Bernie Madoff went to jail, but his wife is still living in the big penthouse. There is still a good possibility she will spend some time in a cell, but it won’t be because she owns lots of assets. Her problem is she was working in the business and has committed the same types of illegal acts as her husband. There are a whole bunch of asset protection lessons that can be learned from the Madoff disaster. There are several on the investor’s side of the fence and a number on the business owner’s side of the fence.
As you read the next couple of paragraphs, I know you will say, “Duh, Phillips! Everybody knows your little lessons.” I am sure you already know the lessons. But, please evaluate your situation. Stand back and take a long unemotional look at your situation from a third party’s perspective. Yes, the lessons are stupidly simple, but they were overlooked by thousands of bright people that lost billions and billions. They lost their life’s savings, because they ignored the rules.
The obvious lesson learned by many of the investors that “lost everything” is as old as dirt. It is a hard fast rule that simply can’t be violated. Never put all your eggs in one basket. That lesson dates back long before the stock market ever existed. It is just plain stupid not to have your assets held in a lot of different areas. Invest in real estate. It is probably a great time to buy, if you can get in on the deals. Do some of the securities stuff. Use bonds. Get some gold. Try oil, it has some great tax advantages.
A lot of my students are deep into real estate. I have said for years that they shouldn’t invest only in real estate, but they have argued that real estate was a sure bet, and they could make more money there than anyplace else. I have begged them to “take some of their money off the table.” They never would. Why get a motley 6% on an indexed annuity when you can get 30% in Cape Coral, Florida real estate. You do it because the annuity can’t go down. Cape Coral real estate is 50% of what it was two years ago, and the mortgages are still 100% of what they were two years ago when the investors bought the properties.
Diversify! If you are in real estate, you can use some great 1031 techniques that aren’t widely understood, and you can get out of real estate. I have a CD titled “1031 and Out.”
Another great Madoff lesson is, “If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.” Madoff was offering too much. People sucker for the unbelievable every day by the millions. It doesn’t matter how many legal opinions there are, who endorses it, or anything else. If the deal is too good it will usually fail. Be reasonable. Our economy isn’t broken. All of the problems we face are caused by the greed of a few people. We are not going to get better either, because people are still looking for the next gravy train to come around so they can rob it again. Until those people, big and small, are put in their place, the economy isn’t going to get better, at least not long term.
I am going to throw in another lesson that may not come directly from Madoff, but it is a critical lesson. If you can earn money and spend it without EVER having to pay income taxes on it, you are violating the law. The IRS will take their bite of the apple on the front when it is earned or on the back when it is spent, such as with an IRA. I am seeing a lot of people using Roth IRAs and having money fed into the Roth from an LLC. The money is earned and never taxed. They will lose. This is a hard fast rule. No tax, no fly.
Three ridiculously simple lessons-three lessons I know millions of people wish they had followed. It’s not too late. You can diversify. You can unwind what you’re doing that is questionable with the IRS. If your return is too high, get out now. I can help in any of these situations. My students (those who use the Accumulation and Preservation of Wealth course) can call any time with no charge. If you don’t have the Accumulation and Preservation of Wealth course, start with my best selling book, Protecting Your Financial Future.