A tale of two 401K funds

401K Fund #1

wealthA long time ago, I shifted the money that was going into my old 401K into an EIUL. This vehicle is geared to survive negative downturns and hence, only go up. In a sense, I think of my EIUL as my new 401K. Again, it doesn’t participate in market down swings, which has huge advanages. It also has better odds at beating the earning average of mutual funds.

401K Fund #2

house_cashBut that is not all. I travel with my family periodically to Florida, specifically to the Orlando area. My wife works for Disney, and we take their kids there 2-4 times every year. Spending money on hotels would have been outrageous. My wife heard from someone a few years ago cheap condos were. We finally bought one back in 2011 after I figured out that my bonus check that comes every six months could fund the entire thing, mortgage, utitilies, and all. Perhaps you’ve heard of the 401K condo?

On one hand, we have enjoyed every moment spent there. It’s great. Fully furnished. Appliances, bedrooms. I even have WiFi. The memories we have built are the best and only getting better. But that is not all. We bought it on short sale. Since then, the housing market has recovered and it’s estimated value has doubled. By paying it off slowly but surely, we are building equity. In the future, if need be, I can always refinance, invest the money into discounted notes, and pay off the loan. It’s another powerful real estate asset that offers more options.

“The investor with the most options wins.” –Jeff Brown

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Are you saving enough?

Financial speaking, the money that goes into both of these avenues is coming from my company salary. The total dollars is about 20% of my take home pay, which is not bad.

I’ve spoken before of this terrible investment exercise where people suggest you skip your daily $5 mocha and instead put that money into a mutual fund. According to those selling mutual funds, if you saved like that for 40 years, and 11% year after year, you would accumulate $1MM.

Except that in 30 years, $1MM won’t cut it. Assuming a 4% inflation, that dollar figure would be roughly equial to $208,000 in today’s dollars. Drawing 4% yield from that (as recommended by these same people) will grant you $8,320 Surrender 20% to Uncle Sam, and you’re left with $6700. We’re talking $560/month. What?!? So does skipping that daily mocha really turn into the cash generating machine you think it does? And do you really think you can earn 11% every year for 40 years, when Dalbar reports that people buying mutual funds can’t even average 4%?

That is pretty bad. If we are to turn things around, imagine that today we had $1MM.  How much would we need to start saving if we started 40 years ago? Doh! $5/day! So, set the wayback machine to 1975 and start chugging away. What is $5/day? About $1800/yaer. In 1975, median household income was about $11,800. This means that to save over $1800/year would translate to save almost 17% of gross income. Assume that 20% of that household income goes to the government and the savings rate against media take home pay would almost 20%.

So according to this, I’m on track to earning something the equivalent of $1MM in today’s dollars. My odds are much better because it isn’t based on earning 11% in mutual funds. And it isn’t based on having 40 years to save. Very few people start saving relentlessly when their 25. Instead, it happens in people’s late 30s/early 40s. They start to realize that their savings plan isn’t getting anywhere. So shift that 20-25 years of good solid savings.

Isn’t it time to switch to something that works with the odds rather than against them?

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