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Why Inheritance Is Mostly Overrated As A Reason For Wealth

Perhaps more than ever before, people claim that almost the only way to join the ranks of the rich is through inheritance. Apparently, in the good old days, it was still possible build a fortune from the ground up—but not anymore. Such claims discourage people who have set themselves the goal of becoming wealthy as entrepreneurs or investors.

The message, whether explicit or unspoken, is as clear as it is sad: “Don’t even bother trying—those days are long gone.” There are even so-called classism researchers who criticize the media for reporting on people who have ascended from humble beginnings to become rich. Such articles, the researchers claim, only perpetuate a false illusion that capitalism, in reality, can never live up to.

The Buddenbrooks: An Exemplary Tale

One measure of the percentage of the wealthy who are self-made is Forbes’ own Forbes 400 list.  In 1984, less than half the people on The Forbes 400 list of richest Americans were self-made. By 2018, in stark contrast, this same figure had risen to 67%.

The importance of inheritance is overestimated because, in reality, most heirs are unable to preserve let alone expand their assets. In 1901, the German writer Thomas Mann published one of his most celebrated novels, Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, which tells the story of how a rich merchant family, the Buddenbrooks, slowly but surely squandered its fortune over the course of four generations.

As is so often the case, fact mirrors fiction, as demonstrated by the scientists Robert Arnott, William Bernstein and Lillian Wu in their research paper “The Myth of Dynastic Wealth: The Rich Get Poorer.” Their key findings include the following: “The average wealth erosion for the 10 wealthiest families of 1930, 1957, and 1968… was 6.6 percent, 5.3 percent, and 8.7 percent, respectively. These figures correspond to a half-life of wealth—the length of time it takes for half of the family fortune to be redistributed within society through taxation, spending, and charitable giving—of 10 years, 13 years, and (remarkably) 8 years, respectively.”

Great Ideas And Personality Traits Are Not Necessarily Passed On To The Next Generation

One glance at the list of the richest people in the world is enough to see that the vast majority—insofar as they have not inherited their wealth—have earned their fortunes as entrepreneurs. And according to the findings of entrepreneurship research, successful entrepreneurs become rich because they have a very specific combination of personality traits. However, these personality traits cannot simply be passed on to the next generation.

The super rich became rich because they had incredibly good ideas. Why is it that Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergej Brin and Larry Page are among the richest people in the world? Because they had great ideas, founded Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google and knew how to turn them into extremely profitable companies. It’s very unlikely that their children will have the same personality traits or such brilliant ideas.

Left-wing economists, such as the Frenchman Thomas Piketty, believe that the rich have access to particularly profitable investments—some would even call them a license to print money—which allow them to automatically increase their wealth even without their own entrepreneurial ideas.

Just like left-wing anti-capitalists, family offices that earn their money by promising to increase the wealth of rich families have a vested interest in maintaining the myth that there are secret, extremely lucrative investment opportunities that are reserved only for the superrich. This is, after all, the basis of their entire business model. But there are very good reasons to doubt that this is the case. It is more likely that most of these exclusive asset managers deliver even worse results for their superrich clients than an average investor would achieve by investing in an index fund.

For example, hedge funds have enjoyed an almost legendary reputation as the super-secret weapons of the rich for many years. And yes, some hedge funds have achieved extremely high returns, for which they have received a great deal of celebratory media attention. On average, however, they have performed worse than an index fund that absolutely anyone can buy on the internet. In 2007, Warren Buffett entered a million-dollar bet with fund manager Protége Partners that the S&P 500 Index would outperform a portfolio of hedge funds over the next ten years.

Buffett was right and donated his winnings to Girls Incorporated of Omaha. The S&P 500 Index fund in which he invested delivered a compound annual return of 7.1%, outperforming the return on the funds selected by Protégé Partners (2.2%). The extent of the difference is really put into perspective when you compare the actual monetary returns: Anyone who invested a million dollars in hedge funds before 2008 would have made a profit of $220,000 by 2017. S&P 500 investors, on the other hand, would have collected $854,000. So much for the supposed license to print money and “secret weapons” of the super rich.

How People Inherit Money And Lose It Again

Many rich heirs could actually live very well off their inheritances if only they followed the advice Warren Buffett has already given his wife for when she inherits (a minor part) of his fortune: Simply invest the money in an index tracker fund. But most people think they are smarter and believe they can make particularly canny investments—which all too often turn out to be flops.

Or they inherit a company but do not have the entrepreneurial talent of their predecessors. Others overestimate themselves, start new companies and lose money. Still others go through expensive divorces or simply spend far more each year than their inheritances would sensibly allow. There are countless examples that show just how difficult it is to manage an inheritance. Many heirs have more in common with lottery winners who, by a stroke of luck, win massive fortunes, but lose them again because they lack the requisite skills to handle money.

Welcome To The Self-Made Billionaires’ Club, Jay Z

In reality, the chances of getting rich, even at a young age or as someone who comes from a humble background, have never been so good. Recent headlines have trumpeted the fact that Jay Z, who was raised by a single working mother, has become the world’s first hip-hop billionaire and the latest member of the Self-Made Billionaires’ Club.

Of course, very few people will ever make it quite so far. But what helps more? Telling someone “You have no chance anyway. If you don’t inherit money, you’ll never get rich,” or, “Forget it! Capitalism only makes the rich even richer.” Or saying, “You probably won’t become a billionaire, but look at the people who started out at the very bottom and made it to the top. Seize your opportunities!”

Check out my website.

I was awarded my first doctorate in history in 1986 and my second, this time in sociology, in 2016. I started my career at the Central Institute for Social Sciences Research at the Free University of Berlin and went on to become department head at one of Germany’s leading daily newspapers, Die Welt. In 2000, I founded my own company, which I established as the market leader in the field of communication consultancy for real estate companies in Germany, with a roster of clients that included Ernst & Young Real Estate, CBRE and Jamestown. I sold the company in 2016 and have focused on academic research and writing books ever since. In total, I have written and edited 22 books, the most recent of which are The Wealth Elite and The Power of Capitalism. My books on the psychology of success and wealth have been translated into a host of languages and have enjoyed notable success in China, India and South Korea. I am also a regular contributor to numerous prestigious European media outlets, including the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in Switzerland, The Daily Telegraph in the UK and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany.

Source: Why Inheritance Is Mostly Overrated As A Reason For Wealth

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If you’re stuck paying off credit card debt and balancing two jobs, the idea of having extra money to spend on vacations and luxury cars may seem like a pipe dream. But honestly, acquiring wealth is simply about sacrifices. What would you be willing to give up? Sleeping in on the weekends? Ohhh, that one hurts! It’s ideal to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, but working hard at your craft or career often requires sleepless nights. Entertainment like movies, TV shows, concerts also waste valuable time. And your money, too. And what about family life? What if you dream of having a wedding and lots of kids? It’s all about prioritizing. Yeah, that’s tough! But let’s try to figure out how you can deal with all that. Other videos you might like: 7 Main Differences Between Rich and Poor People https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsTjM… Salaries of 13 Country Leaders — From $1 to More Than $2 Million https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq7Mq… 14 Facts About Money You Should Know by Age 30 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLbBF… TIMESTAMPS: Boredom 0:48 Family life 2:09 A flashy lifestyle 3:18 Sleep 4:03 Distracting entertainment 5:03 Predictability 6:06 Making life cushy 7:03 Caring about what other people think 8:06 #wealth #richpeople #success Music by Epidemic Sound https://www.epidemicsound.com/ SUMMARY: – You know those days where you have nothing to do, so you just binge watch your favorite Netflix show until you begin to melt into your couch? Instead of wasting this free time, use it to acquire a new skill. – Wealthy people often value self- improvement and are always trying to make the most of themselves. Often this means learning a new skill that you can use to make more money in the future. – As you’ve probably come to realize, financial success doesn’t just happen. Unless you were born into extreme wealth like Paris Hilton, you need to devote lots of time to working on your business and lifestyle to achieve the level of wealth you want. – Sure, there are plenty of rich people who love flaunting their wealth, but they didn’t get to that level of financial freedom by doing so. Don’t spend money on things you don’t really need. – Billionaire Elon Musk says he sleeps only about 6 hours a night – and he’s already made his money. But if you’re one of those people who really needs time to rest when they’re working hard – you know, as most humans do – then you can schedule your rest just like you would important meetings or deadlines. – Think about it: in one month, going to the movies a couple times, and maybe a concert or two can literally cost you hundreds of dollars, not to mention the fact that it took up tons of your time. – If you want to be rolling in the big bucks one day, you’ve got to let go of the idea that you’ll live a stable, comfortable life. Part of earning success is being able to take advantage of opportunities as they’re presented to you. – The sacrifices may seem insignificant, but it really adds up and you’re better off putting that money toward growing your business or whatever other goals you’re trying to reach. – Life isn’t like high school – it’s not a popularity contest! If people don’t like you, you shouldn’t stress too much about it. While it’s important to be respectful of others, there’s no need for you to go out of your way to appease them, especially if it hinders your growth. Subscribe to Bright Side : https://goo.gl/rQTJZz —————————————————————————————- Our Social Media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brightside/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brightgram/ 5-Minute Crafts Youtube: https://www.goo.gl/8JVmuC Stock materials (photos, footages and other): https://www.depositphotos.com https://www.shutterstock.com https://www.eastnews.ru —————————————————————————————- For more videos and articles visit: http://www.brightside.me/

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Tune Up Your 401(k) For 2019

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How comfortable are you with how much risk you’re taking in your 401(k)? Does your employer offer a Roth option? Are you getting the full employer match? Those are some of the pertinent questions you should be asking about your workplace retirement account, says Denis Higgins, a CPA with Edelstein Wealth Management in Boston.

Higgins looked at a new client’s 401(k) and saw he wasn’t getting the full employer match money because he frontloaded his contributions and the employer didn’t have a true-up provision to make him whole. There was nothing that could be done for that plan year, but management at the small healthcare company where he worked added a true-up provision for the next plan year, so the exec got thousands more in employer match money in his 401(k) account.

There’s no check engine light that goes on, so it’s easy to ignore a poorly tuned 401(k). Easy, but hazardous to your retirement wealth.

Here are some things to check for under the hood.

Check your plan documents. “Know that the plan rules are the rule book,” says Ed Slott, a retirement plan expert and CPA in Rockville Centre, New York. You should download a copy of your 401(k)’s summary plan description (SPD) so you have it to double-check what HR tells you. Does your plan have a brokerage window (you can invest in more than just what’s on the limited plan menu)? Does it allow in-service distributions where you can take penalty-free withdrawals at age 59 ½ even if you’re still working? Does it let you delay required distributions if you work past age 70 ½? Does it allow for traditional aftertax contributions that can help you (combined with your employer) save up to $56,000 a year? These are all provisions that the law allows for, but your employer plan might not.

Fine tune your contributions level. If you are relatively new on the job, you may have been automatically enrolled in your 401(k), with contributions set at just 3% of salary. That’s not enough to fund retirement and might not be enough to capture your full employer match. If money is tight, raise your contributions when you get your next raise. Check if your employer offers automatic escalation, which increases your contribution level for you. If you’re able to save big, aim to contribute the legal max: That’s $19,000 if you’re under 50 and $25,000 if you’re 50 or older (you usually must separately choose to make all or part of the $6,000 catch-up contribution).

Look into the Roth option. Check if your employer offers a Roth option. Instead of making pretax salary deferrals, you contribute on an aftertax basis. Roth money grows tax-free and comes out tax-free, giving you tax flexibility when you start taking money out.

Reassess your asset allocation. If you were automatically enrolled, your money is probably in a target date fund, which reduces your exposure to stocks as you age. That’s not a bad choice, if fees are reasonable. If you’re older and picked your own investments years ago, the bull market may have left you more heavily in stocks than you want. Use an asset allocation tool provided by your plan or a free one such as PersonalCapital.com.

Rebalance. Higgins recommends the auto-rebalancing feature that more employers are offering. “It takes out the emotional decisions,” he says. Otherwise, get quarterly statements and rebalance at least annually to keep on track. At the same time, you should reassess your risk level, taking into consideration any life changes, he adds.

Confirm your beneficiary designations. Remember it’s your beneficiary form—not your will or living trust—that controls who gets your 401(k) when you die. Make sure to name both primary and contingent (alternate) beneficiaries.

Run a lifetime income illustration. Have you modeled how long your 401(k) balance will last over your lifetime? “The challenge a lot of people are having is that they’ve built up this war chest and don’t have any idea what to do next,” says Joseph Adams, an employee benefits lawyer with Winston & Strawn in Chicago. Some employer plans include lifetime income illustrations on your statement. If not, run one on your own. Vanguard has a free retirement income calculator here.

Fees. Some target date funds charge less than 0.10% of assets a year, while others charge more than 1%. You can see how the fees in your company’s 401(k) compare overall at Brightscope.com.  Analyze your own fund fees at Personal Capital or FeeX.com.

Author’s note: This is an updated version of an article that ran in 2017.

I’m an associate editor on the Money team at Forbes based in Fairfield County, Connecticut, leading Forbes’ retirement coverage. I manage contributors who cover retirement and wealth management. Since I joined Forbes in 1997, my favorite stories have been on how people fuel their passions (historic preservation, open space, art, for example) by exploiting the tax code. I also get into the nitty-gritty of retirement account rules, estate planning and strategic charitable giving. My favorite Forbes business trip: to Plano, Ill. to report on the restoration of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, then owned by a British baron. Live well. Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ashleaebeling Send me an email: aebeling@forbes.com

Source: Tune Up Your 401(k) For 2019

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