Tax-deferred Featured

9:12am EDT May 23, 2005
As important as we all know it is, saving for retirement isn't always easy. For most people, there are bills to pay, children to educate and businesses to manage -- expensive undertakings that often relegate saving for retirement to the back burner.

Unfortunately, by the time many people are finally in a position to start putting substantial amounts of money aside for retirement, federal tax law limits the amounts they are able to defer into 401(k) and other retirement savings plans.

If you are a small business owner, professional, independent contractor or are in your peak earning years, you may be experiencing the frustration of finally having the money but essentially being unable to save for the kind of retirement you want.

A large chunk of your income must be paid in taxes, and many tax-qualified retirement plans have an annual cap on the contributions they allow you to make. Or they are so complex that they require you to have an enrolled actuary under contract to make sure you are in compliance with IRS regulations.

As a result, you are not saving enough, right now while you can, to achieve your retirement goals. And that has to be a cause for worry.

There is a solution, called a 412(i) Defined Benefit Plan.

Section 412 of the Internal Revenue Code contains complex funding rules that apply to all defined benefit plans, except those that fall under subsection 412(i). Those plans are funded solely by individual life insurance and annuity contracts (or only annuity contracts), and the amount you pay into the plan each year is the amount of contribution that will guarantee the plan benefits.

As a result, your annual premium, or plan contribution, can be much more than the $41,000 cap imposed by traditional retirement plans.

Here are some of the benefits offered by 412(i) plans.

* You can set aside substantial amounts of money, sometimes upwards of $150,000 or more each year.

* All your contributions to the plan are completely tax-deductible.

* All plan benefits are completely guaranteed.*

* Your earnings will accumulate in the plan on a tax-deferred basis.

* Plan assets may be protected from lawsuits, creditors and other risks.

Because of its unique design, you can't overfund or underfund a 412(i) plan. And because the plan is IRS-approved, you won't need an enrolled actuary's certification each year, potentially lowering plan administration costs.

There is, however, a basic requirement -- 412(i) plans must be funded exclusively through insurance and/or annuity contracts in order for all benefits to be guaranteed, and 412(i) plans work best for high-net-worth individuals, businesses that are established and highly profitable businesses with fewer than five employees, and businesses with owners who are at least 50 years old, within 10 years of retirement and older than the firm's other employees.

If you're one of the growing number of people who, for whatever reason, need to start saving a large amount of money for retirement in as short a time as possible; if you're a business owner looking for a unique way to reward yourself and your employees; and if you're looking for substantial relief from income taxes, you owe it to yourself to find out more about 412(i).

W. Morgan Watson, CFS, is managing director of National Financial Services Group. He specializes in wealth management, retirement and business planning. Reach him through the company's Web site,

Securities and Investment advisory services are offered solely be Equity Services Inc., a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 1050 Crown Pointe Parkway, Suite 1000, Atlanta, GA 30338. National Financial Service Group is independent of Equity Services Inc.

*Guarantees are made available through the use of annuity and life insurance contracts and are dependent upon the claims-paying ability of the issuing company.