Buy Term, Invest the Difference

Buy Term, Invest the Difference

… Or To Put It Differently, Buy Term and Blow the Difference On Consumer Goods

Back in the day when I was just getting started with Northwestern Mutual as an insurance agent intern, I remember one of the older, more respected General Agents complaining about the fact that most people today, today being the middle 1980’s, did not understand that in order to invest you needed to save first.

“Oh, that’s not right!” opined every buy term and invest the difference shyster and short order chef in the country. That these two, the buy term and invest the difference proponent and the short order chef, were often the same person never seemed to make a significant impression on the American people. He had a business card and all these pretty charts and oh, I am going to be so rich!

Many of them made statements to the idea that whole life policies were a terrible investment and that protection should be split up. Buy term, invest the difference in mutual funds, and use your investments as a twofer, which is to say your mutual funds should be both your retirement and your savings.

I am sitting here for a few minutes considering the gullibility of the American people. The effort to plumb its depths is done, there is no bottom. Still, from time to time you have to sit and marvel at it.

Black Monday, 1987

Another notable memory I have is of Black Monday 1987. My General Agent was marveling over how in a conversation with a gas station clerk she could not get her mind around why everyone was so concerned with whether the banks would open the next day.

The state of financial education is not improved even a little bit, if anything it has gotten worse and the more developed one’s ignorance the more proud the person seems to be of their position.

An Opinion That Looks Like a Recommendation

To Do Lists

First, let’s get to do list #1 out of the way.

Figure out how much you have coming into the household and what your outgo is. You may have to do without some things, get another job, or start a part time business on the side.
Work your budget until you are living on 70% of what you make. Oh, I know. Wailing and guh-nashing of teeth. Stick with me, though. We will return to that in a minute.
A better option to cutting your budget is to try to generate another 42.85% income every month. That would give you the option of having 30% with which to work your savings plan.
Embrace the idea that you don’t know anything about money, for now.
Stop borrowing until you know the difference between good and bad debt.

Next, look at the 30% that is not going out every month. That is seed money for a better future.

It will become a cash cushion that will protect you against predatory loans during emergencies.
It will provide the home a feeling of secureness because whatever happens, next week to whomever the grocery shopping falls will be able to load up.
It will provide you with cash with which to take advantage of opportunities without having to choose between either the opportunity or groceries.
If a breadwinner dies, the kids can still eat, go to school, and sleep in their own beds secure in the knowledge that even though you are gone, their lives continue on.

Here is how you divide it up, to do list #2.

10% goes to cash savings
10% goes to whole life with perhaps a term rider that is convertible to whole life as your finances settle down
10% can go to tithe as your faith directs you. Or not, as you choose.

You can also choose to simply save the 30% for 4 months at which point you will have more than a months income saved in the bank.

After that, you should definitely begin a whole life program, continuing on with saving the rest. This is, in my opinion, what you should continue on with until you become educated on money.

Why Whole Life?

For a long time, the bankers were forbidden from getting into the life insurance business. Honestly, I do not know all the reasons for that barrier, but knowing banks as we all do, I feel safe in saying that allowing bankers into the life indemnity business was a net loss for the citizen.

There are some general protections which your money in your whole life affords you which your local fry cook and financial planner probably did not tell you:

If you die, your money becomes due at once, payable to your family.
Once the cash value builds up, you can use it to secure loans at 100% of the cash value, either with the insurance company itself or with a bank. Try doing that with your stocks. (Spoiler! You can’t. Nor can you use a bond because you cannot secure a debt with another debt, unless they have changed the law. As always, see your professional advisors.)
Your cash value is protected from lawsuits and creditors. That umbrella policy not enough to protect you? Your cash value is safe from suits and collections by creditors, no matter how clear your liability.

I love whole life because if you get in, stick with it, and hold to the iron rod of discipline you will have an asset later on that is darn near bulletproof in its protections of you and your family.

Financial Education

Now, before I forget about it, remember my comment about wailing and gnashing of teeth over living on 70%? I can guarantee you that someone within 500 feet of you is living on 70% of what you make and believes that your paycheck would be like winning the lottery. Look at it as an exercise against future calamity, an exercise that you can ease off the pressure a bit when it gets too tough. Better to do it when you are in control than when events are out of your control.

Now, let’s address the issue of financial education. First, throw out all the copies on those slick, glossy financial magazines who are constantly hawking the latest mutual funds.

Many of those magazines have folks from the very funds they are talking about advising them on the articles they run. Do you get me? In my opinion many of those magazines are simply unregulated prospectuses. Perhaps LESS regulated would be a better word and then you have the issue of regulated by whom.

I just know it struck me as extremely funny that the articles some of the magazines to whom I looked were giving editorial control to the product managers they were writing about.

… kind of like a nasty green funk you simply cannot get out of your carpet. No matter how many times you clean it, it still stinks.

To do list #3: Start reading. Here is a list:

The Richest Man In Babylon
‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’
Rich Dad’s ‘Prophecy’
Rich Dad’s ‘Who Took My Money?’

This reading list will not only teach you some of the basics about money, it will teach you the importance of being careful to whom you give control of your money.

Those who manage the major Western economies don’t necessarily see your successful retirement as a good thing. I am going to go out on a limb and claim that to be a fact, not an opinion.

Unless you pull back the curtain and

Take control of your money
Understand the difference between saving and investing
Master what the velocity of money means

… you can never get head of the devastating effects of inflation and move from the deceptive relative poverty of the United States to becoming wealthy.