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The following context really helped me to frame how I view life insurance vs. retirement:

Life insurance is way to ensure security for your family in the eventuality of your dying. Retirement savings is a way to ensure security for yourself in the eventuality that you stop working (i.e. your primary income stream stops).

Thinking about it in this context, life insurance is obviously not a a great investment vehicle for yourself, but perhaps a great one for your family when you are gone. Regarding the retirement savings part, the more income streams you create that will continue to pay you even after you stop working your regular job (i.e. retire), the less you will realistically need to have placed in your retirement accounts. This reshaped how I invest in both my retirement accounts and other investments.


For certain high-net-worth individuals, life insurance is a way to pass on more millions to decendants without paying taxes. But financially insurance as an investment is reliably a good deal for your insurance agent, for you, not.

Term life is a bet that you will die. If you "win" your family gets the money so they can survive without you. The other kind of life insurance which amasses value is a poor investment. It is better to buy term life while your family needs your income, and once the kids are grown you can drop the policy. The kind of life insurance policy (whole life) is poor compared to just investing in the market if you are young.

If you have a 401k plan, then your best option is to put money in that first, particularly if your employer matches it.
Then you can also put money into an IRA (but it's not deductible) or a Roth IRA (which is not deductible but is tax free when you pull the money out).

The most important thing is to reduce your up front taxes. If you put into a 401k and pay less taxes you are saving the money now and the money grows tax free. If you can in addition afford a Roth IRA, you can do that after, but you should be maxing out your retirement plan or IRA first.

If you want to understand that, suppose you make $50k. Your federal+state taxes are 25% (just making up an approximate number, $12.5k. So that would mean out of your paycheck you see $37.5k. If you can reduce your taxable income by $10,000, now you only "make" $40k, meaning you only pay taxes on that, or $10,000. The $2500 you saved is going straight into your retirement. So the $10k you are putting away does not really cost you $10k. You can afford to put away more. That's the best thing to do. If you have 30 years to retirement, that $10k could double 4 times to $160k if you do well. Then, at the end, you pay taxes as you pull the money out. And you still don't pay taxes while the money continues to grow in the account.

You cannot use a Roth IRA if you are over the MAGI limit, which is I think $200k for a couple this year, something like that. If you are making less, then a Roth IRA is good.

Now if you listened to Jaspreet and saved $250k, which is earning you $10,000 per year in dividends, that money is tax free because it is longterm (qulified dividends) as long as you owned the stock for more than 90 days. Use that as your income, and put away $10k from your salary, reducing your taxation and saving more. Once you have more than $10k a year in longterm capital gains, you have to pay 15% on whatever is above $10k and below $500k. You can but municipal bonds from your state to get tax free income, but that only pays about 2.5% interest at the moment.

The mistake I made was not knowing that I could also deposit to an IRA if I had a retirement plan. Any cash you don't need until you retire, you should put into an IRA up to the limit. Then it grows tax free. Over a 20 year period, that's huge.


As to putting money into an IRA monthly, if you don't have the money to fund it up front, do that. If you can fund it right away, do it.

If you are worried about the market going down, invest it in something else. If you are getting 0.1% in your bank account, or 0.1% in your IRA but not getting taxed, the IRA still wins.

But if you look at a REIT, they pay interest and they are at least not corrolated well to the market in general. Make money as early as possible in your IRA if you can afford it.


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