Watch Out for Early Retirement Scams

In the last 5 years early retirement scams have become widespread as a result of the financial crisis. Many major corporations decided to downsize and offer early retirement with benefits (pension plan or lump sum payments) to their older and highly compensated employees in their 50s or near retirement. Many holders of 401(k)s became unemployed and instead of seeking new employment they were persuaded by financial advisors to cash out their 401(k)s and enjoy their early retirement with promises that could never possibly be kept by financial advisors. The common thread in all of these early retirement scams is the false promise of investment returns at a rate greater than the rate one would need to withdraw funds from their retirement savings annually to support themselves. Unfortunately for many employees who accepted the offers of early retirement and/or those who were persuaded to cash out their pension plans or 401(k)s and reinvest with unscrupulous financial advisors and stockbrokers, the results have been horrible in terms of tax consequences, investment returns, and the total loss of years of retirement savings.

It is important to be on high alert for retiree predators because those who promote early retirement schemes can be highly persuasive. Run when you hear pitches from financial advisors like the following:

  • Everyone can retire early!
  • You can make as much in retirement as you can by continuing to work!
  • You can expect returns of 10% or more annually!
  • You can withdraw 8% or more of your savings and never run out of money!
  • We know a secret tax loophole (IRS section 72 (t)) that allows you to retire early!

These financial advisors will prepare beautiful charts, graphs and glossy brochures that will absolutely demonstrate their promises can be kept if only you invest through them. However, the stockbrokers will not tell you about the effect of ordinary income tax on your withdrawals; the large upfront sales charges and management fees on the mutual funds or variable annuities they use in their projections; the effect of stock market volatility on projected returns; or the assumed rate of returns in their hypothetical retirement proposal. The reality is, you are always going to pay income tax on the amount you withdraw from your retirement account, even if you avoid IRS penalties; you are always going to pay for new investments, and that expense is going to affect your rate or return; all of the advisors projections assume a steady rate of return, and that periods of lower than average investment returns or negative returns will severely deplete your savings and render it impossible to live out your retirement with the same projected income; and the assumed rate of returns used in their projections were historically and/or statistically unachievable throughout your life time.

It is critical that you think carefully before you decide to voluntarily take an early retirement and/or cash out your 401(k) or other retirement account for management by some financial advisor or stockbroker promoting an early retirement scheme. Taking early retirement can only make sense if you have enough saved to begin with based on your lifestyle and monthly expenses. Further, only withdraw funds at a rate that would not deplete your savings too early and certainly no greater than 3 to 5% per year with less being withdrawn in the early years. You need to make smart investment decisions and not base your retirement upon lofty growth expectations in your investment portfolio. Remember, medical science and health care has improved all of our life expectancies. And so, it is as important not to underestimate your future expenses as it is to not overestimate your future retirement income in making your decision about retirement at any age.

The most important of investors' rights is the right to be informed! This article on Early Retirement Scams is by the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. , located in Boca Raton, Florida. For over 35 years, Attorney Pearce has tried, arbitrated, and mediated hundreds of disputes involving complex securities, commodities and investment law issues. The lawyers at our law firm are devoted to protecting investors' rights throughout the United States and internationally! Please visit our blog: www.investorsrights.com , post a comment, call (800) 732-2889, or email Mr. Pearce at pearce@rwpearce.com for answers to any of your questions about losses you may have suffered in connection with any early retirement recommendation and/or any related investment matter.

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