This was originally published on June 3, 2013, and it continues to be one of the most-discussed topics we’ve covered during those years.
The idea continues to be teased and promoted actively by Tom Dyson and his folks at Palm Beach Letter, sometimes using different names, so we’re re-posting it for those new readers who might be interested… the idea is now sold partly as a secret strategy used by Warren Buffett, Joe Biden, Wall Street Bankers, and other notable names… but the basic idea and the type of “bank on yourself” life insurance policy they’re pitching is unchanged (yes, I expect Buffett probably has some whole life insurance, since essentially all wealthy people use life insurance as part of their estate tax planning, and Berkshire Hathaway has engaged in life settlements/secondary life insurance investments in the past).
While you’ll still sometimes see it teased as the 770 Account, or as the “World’s Most Notorious Asset,” it’s mostly now being teased as the “702(j) Account” (just another mysterious-sounding number, like 770, that refers to the part of the IRS code that deals with cash-value life insurance)…
…the story otherwise hasn’t changed much, here’s our original article…
“Imagine an account that…
“Lets you retire 100% tax-free
“Is NOT reportable to the IRS
“Pays you an average of 5% per year
“Has paid out, on average, for 121 straight years
“And which, unlike traditional retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k)s, lets you withdraw money anytime you like, for whatever reason you like, and with no penalties whatsoever.”
That’s what Tom Dyson and a few other folks who sign their promo letters are promising in the latest pitch for the Palm Beach Letter, which he publishes with Mark Ford. It’s all about an account that’s been used by the uber-wealthy for generations, and by “at least six different U.S. Presidents,” including John F. Kennedy and FDR, whose pictures grace some of the ads to provide gravitas, to generate “IRS-exempt” income for retirement.
So what’s the story? Well, Dyson calls it the “770 account” to make it seem mysterious (why else, of course, would you buy the newsletter?), but, frankly, it’s plenty mysterious on its own even if you don’t give it a sneaky name. More on that in a moment.
In fact, this kind of “Account” is already being touted by lots of skeezy-sounding infommercials and books whose promises make you very suspicious — they come with names like “Bank on Yourself” and “Infinite Banking.”
That’s not to say that any of the heavily marketed versions of these plans are skeezy, just that their promises give me that feeling, and the numbers and specifics for plans like this come usually only when you’re sitting in an office with an agent. “Skeezy”, by the way, is defined by your friendly neighborhood Gumshoe as a combination of “sketchy” and “sleazy.”
But what they’re talking about with those plans, and what Tom Dyson is pitching for his newsletter, is life insurance.
Not just ordinary term life insurance like most people under 60 carry, though — we’ll get to that in a minute. First, a bit more of his tantalizing teasing:
“Manhattan’s Secret Vault: Why Wall St. has kept this powerful secret hidden from you
“There’s a very good reason you’ve never heard about the “770” account before:
“That’s because Wall Street doesn’t want you to know about it!
“And neither do the big banks too, for that matter. (More on this in a minute.)
“Now, even though this is the investment account The Wall Street Journal is on record as saying is better than 401(k)s and IRAs… the majority of Americans don’t know it exists.Are you getting our free Daily Update
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“Well here’s a clue…
“I just got off the phone with an insider who works in the 770 industry. This person has worked first-hand with one of America’s biggest financial gurus (a name you’d instantly recognize), as well as several employees from Goldman Sachs and other big investment banks.
“And this is what this person said to me: NO ONE in Wall Street has their money in stocks—many of them are invested instead in ‘770’ accounts!
“Now, consider what this means…
“Here are the same investment professionals who’ve been telling us for years to “buy stocks”… and meanwhile… they’re all putting their money somewhere else!
“Can you imagine the outrage this would create if most people found out about this?
“That’s why you’ll never hear your broker mention this investment to you, no matter how much money he (or she) has parked into it.”
We get a lot more in Dyson’s ad about the safety of these plans, and about how the big banks have tons of their own capital tied up in these plans (that’s true, by the way — banks have massive life insurance assets called “bank owned life insurance” or BOLI, they take it out on their top employees and it’s a large portion of their core capital), and Dyson’s reiteration that he has been putting increasing amounts of his own family’s money (20% of his net worth) into these accounts and getting a safe 5.5% yield … and it’s money that he can take out whenever he wants to by borrowing against it without penalties.
So what he’s talking about is not just life insurance, but probably a specific class of permanent life insurance that’s called “whole life.”
And it’s not really life insurance, not in the way those of us with term life insurance policies think of it (making sure your family’s not destitute if you die when your kids are young, or your mortgage has 20 years to go), it’s more of a wealth protection and tax-avoidance savings policy.
Whole life insurance is an agreement between you and an insurance company that they will pay out a certain amount of money when you die, and the agreement never expires as long as you keep paying the premium. That obviously means the premium is far larger than with a term life insurance policy, since a term policy expire