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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

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Early retirement planning

originally posted: 11/22/2006  reposted: 2/18/2011 This post has not been recently reviewed or revised by the author and may be out of date. If you notice an error or are in doubt, please send a new question by email or ask for an update. Email

Q: I am looking for help with planning for early retirement. I want to know how much I need to plan to save what is the best way to save on taxes. I talked with an adviser who recommends a variable life insurance policy. What do you think?

A: Ninety eight percent of semi-affluent individuals (defined in this survey as those with more than $1 million in assets, regardless of income or net worth) list early retirement as a goal. Yet few people actually take early retirement, according to a recent survey. Our concepts of retiring are changing but it seems clear that financial independence is a goal that we have in common. Yet most financial advisers only provide advice contingent on a financial product or investment account. If you suddenly decided to put all of your retirement savings into a bag and bury it in your backyard, then your relationship with the adviser would cease because there is no "product" for the adviser to base his compensation. For this reason, it is important to get advice from someone who is not associated with a financial product or investment account. A long term relationship with a financial adviser who understands your personal goals and tax situation and can provide both tax and investment advice is your best ally in meeting this goal. Taking advice from a person who makes a living selling investments for two reasons: 1) there is a conflict of interest due to the compensation structure, 2) there is no legal or fiduciary duty to provide advice that is in your best interest, 3) the advice of registered representatives of insurance companies tends to be overly swayed toward the selling of insurance products like variable life and variable annuities, 4) most sales representatives are not financial planning experts or tax advisers, 5) most sales representatives do not maintain a close relationship after the sale that would facilitate your long term financial goals. You want an adviser who is paid based on time spend with you year after year and has an incentive to cooperate with you in meeting your goals no matter what investment product or approach is used.


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