Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

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PitaBear
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Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by PitaBear » Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:37 pm

I went to a NWM advisor after at a coworkers recommendation, several coworkers used the same advisor. Then I overheard some others discussing their retirement plans and told them about mine and was quickly told to come to this website and I now realize I may have made a mistake.

My wife and I are both 33 and our income took a good bump up a little over 2 yrs ago, we are currently making approx. $450k/year. This is why I was looking for advice on what to do with our new income.

We currently have:
$55k in my traditional 401k managed by Vanguard in a target retirement fund
$100k in a money market (this we just received from selling our last home and will likely be investing at least half in a long term account and the other going to pay down student loan)
$65k in a Northwestern managed investment acct "slush" fund
$17k and $10k in Roth IRAs, now being managed by NWM advisor
$16k and $7k 529s (3yo and almost 2yo)
Whole life policies on all 4 of us, $500/month each on my wife and I, $100/month on each kid
Also supplemental term life on me and my wife, as well as disability insurance on myself

I cannot tell you the exact fees we are paying to have him manage our investment account or IRAs. He did go over this with us during one of our first meetings and it did not seem bad at the time, but as I said we are new to this type of investing and I now realize whatever it is it is surely more than we should be paying.

My plan is to
1. Continue maxing out 401k, I had the option of a roth 401k or traditional and was given different advice from the NWM advisor and Vanguard, we went with the traditional because we were told that it is better to save the taxes now because of our tax bracket, but any thoughts on this would be helpful as well.
2. Move the money from the NWM investment acct to a vanguard target retirement fund. It would basically be in the same fund as the 401k and would mainly be used as a supplemental retirement account but also a type of slush fund for other big purchases such as a car or supplemental college/educational expenses for children. We would generally add a few thousand here and there as what we have extra at the end of the month.
3. Move Roth IRAs to a vanguard IRA, also possibly placing the money in a target age retirement account. Also creating new traditional IRAs so as to max them out and do a backdoor transfer to our Roths every year. My wife's business accountant suggested this before but the NWM advisor advised against it.
4. Continue investing in the 529s as usual
5. End mine and wifes whole life policy and use that extra cash for the above. Plan to continue children's whole life plans as we would like insurance on them but also see this as a type of investment to give them once they are older, but I am not sure about this decision.
6. Continue term and disability insurance


As you can tell I like the target date retirement funds because it seems the simplest. I like being able to put everything in one place and not worrying if I have too much in an index fund or bonds or the right type of bonds or what that might mean for my taxes. That is what was appealing about the NWM plan was having one place to send my money and not having to think too much about it. Now I realize I may not be getting as much back as I could in the end, so a little thinking may be worth it. Any advice would be much appreciated on the plan I laid out as well as any other options on where to place the money. Also, I know that ending the whole life policies will cost penalties, is there a best way to do this.
Thanks

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welderwannabe
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by welderwannabe » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:18 pm

PitaBear wrote: 1. Continue maxing out 401k, I had the option of a roth 401k or traditional and was given different advice from the NWM advisor and Vanguard, we went with the traditional because we were told that it is better to save the taxes now because of our tax bracket, but any thoughts on this would be helpful as well.
At your income a traditional 401k is going to be the best bet.
PitaBear wrote: 2. Move the money from the NWM investment acct to a vanguard target retirement fund. It would basically be in the same fund as the 401k and would mainly be used as a supplemental retirement account but also a type of slush fund for other big purchases such as a car or supplemental college/educational expenses for children. We would generally add a few thousand here and there as what we have extra at the end of the month.
I assume this is a taxable account. If so you may want to consider taxes. The targeted accounts throw off bond dividends that will be taxed at your marginal rate. You really have 3 choices here:

1) Slice and dice using a 3 fund portfolio of Vanguard Total Stock, Total International Stock, and Intermediate Municipal bond fund. You can read a little bit about it here https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Three-fund_portfolio. This would allow your bond portion to be Federal tax free

2) Use a single fund approach such as Vanguard Tax-Managed Balanced Fund Admiral Shares (VTMFX). This is a pretty conservative fund though, approximating 50% stocks 50% bonds, which many would consider overly conservative for your age. That said, it is a one fund approach that uses stocks and municipal bonds so you could have the single fund you want for simplicity

3) Use a Vanguard targeted retirement fund and just accept you are going to pay taxes on the bonds. If you are planning on retiring around 30 yrs from now, you would probably select the Targeted Retirement 2050 fund. it is only 10% bonds, so in the scheme of things the taxes won't be terrible. However, as you age and its bond percentage increases you may want to revisit this and start to slice and dice.
PitaBear wrote: 3. Move Roth IRAs to a vanguard IRA, also possibly placing the money in a target age retirement account. Also creating new traditional IRAs so as to max them out and do a backdoor transfer to our Roths every year. My wife's business accountant suggested this before but the NWM advisor advised against it.
Backdoor Roth is a great idea. I am not sure what the advice against it would be, really, as long as your are maximizing all your tax deductible options first (like your 401k).
PitaBear wrote: 5. End mine and wifes whole life policy and use that extra cash for the above. Plan to continue children's whole life plans as we would like insurance on them but also see this as a type of investment to give them once they are older, but I am not sure about this decision.
6. Continue term and disability insurance
This is probably obvious but just make sure you get additional term insurance before you cancel the whole life, assuming you were using it for its death benefit and not just as an 'investment'. You can become uninsurable (or very expensive to insure) in the blink of an eye.


When are you planning on retiring? Don't discount the EE bond annuity plan. It is explained by Mel Lindauer https://www.forbes.com/sites/theboglehe ... 055ac27ba3. You want to start executing on this 20 years before you plan on retiring if interested. It is a great way to shelter $20k/year right now and defer the tax on interest until you retire. At your income level you want to get all the tax advantaged space you can get, and savings bonds give you up to $20K per year of tax advantaged space per person!
I am not an investment professional, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

aristotelian
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by aristotelian » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:31 pm

For your brokerage account, a generic target date fund is not a great idea because the dividends will be taxed as ordinary income. Not a problem now, but as you get closer to retirement the fund will gradually convert to bonds.

Tax-Managed Balanced Index would be a good all-in-one solution for this account, although it may skew your allocation a little more conservative than your target date funds.

NotWhoYouThink
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:38 pm

Why do you want to keep the life insurance policies for the kids? These are really not good ways to provide money for your kids later. They will have 2 choices if they need the money
- borrow the money (tax free!), pay interest on the loans and enough to keep the policies in force so they don't lapse and cause a big tax bill, or
- cash them out and pay a big tax bill.
It's better for you to just put the money in their 529s, or else just fund your after-tax accounts and spend it on the kids later or not as circumstances dictate. Either way would probably leave your kids with more money to spend and lower taxes.

Buying insurance on kids is just weird. Are they supporting your family so that you need to insure against loss of their income? Of course not. But companies like NWM sell it all the time.

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BL
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by BL » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:45 pm

My plan is to
+ trad.1. Continue maxing out 401k, I had the option of a roth 401k or traditional and was given different advice from the NWM advisor and Vanguard, we went with the traditional because we were told that it is better to save the taxes now because of our tax bracket, but any thoughts on this would be helpful as well.
+ tax-managed fund or total stock/ muni combo..2. Move the money from the NWM investment acct to a vanguard target retirement fund. It would basically be in the same fund as the 401k and would mainly be used as a supplemental retirement account but also a type of slush fund for other big purchases such as a car or supplemental college/educational expenses for children. We would generally add a few thousand here and there as what we have extra at the end of the month.
+.3. Move Roth IRAs to a vanguard IRA, also possibly placing the money in a target age retirement account. Also creating new traditional IRAs so as to max them out and do a backdoor transfer to our Roths every year. My wife's business accountant suggested this before but the NWM advisor advised against it.
+. Low-ERs?4. Continue investing in the 529s as usual
+,-. Not for kids. 5. End mine and wifes whole life policy and use that extra cash for the above. Plan to continue children's whole life plans as we would like insurance on them but also see this as a type of investment to give them once they are older, but I am not sure about this decision.
+, compare prices for term with independent company. Check/compare at term4sale.com. 6. Continue term and disability insurance

bsteiner
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by bsteiner » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:57 pm

PitaBear wrote:I went to a NWM advisor .../quote]

Was he/she an advisor or an insurance agent?
PitaBear wrote:... I had the option of a roth 401k or traditional and was given different advice from the NWM advisor and Vanguard ...
It's hard to know. You could make some reasonable assumptions and create a spreadsheet, but as Niels Bohr and Yogi Berra said, it's hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

The benefit of the traditional is that you might be in a lower bracket after you retire, or if one of you takes time off to have children, or if one of you is out of work for a while or goes back to school, or if one of you has high medical expenses (for example, if you're in a nursing home) and can deduct them against the distributions from the traditional, or if future tax rates are lower, or if your beneficiaries are in lower tax rates. The traditional carries with it the option to convert to a Roth at any time, whereas you can't convert a Roth to a traditional (ignoring recharacterizations of Roth IRA conversions).

The principal benefit of the Roth is that it's effectively a larger contribution. If you're in a 40% Federal and state income tax bracket, and you put $18,000 into a Roth 401(k), it's equivalent to putting $30,000 into a traditional 401(k), except that you can't put $30,000 into a traditional 401(k). The effect of this over many years will be substantial. At your level, you might not be able to withdraw or convert at a lower tax rate. There are no required distributions from a Roth IRA after age 70 1/2 (which is a substantial benefit). The Roth will be better if future tax rates are higher. If you leave a Roth to your children or grandchildren in trust, the trustees can accumulate the distributions from the Roth without being subject to the compressed tax brackets for trusts.

djscal
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by djscal » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:59 pm

Hi OP,

I really feel for you because I was in a similar situation due to my wife had purchasing 3 life insurance policies from NWM before we got married (don't get me started). She was a single woman with 3 life insurance policies! :oops: :twisted:

We had to look carefully at what the penalties were for each policy to ensure that she wasn't going to lose thousands of dollars in cancellation fees on the policies.

We determined that the whole life policies weren't too painful to terminate after five or so years of purchase - so we did that - but definitely lost at least a couple of thousand dollars there.

She also had a VUL policy with steep cancellation fees for cancelling within 10 years - so we waited the 10 years to limit the bleeding and then cancelled the policy. After it was all said and done the VUL policy earned a pathetic 5% over 10 years due to the huge number of fees - plus the very expensive insurance (vs what she would have paid with term) probably wiped out the rest of gains. Plus we had to pay taxes on the gains.

It was a bloody awful experience to see many thousands of dollars flushed down the toilet for no reason. Of course it was a supposed "friend" who sold her these policies.

I would advise reading all the policies very carefully to determine what the cancellation fees are and as soon as it is prudent get the hell away from those NWM criminals as fast as you can! If you need help reading the policies and analyzing them James Hunt offers a life insurance analysis service which is very reasonable.

Oh - I will also add the NWM disability policies are (often) crap. My wife also bought one of those - we are in the process of converting to Guardian - which is a far better policy with much better contract language. Of course it's more expensive but the NWM DI policy that she had had huge loopholes (own occupation for 5 years for example). Basically NWM sucks yet their employees think that their policies and products are "the best". They are anything but and if you do a thorough comparison of their policies vs. other vendors you will see that.

What a joke they are.

The good news is that you can fix all of this. The bad news is that this is going to be an expensive lesson for you - but I guarantee that you will be much more careful of who you trust in the future! You will learn from this forum that you don't need to pay advisors lots of money to do basic investing. Read and learn.

Let us know if you have any other questions.
Last edited by djscal on Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:21 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Fisherman8
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by Fisherman8 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:05 pm

PitaBear wrote: 1. Continue maxing out 401k, I had the option of a roth 401k or traditional and was given different advice from the NWM advisor and Vanguard, we went with the traditional because we were told that it is better to save the taxes now because of our tax bracket, but any thoughts on this would be helpful as well.
I have a similar high income but no wife and kids. I decided on a Roth 401k versus a traditional because of two reasons:
1. If you are maxing out your 401k you can put more away in a Roth versus a traditional ($18,000 after tax is worth more than $18,000 before taxes are taken out) which will grow tax free and of course you will not have to pay taxes on it when you take it out.
2. You do not have to start taking it out at 70.5 years old. It can continue to grow and compound into your late 70's and 80's while you use up your traditional match portion (which you will be required to take out since it can not be Roth) and any other retirement funds. It also provides a tax free "bucket"
I also will have a much larger taxable account so the Roth 401k portion will not be a large percentage of my retirement assets.

Cheers!
Last edited by Fisherman8 on Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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David Jay
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by David Jay » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:15 pm

Welcome to the forum!
PitaBear wrote:Plan to continue children's whole life plans as we would like insurance on them but also see this as a type of investment to give them once they are older, but I am not sure about this decision.
I am not in favor of whole life policies for children.

I was "given" such a policy by my folks and had to decide whether to continue to make payments (that I couldn't afford as a starving college student) or drop the policy that my parents had so thoughtfully been paying for over the previous 15 (?) years.

Please don't saddle your kids with a whole life policy.
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future - Niels Bohr | To get the "risk premium", you really do have to take the risk - nisiprius

KT785
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by KT785 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:19 pm

Fisherman8 wrote: I have a similar high income but no wife and kids. I decided on a Roth 401k versus a traditional because of two reasons:
1. If you are maxing out your 401k you can put more away in a Roth versus a traditional ($18,000 after tax is worth more than $18,000 before taxes are taken out) which will grow tax free and of course you will not have to pay taxes on it when you take it out.
2. You do not have to start taking it out at 71.5 years old. It can continue to grow and compound into your late 70's and 80's while you use up your traditional match portion (which you will be required to take out since it can not be Roth) and any other retirement funds. It also provides a tax free "bucket"
I also will have a much larger taxable account so the Roth 401k portion will not be a large percentage of my retirement assets.

Cheers!
One point of clarification, a Roth 401k (like a Traditional 401k) is subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs)--in other words, you'll need to start taking distributions starting around 70 1/2 years old. One can overcome this issue if you roll over your Roth 401k into a Roth IRA before the time for RMDs.

Nate79
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by Nate79 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 11:38 pm

Dump the WL junk. It will be an important and expensive lesson but the money is already lost and no reason to throw good money down the toilet.

Katietsu
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by Katietsu » Fri Aug 04, 2017 1:35 am

Do you still have student loans? Even if you are in the camp that believes whole life can be an OK choice for higher income earners, it makes no sense to do this before paying off student loans.

You may want to consider Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. For a 0.3% fee, they will manage your investments for you.

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djpeteski
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by djpeteski » Fri Aug 04, 2017 6:13 am

David Jay wrote:Welcome to the forum!
PitaBear wrote:Plan to continue children's whole life plans as we would like insurance on them but also see this as a type of investment to give them once they are older, but I am not sure about this decision.
I am not in favor of whole life policies for children.
...
Please don't saddle your kids with a whole life policy.
Agree here. Drop the WL on the kids, just drop it.

Life insurance is about protecting people dependent upon a person's income. Life insurance for children is an emotional gimmick and unless the child is earning a substantial income, totally unnecessary.

Compounding this is whole life is a horrible investment, you would be better off sticking the money in a savings account.

afan
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by afan » Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:27 am

At your income level you are likely to end up giving a lot of money to your kids over time.

I suggest setting up trusts for your kids and giving the money to the trusts. This is infinitely better than the whole life policies. It is also better than the uniform trusts/gifts accounts since the money remains in trust after they are adults. This can protect the assets from creditors or predatory ex spouses.

Last time I checked, a very long time ago, NWML actually had quite good whole life policies FOR THE FEW PEOPLE WHO NEEDED THEM, and good term policies. I don't know whether that has changed over time. When I looked at their disability coverage I agreed that it was not so good.

Given that your salesperson has proven to give horrible advice, I would not consider buying your term from NWML. Shop around for policies and invest the very substantial difference.

I would not hold taxable bonds, or funds that hold taxable bonds, in your taxable account. That is just wasting money by paying higher taxes than need be. In the Vanguard all-in-one funds you would also pay a higher expense ratio than holding Admiral shares or ETFs outside of the combined fund.

You don't say how long you have been in the whole life policies. If you just got them then you are almost certainly best off bailing out now. If you have been in for a few years you should do as suggested above and see whether you can save a big exit fee by getting robbed a little longer.

You definitely need good disability and TERM life policies.

You could go with the Vanguard Personal Advisor Service, but very few people need this. For most doing it yourself is fine, and less expensive.
We don't know how to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, and we don't know anyone that does know either | --Swedroe | We assume that markets are efficient, that prices are right | --Fama

PitaBear
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by PitaBear » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:18 pm

Thanks a lot for all of the advice. I will have to do some more reading and research but things are becoming clearer. To answer some of the questions:

We are planning to retire around 60, so about another 30 years.

My wife's student loans are paid but I still have some. That is also something discussed with NWM as I felt it should be a priority to pay these off before saving anything over the 401k, but he convinced otherwise. If we use the money from the money market acct however it won't be long before it is paid.

We were planning on buying term insurance for our children and still will when we end the whole life policy, not to replace their income but to replace mine or my wife's if we need to take an extended abscense from work in the case anything was to happen to them. The way we were sold the whole life policies is that since we are overpaying the premium because it is so low on a 1 and 2 yo by the time we are ready to give it to them the earnings each month would be more than the premium and it would basically be self perpetuating and paying for itself and continue to grow on its own even if they chose not to continue to add to it. But I see that it still is not the best use of that money. So we will likely get them small term life policies. Also research to see how my disability and term policies stack up against some others.

Are there any other types of accounts other than a 529 that allow you to set money aside for your children that provide some type of tax or future tax benefit that doesn't have to be used for something specific? What is the benefit of a trust?

As far as our managed account, I would likely lean toward the Tax Managed all in one fund, but my wife typically prefers less conservative investments, especially for that account. I think the options you have make since though and will just take some time to choose what works best.

Thanks again. I am open to any further advice.

RobertB
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by RobertB » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:59 pm

I use NWM for insurance, and I would recommend taking a careful look at any policies you do keep. When I got a term life insurance policy they tried very hard to sell my on a pricey disability waiver of the premium. It was preposterously expensive for what amounted to a $200/month LTD policy. You never know what kind of trickery these guys will try to sneak in.

afan
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by afan » Sat Aug 05, 2017 9:05 am

Unless your 1 and 2 year old kids are precocious professional soccer players whose massive contracts are supporting the family they do not need life insurance. Not whole life, not term, not universal. The insurance amounts on their lives and the premiums should be exactly zero.

You and spouse each need term life to help support the family if their is a premature death of the parents. There will be no financial loss at the death of a child, so there is nothing to insure. It is like holding homeowners insurance when you don't own a home.

Trusts for the kids probably would not save income taxes but would provide asset protection. If invested in total stock market funds they will throw off relatively little.taxable income.

If you drop the life insurance on the kids and get out of the whole life policies on yourselves you will free up enough cash to make a lot of progress on education loans. Whether you should pay off those loans before funding 529's depends on the interest rates.

Since there are cap on how much you can put into retirement plans, each year that you put in less than the maximum is a lost opportunity you never get back.

At your income you are going to have no problem paying college tuition for two kids. A 529 will help, but do not under invest in retirement funds to free up money for the college savings.
We don't know how to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, and we don't know anyone that does know either | --Swedroe | We assume that markets are efficient, that prices are right | --Fama

goingup
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by goingup » Sat Aug 05, 2017 9:29 am

You were sold a boatload of stuff you don't need.

Kids don't need life insurance policies. Period. You and your wife need term life insurance policies and disability. If you want to simplify just get out of the stuff you don't need and take your lumps.

Traditional 401K lowers taxable income, which is what you want. No doubt you'll amass a big taxable account (which you refer to as a "slush" fund). High income earners typically have more money in taxable accounts than tax-advantaged accounts before long.

Call up Vanguard or Fidelity and let them help you roll your Roths IRAs over. You surely can set up tIRAs,too. Target funds are fine for IRAs. In your taxable account you'll want equity index funds, or tax-managed funds.

It will take some effort to get out of NWM but it is really necessary. Otherwise you'll pay thousands per year on insurance and fees you simply don't need.

Helo80
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by Helo80 » Sat Aug 05, 2017 9:34 am

I knew a gal in college who married a NWM agent/planner or whatever they are. He has a small office with about 3 or 4 staff people. Obviously, he's fleecing helping enough people to cover his personal salary and several other people. He's not a bad guy, at all, rather I just wonder what his fees are, and I'd be curious what he can do that is better than a low ER vanguard or fidelity or schwab index fund.

livefreefam
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Re: Strategy for getting out of Northwestern Mutual

Post by livefreefam » Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:12 pm

PitaBear wrote:Are there any other types of accounts other than a 529 that allow you to set money aside for your children that provide some type of tax or future tax benefit that doesn't have to be used for something specific?
Coverdell ESA - Tax advantaged account to cover books, uniforms, and other education-related expenses. Differs from 529 in that it can be used on any level of education (private high schools, etc.). Low contribution limits. Similar benefits to a Roth IRA - often called an Education IRA.

Health Savings Account - If you have a HDHP, this is a no-brainer to max out every year. At your income level, you could likely max out the HSA and pay your health expenses after-tax rather than drawing from the HSA. The HSA would then turn into an additional investment vehicle similar (but better than) an IRA. Tax-deductible going in, tax-free growth, tax-free at distribution. Win-Win-Win. There are several places you can even invest HSA funds. Take a look at Alliant Credit Union's: http://www.alliantcreditunion.org/bank/ ... t#features

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