We have seen some unbelievable things over the past few years… especially the past few months. The only thing certain is that there is a lot of uncertainty ahead. If you haven’t already done so, right now I strongly suggest you watch the 30 minute condensed version of the film I.O.U.S.A. This film features David Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General… aka the chief accountant of the government. He tried to fix the government’s financial problems, but Dick Cheney and others told him he needed to stop because they didn’t need solving. So he stepped down from his position and decided to prove to the world just how bad of shape our government really is in.
Today some people, including congressmen, are promoting some very extreme ideas. Some of these ideas involve the government “nationalizing” (or “confiscating” for those of us who speak directly) the assets of the people. Some plans even call for confiscation of retirement account assets specifically. In one scheme called the “Guaranteed Retirement Account” all retirement assets would be liquidated and handed over the Social Security Administration for investment management in a program that would provide a guaranteed return of 3% per year. This kind of silliness doesn’t need to be gratified by anything more than a brief response:
- We’ve already seen how well the Social Security Administration manages money. It simply doesn’t. There is no money. There is no account. It just hands its income straight over to the general spending account of the government, and (not surprisingly) it gets spent!
- Liquidating $16 trillion is impossible. It would crash the securities market entirely, and $16 trillion would not be withdrawn. If you started liquidating people’s retirement accounts alphabetically by name, those with names that start with letters n through z would receive little to nothing because of the price free fall created by the first half of the mass sell off.
- The real world cost of living increases do not jive with published CPI figures, and there is often a discrepancy of much more than a few percent. A 3% return on investment would likely be a steady loss of principal when accurately indexing for inflation.
While we may not see that particular scheme enacted into law, it can’t be ignored that this type of solution is being considered. This government theft approach isn’t unheard of. In fact, Argentina just did it!
Don’t forget that our government “confiscated” personal gold holdings in 1933… at least sort of. It was really more of a “government request” than a confiscation. An executive order was announced that requested that citizens show up to a Federal Reserve Branch within a month to sell their gold for $20 per ounce. The notable fact here is that not all the gold was turned in. According to author John Rubino, only 22% of the gold in circulation was actually turned in. Shortly thereafter, the gold price was set to $35 per ounce, thus devaluing the dollar by 41%.
It is not beyond possibility for our government to aim to take our wealth to pay for its financial problems. The difference between the gold confiscation of the 1930s and the threat of retirement account confiscation today is this: In the 1930s it was effectively voluntary to surrender your gold, while today over 99.9% of retirement assets are in the hands of custodians who are regulated by the federal government. While the 1933 confiscation was only 22% effective, a confiscation today would be 99.9% effective because of our unfounded trust in the financial services industry.
If a wealth “nationalization” plan were pursued, the outlook is grim for the overall population, but you can protect your wealth by simply taking direct possession of it. With an IRA LLC or a self-directed, self-trustee Solo 401k plan, you can legally hold your retirement account assets yourself directly. If an order were placed for you to surrender your retirement account assets, you could simply distribute them to yourself before the order deadline. In such a case you might have to give up 40% or more of your assets to taxation, but that is much better than losing 100%.
Again, I don’t like to come off as spreading “gloom and doom”, but unbelievable economic events are occurring left and right. The acts of the Fed (in concert with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) may have already devastated your first pillar of wealth – home equity. Don’t let further acts of foolishness destroy your retirement account. Spend your time looking at the lighter side of things – investments that perform well; investments that you can understand and have predictable results. Just make sure that you are protected from losing your assets due to lack of optimal structuring. Whether you use a Self Directed IRA or Solo 401k to invest in a variety of alternative assets, make sure you set yourself up for direct possession of your assets.