Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't Believe the Hype about Financial Reform

Don't Believe the Hype about Financial Reform The Unintended Consequences of Investing with Uncle Sam

With all of the hype from the mainstream press about financial reform, consumers might assume that the Dodd-Frank bill will actually help their financial portfolio. A closer look though at the affects of the financial regulatory changes might reveal some unintended consequences.

Over 800 pages of politically charged financial regulation can be found in the bill. And while, from a consumer standpoint, this may sound like a good thing, it will probably add to the confusion already involved with investing. The legislation does provide some protection for the consumer, however these small improvements will have little positive impact for the average family.

Once again the Federal Reserve has bypassed scrutiny and emerged as the ultimate financial regulator. Nary a mention has been given to auditing this cartel though that was the first intent of Congressman, Ron Paul.

Taking a look at what will actually occur for most, we will cover the most common places that people park their money.

Qualified Retirement Plans (401k, 403b, IRA, etc)
Popular investments such as those offered by employers, because they may offer tax-benefits and are considered to be conservative, could see these regulatory decisions affecting the costs and availability associated with these plans. What's worse is that the full affect of the reform may not be known for some time.

Because of the gray area left in the bill, regulators have 15 months to study the issue. This could ultimately drag down the returns of these investments. Primarily these studies will involve "swaps", "wraps" and "derivatives", all of which can be found in typical retirement accounts. Kent Mason, partner at Davis & Harman LLP and outside counsel to the American Benefits Council, says this "would have an immediate and very troubling effect on 401(k) plans across the country."

Mutual Funds
Although their is little mention of mutual funds in the Dodd-Frank bill, it is likely that the legislation will affect the holdings of these funds.

Their is also uncertainty for bond funds which could further increase volatility. The (FDIC) Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, will have more control to sieze troubled financial institutions, and have leeway to pay investors differing amounts on bonds, though they may be holding identical bonds issued by that particular institution. This could cause uncertain investors to dump the bonds at the first sign of trouble or to demand higher yields.

Bob Auwaerter, head of fixed income at Vanguard Group says this "can have all sorts of unintended effects". The potential result is unequal treatment of bondholders which "will reduce liquidity and lower the price."

Even worse, typical mutual fund investors, who are prone to trying to time market-buying decisions, could be affected by advertising. "Hot funds", touted by financial magazines, coordinated with advertising could result in misinformation being passed along to consumers.

At yearend 2009, there were $464 TRILLION in outstanding derivatives. While the new bill seems to focus on this problem, it is doubtful that the new provisions could have prevented the financial crisis.

Probably the most troubling to investors is the taxing of dividends. Without further congressional action, the top dividend tax rate will skyrocket to 39.6% in 2011. Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus (Dem. Mont.), will be a key player in the future debate over the taxation of dividends.

Brokerage Accounts
The (SEC) Securities and Exchange Commission will have authority under the bill to impose the same standard of "fiduciary" duty on brokers that currently apply to investment advisors. Meaning that brokers must provide advice that is in clients' "best interest". What exactly does this mean? How does a broker, that you have probably only spoken with on the phone, know what is in your best interest?

The bottom line is that the bill will provide minor improvements to consumer laws that regulate the financial industry. BUT, the major changes resulting in increased regulation will affect everyone from banks to insurance companies, resulting in more confusion and less profits.

Fortunately, there is one financial instrument that can keep you out of the confusion and chaos that congress continues to pursue. If you do your homework, you'll find that good, old-fashioned whole life insurance has survived for hundreds of years intact.

There are many flavors of life insurance, so you'll want to make sure you are dealing with an experienced agent that does business with a "mutual" life insurance company. Mutual life insurance carriers pay dividends to policyholders, and the owner of the contract controls the policy. You can learn more about the extraordinary benefits offered by whole life insurance here: http://legacyinsuranceagency.com/lifeinsurance/wholelife.html

Until next time,
Barry Page, RFC

Barry Page is recognized as a leading expert on life insurance and private banking. He is a Registered Financial Consultant and independent life insurance agent who helps clients with tax advantaged investment alternatives. He specializes in showing families how to protect their assets, income and lives utilizing a macro-financial approach to planning.

He has created a service that caters to families and business owners that are frustrated with the risks involved with the stock market, but still want competitive returns. His specialized knowledge and services help consumers find alternatives to traditional investing and the stock market that not only safely protect their savings, but also provide tax advantages.

His business is based in Ocean Springs, MS and he services clients throughout the Southeast. He can be reached here: http://legacyinsuranceagency.com/contact.html

Legacy Insurance Agency

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