It’s impossible for a financial columnist to please all of the readers all of the time. My recent column criticizing the Be Your Own Banker scheme drew the ire of several fans of whole life insurance. Two of them in particular, in a letter to the editor and a guest editorial published in the Rapid City Journal, disparaged my integrity, my professional qualifications, and my math skills.
Part of the problem is that these readers interpreted my warning about BYOB, which I called “one step from being a scam,” as an attack on whole life insurance in general. That was not the case.
Admittedly, I’m not a fan of whole life as an investment. The purpose of life insurance, in my view, is not to provide retirement income or cash value, but to replace income when someone dies. For most people, the best and cheapest way to do this is through term life insurance. Obviously, someone who sells insurance will have a different opinion.
I’m not inviting you to a “bring your own beverage” party. I’m warning you away from a get-rich scheme called “Be Your Own Banker.”
This idea has floated around the Internet and late-night television for a while now. One of the latest versions is touted on a website that I’m not going to name because I don’t want anyone getting sucked into what is essentially one step from being a scam.
Once you drill down past the initial layers of ambiguity, the basic concept seems simple enough. You buy a large whole-life insurance policy. After you pay into it for several years, it will accumulate a cash value. Then, any time you make a major purchase like a new car, you can borrow against your insurance policy instead of going to a bank.
According to the people selling this concept, you are the big winner here because you’re paying interest to yourself, not the bank.
“The Feds Want Your Retirement Accounts.” This was the headline of a February 22 post on the American Thinker blog recently forwarded to me by a reader. Normally I hit delete on articles warning of some type of impending financial doom. I read this one, since Argentina confiscated its citizens’ retirement accounts shortly before I first visited there in 2009.
According to the article, in 2007 a professor of economic policy from the New School for Social Research, Theresa Ghilarducci, wrote a paper calling for the US government to eliminate private retirement accounts. She suggested confiscating the assets in those accounts and replacing them with a “Guaranteed Retirement Account” (GRA) guaranteeing a return of 3%, which is essentially another program like Social Security.
This is basically what Argentina did one year later.