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My Early Retirement and The Government's Role
Old 11-08-2007, 11:09 PM   #1
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My Early Retirement and The Government's Role

I know from exchanges with members of the forum that there is amongst us a contingent - I don't how large - that has little use for government - that want very little of it involved in their business and personal affairs.

I want to say that our government through foresight and some progressive legislation has made it possible for me to retire early. I'm sure I could not have ER'd without them.

Now I know government can be maddening with its bureaucracy and inefficiencies and basically I want to avoid interacting with it as much as possible, but there are a lot of benefits from having our government.

I'm not going to go into all the benefits that create a foundation for the good life I enjoy...just the direct acts of our congress and the involved government agencies that made my early retirement possible. I think I remembered them all.

1. Company pension (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (federal corp created by congress) has oversight on mine to make sure I receive it - know they aren't universal - especially lately - so think there isn't a requirement that companies need to have them)

2. Social security - not yet but am confident we will get it.

3. ESOP - not sure people remember/know of this gem - but congress created this back in 1974. Employee Stock Ownership Plan - got company shares as a bonus every christmas - added up over time as my first employer and stock did well - I like the idea of getting the employee vested in the success of the company
.
4. 401K - my ESOP eventually got folded into this and the company started chucking dough in and I did to. This was often a substitute for pensions at many companies, my company decided to provide both. I eventually worked at 2 other companies and participated in their plans.

5. IRA - When I left my 3 employers I would transfer the 401K into one of these. Once there I could trade individual stocks w/o worrying about taxes and that's where my returns started to really take off.

6. IRS rule 72(t) - has enabled me to withdraw money from my IRAs via SEPP - Substantially Equal Periodic Payments without penalty.

7. Cobra - took this for 18 months after I took ER.

8. UTMA- Uniform Gift To Minors Act helped with kids college. Grew over time helped ease the load and was able to ER sooner

9. 529 plan - same as above.
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Old 11-09-2007, 07:42 AM   #2
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There is a lot of good that state and federal goverment provide, and you have clearly elucidated a number of good points that benefit many of us.

It is easy to forget these good policies when news/general information tends to focus on the ineffiencies and silly policies that do occur. But like everything else (celebrity "news", traffic reports, safety and crime), a lot of what we hear about goverment is distorted, because policies that work smoothly and efficiently are not news and don't promote comment.

Thanks.
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Old 11-09-2007, 09:06 AM   #3
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DanTein,, Danny (just saw the name change*) - couldn't most of those exists w/o government? Most of them are based upon workarounds of the cumbersome tax system we have. Some of those strike me as thanking the firefighter when it turns out he was the arsonist.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation -
Maybe I'm wrong on this, but didn't companies really start pensions because of the tax benefits? If they were not taxed in the first place, this wouldn't be an issue. If the same money was placed in a private retirement account, we likely would be better off, no?

Social security - again, wouldn't you have been better off if you could have just invested the money that you and your employer put into this?

ESOP - again, a tax mumble-jumble made this possible. It's just shifting money around, not creating any wealth.
.
401K - I think it is prudent for the govt to encourage saving, but again, this is just a big tax mumble-jumble shell game.

I
RA - ditto 401K

IRS rule 72(t)
- fireman/arsonist again. We are going to save you from the taxes we placed on you - whooppee!

Cobra - took this for 18 months after I took ER.
OK - Probably a good regulation. The health care system is messed up, but I think this is at least one decent step at making the best of a bad situation.

UTMA- Uniform Gift To Minors Act helped with kids college.
Right, and then when you go to apply for another wonderful govt benefit, financial aid, you may find out that the money you put in this account disqualifies you for aid. Are you sure this 'helped'? More tax mumble-jumble.

529 plan - same as above - yes, same as above.

I'm all for the govt doing things that they can do better than business or individuals can. Beyond that, what's the point? And I don't consider a 'shell game' of benefits (take something from me so you can tell me you are 'giving' me something) a good thing.

-ERD50


* what's with changing names on this forum? I've never seen that allowed on any other forum. When someone uses the search function, they sometimes get posts that reference the old name, but it is the current name that gets listed. Makes following some threads difficult.
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Old 11-09-2007, 10:39 AM   #4
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ERD, we have a history of allowing name changes.

Danny, I can add to your list:

--social security disability for my dad
--guaranteed student loans
--college grants
--work study
--SSI and medicaid for my brother, otherwise I would have to support him and I don't know how I would pay his medical bills
--AFCI/medicaid for my sister, who used it temporarily after her worthless husband left her and their children and disappeared off the face of the earth

I am willing to admit that I would not be where I am today without public assistance.
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Old 11-09-2007, 10:45 AM   #5
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I think it's easy to sound like a blanket anti-government type, and I guess it is, but some of this sounds like being thankful the government gives you a "free" dollar when they took two dollars from you to begin with.

For sure, some government programs and such are beneficial, but much of what you mentioned is little more than ways to let you keep a little more of what they took from you, not something they give you out of thin air.

When it comes to tax breaks, it's sort of like a gas station raising the price of gas by 50 cents, and then being thankful that prices fall by a quarter. They have succeeded in charging an extra quarter in the end and consumers are happy about it.
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Old 11-09-2007, 10:51 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Martha View Post
ERD, we have a history of allowing name changes.

Danny, I can add to your list:

--social security disability for my dad
--guaranteed student loans
--college grants
--work study
--SSI and medicaid for my brother, otherwise I would have to support him and I don't know how I would pay his medical bills
--AFCI/medicaid for my sister, who used it temporarily after her worthless husband left her and their children and disappeared off the face of the earth

I am willing to admit that I would not be where I am today without public assistance.
Thanks Martha for the reminder of those great programs and sharing with us your experience with them.

I forget that we benefited from Minnesota state grants, work-study and Minnesota's SELF loans.

Also have a brother-in-law on SSI
.

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Old 11-09-2007, 11:36 AM   #7
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Yes, a lot of the 'safety net' items provided by govt are a good thing. Some would argue that private charities would pick up the slack if the govt didn't - I don't know if that would be the case or not.

But most of the items in Danny's OP were not safety nets, they were, as Ziggy said, giving you $1 after taking $2 (oversimplification - but you get the point).

leather - agreed!

-ERD50
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Old 11-09-2007, 11:48 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Yes, a lot of the 'safety net' items provided by govt are a good thing. Some would argue that private charities would pick up the slack if the govt didn't - I don't know if that would be the case or not.

But most of the items in Danny's OP were not safety nets, they were, as Ziggy said, giving you $1 after taking $2 (oversimplification - but you get the point).

leather - agreed!

-ERD50
....just had a trip down memory lane - used to wear English Leather - a commercial had this sultry sweetie reclining - saying "all my men wear English Leather or they wear nothing at all.."

I don't follow what you and ziggy mean by $2 in for $1 out concerning the programs I mentioned....of the ones mentioned where is that true...and how so.
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Old 11-09-2007, 11:58 AM   #9
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ERD, we have a history of allowing name changes.
Good!! Glad to hear it. In about 729 days, I may need a name change myself.
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:00 PM   #10
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DanTein,, Danny (just saw the name change*) - couldn't most of those exists w/o government? Most of them are based upon workarounds of the cumbersome tax system we have. Some of those strike me as thanking the firefighter when it turns out he was the arsonist.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation - Maybe I'm wrong on this, but didn't companies really start pensions because of the tax benefits? If they were not taxed in the first place, this wouldn't be an issue. If the same money was placed in a private retirement account, we likely would be better off, no?

Social security - again, wouldn't you have been better off if you could have just invested the money that you and your employer put into this?
Whether or not people would be better off investing the money in a defined contribution plan vs a defined benefit setup is certainly open to debate. For example, Nebraska did a study a few years ago showing that workers in the DB plan did much better than those in the DC plan [Nebraska sees red over its 401(k) plan]. See also the footnotes to this Calpers research brief.

I see a lot of evidence/studies showing what horrible investors people are, and how bad they do investing their money in defined contribution plans. I'm continually amazed that college professors are able to retire comfortably with only DC plans. Of course, they really only had two low cost choices [TIAA + CREF stock] until the 1990's, and most were forced to annuitize the money upon retirement.

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Old 11-09-2007, 12:02 PM   #11
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I don't follow what you and ziggy mean by $2 in for $1 out concerning the programs I mentioned....of the ones mentioned where is that true...and how so.
What I mean is that for everyone who is a net *consumer* of government services and benefits, there are others who pay in a lot more than they get out of it. I don't see why someone should feel grateful for getting $5000 worth of services from government when they are paying $10000 in taxes.

Take the 401(k) plan, for example. Really all they are doing is letting us keep a little more of our own money. They aren't "giving" us anything we wouldn't have already had if not for taxes.

And then there's Social Security, which is likely to be a losing "investment" for anyone under the age of about 40 to 50. It's easy to be "thankful" for the monthly check until you think about what you probably could have done if you could have kept all the contributions you and your employer made, put 80% of it into investments and 20% into disability and term life insurance for disability/survivor benefits had you not been required to pay into SS.

It's not like the benefits they are giving us are free. That's my only point, really, that there's no free lunch. I'm not trying to sound Randian here because I think there is some benefit to the programs you mention but I just want to counter the notion that it's "goodness" coming out of thin air.

Some of the stuff we are "grateful" for is just some of the crumbs they give back to us after they have taken much of the entire loaf from us.
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:09 PM   #12
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Whether or not people would be better off investing the money in a defined contribution plan vs a defined benefit setup is certainly open to debate. For example, Nebraska did a study a few years ago showing that workers in the DB plan did much better than those in the DC plan [Nebraska sees red over its 401(k) plan]. See also the footnotes to this Calpers research brief.
Sure, but that largely depends on future demographics breaking the right way, AND that depends on individuals making bad choices with their 401(k) and other plans. Defined benefit plans (and Social Security, for that matter) would look great if the payee to recipient ratio was growing as it did when the Boomers were entering the work force. It doesn't work so well when they are *leaving* the work force at a pace that causes that ratio to drop sharply.

The bottom line is that most people who tend to fear uncertainty prefer defined-benefit plans (and Social Security) over taking control of their own future, and that's understandable. The problem is, demographic shifts make this more and more expensive to maintain for less and less future benefit.

Quote:
I see a lot of evidence/studies showing what horrible investors people are, and how bad they do investing their money in defined contribution plans.
This is precisely why many people believe that any "personal accounts" which may *someday* be a part of SS reform (current Democratic opposition withstanding) need to include both mandatory participation in a defined contribution plan AND a specific, required age-appropriate lifecycle-type fund. It's not appropriate for most 25-year-olds to be so afraid of risk that they stick their 401(k) in money markets for 35 years, and it's not appropriate for a lot of 50-year-olds to be all in aggressive growth and emerging markets.
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"Hey, for every ten dollars, that's another hour that I have to be in the work place. That's an hour of my life. And my life is a very finite thing. I have only 'x' number of hours left before I'm dead. So how do I want to use these hours of my life? Do I want to use them just spending it on more crap and more stuff, or do I want to start getting a handle on it and using my life more intelligently?" -- Joe Dominguez (1938 - 1997)

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Old 11-09-2007, 12:27 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Yes, a lot of the 'safety net' items provided by govt are a good thing. Some would argue that private charities would pick up the slack if the govt didn't - I don't know if that would be the case or not.

But most of the items in Danny's OP were not safety nets, they were, as Ziggy said, giving you $1 after taking $2 (oversimplification - but you get the point).

leather - agreed!

-ERD50
Careful, I'll bring out the whip.

I doubt charities will be able to care care of disabled people and their medical bills. But, that isn't really the discussion.

I personally benefited from non safety net programs for education like loans and grants and work study. Not a safety net, but an equalizer. It is much harder today for your average poor kid to do college, mostly because the costs have gone up so high. Also, it used to be that you could go to "tech school" for free right after highschool and learn a trade. Now it costs a bunch of money.
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:32 PM   #14
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I personally benefited from non safety net programs for education like loans and grants and work study. Not a safety net, but an equalizer. It is much harder today for your average poor kid to do college, mostly because the costs have gone up so high. Also, it used to be that you could go to "tech school" for free right after highschool and learn a trade. Now it costs a bunch of money.
All of this is related to the current socioeconomic expectation that you MUST go to college or your life will be a waste and you will be doomed.

Our culture turns its nose up at people without a college education -- even to people in the skilled trades, many of whom make a lot more money than some occupations requiring a college degree and who have jobs that are much more offshoring-proof than white collar jobs.

The net result is that demand for a college education is going up way faster than the supply of institutions and instructors. And that causes the price to spike.

Frankly, we'd be a lot better off if we encouraged people who don't have the aptitude to go to college to pursue a career in the trades or take other vocational training. Maybe if we did that, college costs wouldn't rise so sharply and we could better afford to give grants and other assistance to needier students who show great promise, desire and aptitude for college success.

But as long as we act like college is the only option for our kids, expect double-digit inflation to continue.
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"Hey, for every ten dollars, that's another hour that I have to be in the work place. That's an hour of my life. And my life is a very finite thing. I have only 'x' number of hours left before I'm dead. So how do I want to use these hours of my life? Do I want to use them just spending it on more crap and more stuff, or do I want to start getting a handle on it and using my life more intelligently?" -- Joe Dominguez (1938 - 1997)

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Old 11-09-2007, 12:34 PM   #15
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Good!! Glad to hear it. In about 729 days, I may need a name change myself.

You must be having fun crossing off a day, each workday's end. And three days on weekends. And Veteran's day and Thanksgiving are coming up so you get to cross of more.

I remember well the fun I had with my countdown list.
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:40 PM   #16
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I know from exchanges with members of the forum that there is amongst us a contingent - I don't how large - that has little use for government - that want very little of it involved in their business and personal affairs.

I want to say that our government through foresight and some progressive legislation has made it possible for me to retire early. I'm sure I could not have ER'd without them.

Now I know government can be maddening with its bureaucracy and inefficiencies and basically I want to avoid interacting with it as much as possible, but there are a lot of benefits from having our government.

I'm not going to go into all the benefits that create a foundation for the good life I enjoy...just the direct acts of our congress and the involved government agencies that made my early retirement possible. I think I remembered them all.

1. Company pension (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (federal corp created by congress) has oversight on mine to make sure I receive it - know they aren't universal - especially lately - so think there isn't a requirement that companies need to have them)

2. Social security - not yet but am confident we will get it.

3. ESOP - not sure people remember/know of this gem - but congress created this back in 1974. Employee Stock Ownership Plan - got company shares as a bonus every christmas - added up over time as my first employer and stock did well - I like the idea of getting the employee vested in the success of the company
.
4. 401K - my ESOP eventually got folded into this and the company started chucking dough in and I did to. This was often a substitute for pensions at many companies, my company decided to provide both. I eventually worked at 2 other companies and participated in their plans.

5. IRA - When I left my 3 employers I would transfer the 401K into one of these. Once there I could trade individual stocks w/o worrying about taxes and that's where my returns started to really take off.

6. IRS rule 72(t) - has enabled me to withdraw money from my IRAs via SEPP - Substantially Equal Periodic Payments without penalty.

7. Cobra - took this for 18 months after I took ER.

8. UTMA- Uniform Gift To Minors Act helped with kids college. Grew over time helped ease the load and was able to ER sooner

9. 529 plan - same as above.
Given that the income tax system has been a fact since 1913 or so, then it is good that the people's elected representatives voted in all these "lessenings" of the income tax bite on people. Good that they saw fit to encourage (not so severely punish) peoples "saving for retirement" and "saving for education" behaviors.

Somewhere along the line, the people's elected representatives got the idea these particular "lessenings" of the income tax bite might be politically popular.

And it is good you have taken advantage of these "loopholes".
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:51 PM   #17
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What I mean is that for everyone who is a net *consumer* of government services and benefits, there are others who pay in a lot more than they get out of it. I don't see why someone should feel grateful for getting $5000 worth of services from government when they are paying $10000 in taxes.

Take the 401(k) plan, for example. Really all they are doing is letting us keep a little more of our own money. They aren't "giving" us anything we wouldn't have already had if not for taxes.

And then there's Social Security, which is likely to be a losing "investment" for anyone under the age of about 40 to 50. It's easy to be "thankful" for the monthly check until you think about what you probably could have done if you could have kept all the contributions you and your employer made, put 80% of it into investments and 20% into disability and term life insurance for disability/survivor benefits had you not been required to pay into SS.

It's not like the benefits they are giving us are free. That's my only point, really, that there's no free lunch. I'm not trying to sound Randian here because I think there is some benefit to the programs you mention but I just want to counter the notion that it's "goodness" coming out of thin air.

Some of the stuff we are "grateful" for is just some of the crumbs they give back to us after they have taken much of the entire loaf from us.
ziggy - still don't understand the 2 for 1 and how it applies..interesting to read your view though
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:54 PM   #18
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Given that the income tax system has been a fact since 1913 or so, then it is good that the people's elected representatives voted in all these "lessenings" of the income tax bite on people. Good that they saw fit to encourage (not so severely punish) peoples "saving for retirement" and "saving for education" behaviors.

Somewhere along the line, the people's elected representatives got the idea these particular "lessenings" of the income tax bite might be politically popular.

And it is good you have taken advantage of these "loopholes".
yes, I think it's wonderful that a guy from the bottom rungs could rise up with the help of these mechanisms...you should really take a look at CBK Robert
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:58 PM   #19
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ziggy - still don't understand the 2 for 1 and how it applies..interesting to read your view though
You're reading it too literally. The "2 for 1" isn't exact and it's not even important to the point -- the point simply is that we often feel like the government is giving us a dollar even if it was a dollar we originally gave them (in addition to a lot more we gave them).

IMO, this is a similar mentality to people who feel like they stick it to the government when they get a $5,000 tax refund. Some of them act like they are getting a free gift from Uncle Sam when in reality all they are doing is getting back a fraction of what they gave to the government in the prior year -- not to mention giving their Uncle an interest-free loan.
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Old 11-09-2007, 06:47 PM   #20
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CBK - Christopher & Banks Corporation - Google Finance
...you should really take a look at CBK Robert
Thanks for the link. I will check it out.
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