By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

Commentary: Take this test, start doing what you love today
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) Yes, you can increase your earning power. Definitely live a happier, healthier, less stressful life. How? Change careers.

In The Millionaire Mind, Thomas Stanley says Millionaires who have a high creative intelligence often make one very important career decision correctly: They select a vocation that provides them with enormous profits, and very often this same vocation is the one they love. Remember, if you love what you are doing, your productivity will be high and your specific form of creative genius will emerge.

Stanleys message cuts both ways: As most millionaires report, stress is a direct result of devoting a lot of effort to a task thats not in line with ones abilities. Its more difficult, more demanding mentally and physically, to work at a vocation thats unsuitable to your aptitude.

Heres your first step, a brief test from my Millionaire Code, modified from Carl Jungs personality types and the Myers-Briggs 16 personality types.

Take this simple four-part test and find your four-letter Millionaire Code. Then you can follow the links to all sixteen the Myers Briggs and discover some details on new career options that fit you.

The test may look like one you took years ago. But things change, so keep an open mind, open to big changes. You wouldnt be the first financial type who left a bank to become an artist, jewelry designer or journalist, but you may be the happiest one.

The test is very simple, without psychological mumbo-jumbo. With each of the following four pairs, use your gut, pick the one letter that best fits you, not the way other people expect you to be at work, social gatherings, or even your family. Youll sense the real you:

1. Extrovert or Introvert? (E or I)

Given a choice, what world do you prefer living in: We all want some of both, but Extroverts prefer interacting, socializing, talking and listening to people. Introverts prefer their own inner world time alone, reading, thinking quietly, living in their head, working things out before dealing with the real world.

2. Sensor or iNtuitive? (S or N)

How do you use information? We all use the five senses to get concrete data, from seeing, hearing, touch, taste, smell. However, the Sensor then compares new data to past information. Intuitives are future-oriented, they look beyond raw data for meaning, possibilities and abstractions. Sensors rely more on the data. An Intuitive relies more on hunches, concepts and inspirations.

3. Thinker or Feeler? (T or F)

How do you make decisions? Thinkers want to do whats right, fair and just. They tend to be impersonal and impartial, using logic, rationality, reason. Feeling types are more subjective and personal, their decisions depend on individual values and empathy, on making themselves and others feel good at work, at home, in the world.

4. Judger or Perceiver? (J or P)

What daily lifestyle do you prefer? A Judger likes an orderly, organized life with schedules, plans, things-to-do, lists, tasks to accomplish, specific goals. Perceiving types value spontaneity and flexible goals, adapting easily to new situations They prefer keeping their options open in a changing environment, often till the last minute.

Are you in sync with the real you? Or creating stress, undermining your destiny, your reason for being here this lifetime? Find out more: Check out the 16 personality types and read the description that fits your 4-letter code. For example, Im an INFP, an idealist searching for meaning in life, looking for ways to make the world a better place for people.

Whats your 4-letter Millionaire Code? You can find details in your specific personality among the 16 Myers-Briggs types. Lets start with the general categories with links to all 16 types, including your personality type.

Systems masterminds ( ENTJ , ENTP , INTJ or INTP )

No shrinking violets here. Youre a bright, energetic trailblazer who loves mental challenges and working 24/7 trying to figure out how to improve procedures, systems, etc. Driven to make your dreams come true and change the world, your decisions are based on whats best for everyones overall good-not any specific individual-and feelings are balanced with the bottom line. If theres a group of people, you tend to be the head honcho.

Career paths: Leaders like you can be found across all kinds of fields. Top guns like you are likely to be happy as a corporate executive, bank or office manager, fundraiser, hospital administrator or sales manager.

Guardians of the establishment ( ESTJ , ESFJ , ISTJ or ISFJ )

You are the backbone of corporate America, more focused on the present than the past, but with an eye toward the future. An avid planner, you regularly invest in your 401(k)s most conservative choices and your unions pension fund, and probably contribute to a college tuition savings plan for the kids. Your preference is safety, security and order.

Career paths: Youre happiest in a large organizational environment where theres a rigid structure with clear rules; it could also be a police force or the military. Any corporate positions fit you, as supervisors, managers, executives, technology experts, staff advisers.

Freelance creators ( ESTP , ESFP , ISTP or ISFP )

Youd prefer to work for yourself rather than an employer and love helping and pleasing others.

You dont mind bending a few rules or being an individual who works independently. Pressure, surprises and freedom make your days complete!

Career paths: Use your entrepreneurial spirit to start your own business, even if its only part-time. Brokerage firms might be a good place to start looking since you can work as much as you want, whenever you want.

Got more time and savings to go along with it? Invest in your financial future by buying a franchise, like a Mrs. Fields or Taco Bell. Or consider some commission-based, be-your-own-boss options, such as real estate broker, writer, ad exec, travel agent, sales positions.

Pathfinders ( ENFJ , ENFP , INFJ or INFP )

Your willingness to help those less fortunate and your compassion for people makes you an inspiration to all. Youre idealistic and passionate about work, life and other peoples potential. You were born to inspire, encourage and motivate. You have strong psychic instincts, are very intuitive and skilled at reading body language and picking up on others feelings.

Career paths: Social work, teaching, public relations, career and guidance counselors and human resource specialists are all careers that naturally build on a spirit of caring and compassion for people, a need for personal contact and a natural desire to create harmony and peace.

Want more: check out my Millionaire Code for details about the 16 personality types. Youll find yours. Definitely read Thomas Stanleys Millionaire Mind and Marcus Buckinghams books, beginning with The One Thing You Need to Know: Figure out what you dont like doing, then stop doing it. Then dig into Buckinghams books on Strengths Assessment, identify and focus on what you love doing.

Be patient. When its time, you will know what to do. For years in investment banking at Morgan Stanley I was taking workshops on writing, directing and acting at places like the Television Academy and Actors Studio, won a gold medal for a short-film.

Then one day, suddenly, I knew it was time to go. Soon after left, became a newspaper editor, an executive at the Financial News Network, then a financial journalist. Best decision I ever made. Be patient, get prepared, youll know the right time, you just know.

Whatever you do, dont give up your dream five minutes before the miracle. Remember what Stanley says in The Millionaire Mind: If you love what you are doing, your productivity will be high and your specific form of creative genius will emerge.

A couple other must-reads: Bill Bridges, Transitions, and Marsha Sinetars Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow.

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