Back in January, I received a small book from a financial advisor who uses an indexed universal insurance policy as the backbone for his financial plan. His strategy is very similar to the Bank on Yourself scheme, but with a different underlying product.

I wasn’t satisfied with some of his charts and graphs because he (like every other insurance person I know) left out dividends when discussing the performance of the S&P 500 Index. I emailed him and asked him about his methods. After a few exchanges over several weeks, he finally told me this:

“The reason I did not use dividends (and as you point out I do say this in the book) is just to not complicate the analysis. If I wanted to include dividends I would also include taxes and management fees in the S&P account and then I would want to include the cost of insurance in the life insurance policy.”

Wow.

Folks, financial planning isn’t all that complicated. It gets complicated when people invent all these different “strategies” to help sell commission-based products. Don’t misunderstand, I am not putting all the blame on the insurance industry. I worked for PaineWebber for awhile and saw just as much underhanded behavior as I see in the insurance business. Call it the flipside of a poopcicle.

This author says he didn’t include S&P 500 dividends because it would complicate the analysis, but I think he didn’t include them because it would make his strategy not look as good by comparison. I mean, who wants to write a book about your financial planning strategy and have the strategy look bad?

Bottom line: KNOW what you’re getting. If you read it and don’t understand it, TALK to someone else. Ask questions. And yes, I’m biased but I think it can’t hurt to talk to a fee-only financial planner before making any major decisions. There are times and circumstances when an insurance-based strategy might make sense, but the vast majority of people would be better off using index funds for investing and insurance for protection.

Dear College Kids

April 10, 2016 — 5 Comments

I read this piece in today’s Houston Chronicle about an incident that occurred during a talk that H-E-B’s president of the Houston region, Scott McClelland, gave to some business students at the University of Houston.

“About 20 minutes into his talk, he [Scott McClelland] spotted one student leaning back in his chair, sound asleep and ‘sawing logs.’

“‘I asked the student sitting behind the sleeping student to tap him on the shoulder. When he sat up, I told him that he looked tired and he needed to leave. He just sat there, so I told him again that he needed to go,’ McClelland recalled. ‘The whole class looked on (as the student left). I think they were surprised someone would actually address what probably is tolerated in other classes they attend.’

“McClelland said he didn’t plan on doing anything that dramatic, but in that moment he saw a teaching opportunity.

“‘When you are at work, or school, you need to bring your “A” game, because people are always watching,’ he said. ‘A year from now, the students in the class won’t remember the slide that I showed them on how we partnered with Whataburger to develop a retail package for ketchup, but they will remember that a kid fell asleep in class and the H-E-B guy didn’t tolerate it.’

“McClelland said doing nothing would have made him guilty of ‘the insidious acceptance of the B grade.'”

Well, one of the students who witnessed the exchange took to Twitter to call out McClelland. They said that McClelland was out of line and that he humiliated the student.

Wow. You cannot make this stuff up.

Here is a man who is probably earning $250K + per year, taking precious time out of his very busy schedule to impart his wisdom to a bunch of college kids who will be looking for jobs in the not so distant future. And here is a student sleeping during his lecture. So much for a good first impression.

The problem I have with today’s kids is that they don’t seem to understand that there are consequences for actions and those consequences may not be pleasant. You fall asleep in class, the lecturer calls you on it and asks you to leave. If you don’t want to be called on it, then don’t fall asleep during class. Instead, this person blames the problem on the lecturer. It doesn’t and shouldn’t work that way.

This is such a small issue that I feel silly even writing about it. Welcome to 2016.

I received an email yesterday that AFM’s webhost was purchased by another company and the new company would no longer be hosting blogs.

I need to find a new blog host.

Any suggestions?

I originally went with BlackLotus because they offered DDoS mitigation (or however you say it) because I was getting hammered while at Dreamhost and their solution to my problem was to simply shut my blog down.

Back to square one.

I read the following article in today’s Houston Chronicle:

Rice Among Schools Facing Questions Over Massive Endowments

I found this paragraph from the story interesting:

Tuition increases, school leaders have argued, are necessary to keep the quality of education up. Providing a Rice education costs about $80,000 per student per year and tuition only covers a fraction of that – the rest is covered with endowment money.

While I agree that the “massive endowments” seem ridiculous, I don’t think it is the government’s job to get involved. As a conservative, I’m disappointed that Republicans are even involved in this.

Oh, and for the record, public college tuition is going up too.

Thomas Sowell said similar to this in his book “The Housing Boom and Bust”:

So, the unemployment rate fell to 4.9% for January. Obama supporters are in full gloat mode. Who can blame them? We haven’t seen an unemployment rate this low since February 2008.

There’s just one problem…

What often goes unreported is the labor participation rate. It’s been declining (actually, it’s been slightly increasing the last few months but is still well below what it was when Bush was in office). As of yesterday, the labor participation rate, which according the BLS is, “the percentage of the population that is either employed or unemployed (that is, either working or actively seeking work).” What does that mean exactly?

Well, let’s say we have a town of 1,000 people. Let’s say that 350 people in the town aren’t working because they are either retired or are stay-at-home parents. That means the town’s labor force is 650 people. The math looks like this:

1,000 population – 350 people who aren’t in the labor force = 650 people in the labor force

Now let’s say of the 650 people in the labor force, 600 have jobs. That means 50 of them are unemployed. Our unemployment rate would be 7.7%:

50 unemployed ÷ 650 labor force = 7.7% unemployment rate

Now let’s say six months pass and the only change is that 20 of the previously unemployed people either decided to officially retire or simply decided they no longer needed a job. The labor force would drop to 630 people. If the number of employed people stayed the same at 600, the number of unemployed would drop to 30. The new unemployment rate would be 4.8%:

30 unemployed ÷ 630 labor force = 4.8% unemployment rate

Nothing really changed except how the people were counted. Now keep that in mind as we look at the following table I put together using numbers from the BLS. I dug up the employment numbers for January 2009 (Bush’s last month in office) and plugged them into a spreadsheet along with yesterday’s employment numbers. Then I adjusted the numbers to reflect the difference in the labor participation rate. What I found was interesting.

Comparing Obama with Bush

Basically, what we can take from the above graphic is this:

The only difference between President Obama’s numbers and President Bush’s numbers is the change in the labor participation rate.

I have yet to find an insurance person who compares an equity-indexed annuity or insurance policy to the S&P 500 Total Return Index, which includes dividends.

One of the reasons could stem from the fact that the S&P 500 Index Price Return (Ticker: ^GSPC on Yahoo!) is what the insurance company uses when determining the amount to credit the policy each month or year. We won’t get into why insurance companies don’t credit based on total returns.

The other reason I can come up with as to why they don’t is that their products look much better when compared to the price index rather than the total return index.

I came across an article Sunday morning about an Indexed Universal Life (IUL) policy. This particular policy had a floor of 2% and a cap of 11.25%. A 2% floor means that the account value will always get credited at least 2%, no matter how badly the market performs. As you can probably guess, an 11.25% cap means that annual gains are capped at 11.25%, no matter how well the market performs. The index used to judge the amount credited to the account is the S&P 500 price return.

Two things can be seen from the graphic I put together, which looks at 10-year holding periods. The returns you see are average annual rates of return over the 10-year period. The math equation for the 1926 – 1935 time period looks like this (NOTE: the list of numbers you see below are the annual price returns for the S&P expressed as factors):

[(1.0572 x 1.3091 x 1.3788 x 0.8809 x 0.7152 x 0.5293 x 0.8485 x 1.4659 x 0.9406 x 1.4137)1/10 – 1]

A couple of things are made clear by the following graphic I put together:

1. It’s definitely to the insurance company’s advantage to credit based on the price index.

2. It’s also obvious why insurance salespeople like to compare their products to the price index (it makes their products look much better).

Comparing IUL to SP500

One thing that also needs to be pointed out is that although the credits are “after all fees and expenses,” that’s not entirely accurate. A better way to say it would be, “after all fees and expenses on the investment account of the policy.” In other words, when a person sends a check to the insurance company, not all of their money goes to work for them in the investment account.

I hope the last few posts about insurance products has been helpful. I am not an insurance expert (heck, a big bulk of insurance salespeople are only familiar with a few of the products they sell), but I would think long and hard before I used the Bank on Yourself strategy or bought an equity-indexed annuity or indexed-universal life policy.