Numbers, Numbers, and more Numbers!

I’m leaving this post running until Sunday to allow time for more comments … to read the really detailed comments that have been left already (they are like ‘mini-posts), just scroll down to the bottom (once you click on the title/link so that you can see them) … and, please feel free to throw your two-cents in as well!


If you have been following this blog for some time – and, if you have also been following the exploits of our 7 Millionaires … In Training! – you will see that I have an obsession with ‘helping’ you to understand your Number.

This is because simply understanding my Life’s Purpose, then quantifying that ‘purpose’ into a Number, had such a big impact on my life …

… I truly believe that I would not be sitting here, writing this very post today, had it not been for that simple act.

It’s a process that should only take a couple of hours – more, if you get the urge to dive deep into what your first cut throws at you.

What’s wrong with having no Number?

Nothing, if you like to fly blind; it’s like embarking on a journey with no destination: any road will get you there … which is OK for some, but not me.

My ‘no destination’ journey took me to a lot of work, two so-so businesses (together, they just managed to break even … and this is after YEARS of operation), and $30k in debt.

Yet, as soon as I realized my destination and found out how much it could ‘cost’ me to get there, it was like suddently letting off the parking brake: things almost magically started to fly.

Don’t get me wrong, there was even more hard work and major risks and decisions to undertake (not many people move country to pursue their dreams AND keep their businesses in the ‘old country’ going).

So, if having no Number is ‘bad’ what’s wrong with picking a number out of thin air?

Again, nothing, but have a look at what our 7MITs came up with after a couple of revisions … and, compare that to their starting Number – their first ‘guess’:


Let’s ask them: what changed and why? Why did your Number go up/down or (in only a couple of cases) stay the same? And, why is this exercise better than just picking a Number and going with it?

And, let me ask you … if you have a Number in mind, how did you come up with it? And, why?

Finding your lifestyle break-even point …

7 Millionaires … In Training! has been featured in iReport; you can check it out by visiting: and, this article has been mentioned in this weeks Carnival of Personal Finance!


I wrote a post a while ago that explained why most doctors aren’t rich … the point wasn’t to appeal to all the medico’s in our audience; it was to demonstrate that income does not equal wealth.

Jeff, a navy pilot who I would happily trade a month or so of my life with (Maserati for Hornet for a month? Fair trade, if you ask me) commented:

Your analysis failed to consider Scott’s ability to incrementally contribute money from his income over the 10 year period. I just thought it was odd that you left it out, since the mantra of this blog (at least in the beginning–money 101 and early 201 stages) is to save as much of your income and invest it. Why wouldn’t Scott be able to follow this advice? …and more importantly, how would incremental contributions affect Scott’s ability to reach his goals?

Also, I bet the doctor making $700k per year in your example isn’t having a hard time investing $150k/year after tax. Why couldn’t a professional making $350k+/per invest $150k/year after tax (assuming they were following your money 101 steps)?

As I mentioned to Jeff at the time, my point wasn’t really meant to be mathematical … it was based upon my (and, Scott’s – who is the doctor mentioned in the original post) ‘real life’ experiences/observations …

… let me explain using four hypothetical doctors as examples:

Good Doctor‘ saves a good proportion of his ridiculously high income (what would you guess: 20%? 30%? More? Less?); lives within his means; etc. but will still most likely ‘only’ get to the $2M – $4M range +/- a few mill. if he is reasonably passively investing. That’s just experience talking …

Bad Doctor‘ spends more than he earns … there’s no limit to what some people can spend …  just refer to the Millionaire Next Door example from my previous post, if you don’t believe it’s possible to earn $700k a year and still be ‘broke’!

Typical Doctor‘ doesn’t wake up to the difference b/w good/bad doctor until he reads a few books and blogs … typically too late to really become ‘good doctor’ … he can’t save, say, $150k immediately – if ever – because he has ‘commitments’, but he sees the light and builds up to his own saving maximum over time … it’s this ‘lost time’ that is his undoing, so he ends up somewhere less than ‘good doctor’, say, $1M – $3M.

Business Man Doctor‘ sees the light and realizes that income/savings alone won’t get him to where he wants to go. He reads my post, and the rest is history 😉

Now, here is the issue:

In all of our four examples, the doctor is doing well – just like the two doctors in Dr. Stanley and Danko’s book – earning $700k p.a. … the problem is, if they are spending all of it to live on now (one of those two doctors was certainly doing that!) how are they going to keep it up in ‘retirement’?

Let’s check the math: $700k salary x 2 [for 20 years inflation @ 4%] x 20 [for min. size of passive nest egg] to ‘replace’ $700k spending power …

that’s just shy of $30 Mill. in 20 years by my math!

So, there lies the real problem for any doctor / professional; how do they replace their income in retirement?

The mechanism is obvious – they need to channel part of their income into passive investments, and allow time for those investments to grow large enough to replace 70% – 125% of their final income depending on how much their spending will go up (most likely) or down (golf / travel, anyone?) in retirement.

There are only two ways that I know to achieve this:

1. Find their Replacement Income’s Break-Even Point: That is, as their salary increases over the years, how much do they allow their spending to go up in order to control their final spendable salary so that their nest egg neatly replaces it?

Let’s see:

Perhaps if they live off just half their salary ($350k) they may be able to get to somewhere in the near vicinity of $15M assuming that they allow themselves 20 years to get there (i.e. if $30 Mill. in 20 years was required, in our earlier example, to ‘replace’ the future value of $700k today, then $15M might do the same for $350K?)

How do we get that $15 Mill.? Well let’s see what happens if we save the other half of their salary:

$350k – 35% tax X 8% (say, after tax return of their ‘passive investments’). By my reckoning, if they increase these $350k (less tax) contributions by 4% to keep up with inflation each year, they may just get to $15M in 20 years. Success!

Naturally, this works for anybody on any salary … except the lower your required salary, the more that the ‘tools of the poor’ (401k; employer match; etc.) kick in to replace your final salary at perhaps less than a 50% of total income savings rate.

2. Find their Lifestyle’s Break-Even Point: The problem with the above example, of course, is that our ‘good doctor’ has to suffer with living off only half the income that he earns … now that he’s ‘retired’ he’s having to make do with playing at the local Public Golf Course while his professional friends are at the Country Club … poor sod.

To a greater or lesser extent this is the choice that conventional Personal Finance wisdom asks you to make: live large now and live poor later, or sacrifice lifestyle today to go for a longer period of being able to live the same lesser lifestyle in retirement (while your less-financially-astute friends simply take their chances).

But, this totally misses the point: what if the 50% Lifestyle simply ain’t good enough … are you going to take ‘second best’ (albeit for as long as you live) lying down?

If your answer is YES; then go back and revisit 1. with your own numbers and there you have your financial plan!

If your answer is NO; then you have come to the right place …  but, saving/investing alone is probably not going to do the trick 😉

Finding the next 'hot' real-estate market …

I hope that I stressed sufficiently in my recent post about How much capital do you need to start real-estate investing? that my “purchase in the median-to-just-below” price range recommendation is based on single family homes/condos/apartments.

Barbara Corcoran, who I consider to be the USA ‘expert’ in this area (although, the particular advice in my previous article did not come from her) said that you should also look:

1. For an area where rents are rising fast (7% year-over-year rent increase generally means a hefty property price increase is soon to follow),

2. You should take a walk around at night and look for ‘young activity’ in coffee shops, cinemas, whatever

Peter Spann (the Australian version of Barbara Corcoran, although both would dispute that particular comparison on more levels than one) would add:

3. Look for a neighborhood NEXT to a neighborhood that has spiked in values … that will generally be the next one to go up,

And, Dave Lindahl in his book about finding emerging markets has a very comprehensive way for identifying the next hot areas (for multi-family housing in particular, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work just as well for single family) for those who like doing a little web-based data research.

Of course, if you are pessimist, the market is still overpriced and you will sit on the sidelines until we are late into the next boom, but if you are an optimist (realist?) …

… happy bargain hunting!

Here's a guy who takes his own advice …

Not exactly a high-tech video for a guy who claims to be the “millionaire-maker in this country” [the country he is talking about is Australia]. but I actually remember buying some of his stuff many, many years ago and some of it seemed quite good …

… but, I suggest you just watch the first minute and a half of this video, because what he says is absolutely true.

We're split down the middle …

… some agree that paying down your mortgage is the dumbest decision that you can make (not really the dumbest …. but certainly down there with the best – I mean, worst) and some simply don’t agree.

Right now, though, I want to pick up on one of Nick’s comments, since he has summed up the ‘pro-pay down argument’ really well:

I do a decent amount of investing myself, and while I don’t claim to be a master of the trade, I do well. That doesn’t change the fact that I don’t know how my investments will turn out. Everything could go horribly wrong, and I could end up taking quite a hit… or it could go really well and I could make a killing.

I don’t think anyone really knows for sure how well their investments will perform. I think anyone who does is either lying or fooling themselves. It is all about managing risk.

Putting a sizable portion of your cash as a down payment, and making prepayments to pay off your mortgage, is very good way to minimize risk. You end up with lower monthly obligations, less debt, more equity… Of course, this means less free money to invest and less money making potential..

Once again though, risk management philosophy comes into play. Is your primary residence something you want to take the risk with? In today’s market, putting less down, and making lower payments would turn out to be a very costly mistake if your investments don’t net the return you wanted (you’ll be stuck paying up to hundreds of thousand of dollars more in interest over time).. and this is only assuming you merely break even on the money you invested (and are not in the red).

I think everyone’s long term plan involves moving to a nicer house in a nicer area. This is something perfectly attainable by playing this situation safe. IMO, it is dangerous to put such basic life plans on the chopping block. I think this is how people could potentially get into serious trouble.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should immediately put any money you have towards prepayments, or you should put all your money down on that new house. I’m saying that you need to carefully balance this based on your confidence about making good investments and the amount of risk you are willing to take. In other words, I think its foolish for just about anyone to put very little down and not make prepayments when they can (i.e. tax return time, or portions of a raise). I think its equally foolish to put ALL of your money towards prepayment and down payment.

Make no mistake, that large down payment is a very good protection plan when you lose your job, your wife has a kid, or you encounter some medical emergency. Those lower monthly payments make things more manageable and prevent you from being overrun with debt.

A prepayment of only $300 a month on a $350,000 principal can save you well over a hundred thousand dollars in interest over 30 years. That money goes straight into your bank account or investments when your mortgage is paid off early.

These items are your safety net… and that’s part of good risk management isn’t it? To maximize gains and minimize risks. You can’t just focus on maximizing gains – you need to protect against potential pit falls as well.

By all means have your money work for you, and try to get investments that produce greater returns than your mortgage rate… but start off by minimizing your monthly payment (sizable down payment) and put a good effort in to pay your house off early (prepayments)… You know, just in case those investments don’t work out.

I have some questions of my own; let’s use Nick’s $300 per month example:

1. Is the $300 a month a sizable proportion of the amount that you intend to invest overall? If so, do you know what you are getting for it?

Nick says that paying down his mortgage by an extra $300 per month will save him $100,000 in interest over 30 years … let’s accept that number for now and assume that this $100k can be somehow freed up at the end of the 30 year period:

$100,000 in 30 years will have almost the same buying power then as $31,000 does today (assuming that inflation averages just 4%).

That should provide Nick a yearly stipend of just over $1,500 in today’s dollars (commencing in 2038, assuming that 5% can then be ‘safely’ withdrawn each year).

Now, there’s a problem right there; how can 5% be a ‘safe’ withdrawal rate in 2038?

If inflation is still just 4% Nick needs to find a ‘safe’ investment that will return him 9% after tax (4% to keep up with future inflation and 5% to spend) … he can’t get that return in retirement by paying down his mortgage any more, it’s already paid off!

So, now – in retirement – he has to look for a more ‘risky’ investment than the one he used to get there!

Therefore, I am assuming that Nick will either keep his paid off house and actually entirely forgo this income entirely or move into a smaller paid off house or unit to free up $100k of equity …

… in any event $1,500 or zero a month sounds pretty similar to me 🙂

2. Do you know what returns you can get elsewhere?

Even if Nick isn’t relying on this $100k (then why bother with it in the first place?!) – because he is also  investing elsewhere – what could he achieve if he also invested his $300 a month elsewhere?

Well, Nick is ‘saving’ 6% interest in the current market [AJC: if you aren’t prepared to fix an incredibly low interest rate like this, how can I help you?!], which could be equivalent to a 7.5% – 8% after tax investment return.

[AJC: Unlike investing in income-producing investments, there is possibly no income tax to be paid on your mortgage interest payments/savings … of course, there could be a tax disincentive if you have been itemizing your home interest on your tax return and can no longer claim that deduction]

But, what if he can find an investment that returns more than 8% after tax?

Even an extra 1% (after tax) additional return will improve Nick’s 30 year outlook by 20% (at least, for the $300 monthly extra that he is putting into his mortgage).

3. Do you care?

For me, this is the key question: can Nick achieve his financial goals even without investing this $300 a month elsewhere? If he can’t, is he willing to let these goals go for the apparent ‘safety’ of a home partly or fully paid off?

So, my real question to Nick is: can you achieve your financial goals at the same time as paying your mortgage off? It’s possible (hell, I did it!) but, for most people, not likely … they are already skating too close to the wind even before pulling extra money out of their investment portfolio.

To me, it’s the same thing as asking if you can fish for trout in a babbling brook without getting wet:

It’s possible, but you won’t probably won’t make a great catch unless you are prepared to (slowly, carefully, and not deeper than you can handle) wade in …

Your Perpetual Money Machine won't start?

AJC has written his first article on US News magazine’s ‘alpha consumer’ web-site. It’s all about what US News calls Recession 2.0 … check out the article here then PLEASE leave a comment on the US News site!!!


Your Perpetual Money Machine won’t start?

… then it probably just needs a little oil and a good kick!

I am, of course, talking about the Perpetual Money Machine that I covered in a series of posts last month. But, Caprica, who lives in Australia asks:

But not all perpetual motion machines are that seamless. If you want to invest in cash flow positive properties here in Australia, either you are buying into regional areas that are subject to seasonal trends or you become a slum lord. Furthermore, the boom on “cash flow positive” properties and the high interest rates here in Australia has meant that the cash flow positive opportunities have all but dried up.

Similarly, a Berkshire Hathaway portfolio can easily loose large chunks of value during declining markets (sub prime for example).

Is there a such a thing as perpetual motion machine (short of having more than 7 million in the bank earning interest) that means that I don’t need to deal with difficult tenants or worry about every jitter in the market?

Caprica is right, of course … not all Perpetual Money Machines are ‘seamless’, run entirely smoothly, or even start without a ‘kick’ in the right place!

But, start – and run – they will, if you do it just right …

You see, there is one ingredient that you need, Caprica, regardless of where you live: time.

Any reasonable property can become cashflow positive if you allow time for the rents to build up such that you ‘overtake’ the costs … in our analogy, it takes time for the ‘capacitors’ to build up enough ‘charge’ to kick-start our Perpetual Money Machine.

It helps if you can buy when the market is off its highs; it helps even more if you can lock in interest rates when they are still relatively low; it helps if you can put in your research and buy a property that will rent reasonably well and appreciate over time (but, we aren’t looking for ‘home runs’ in either category, here).

Similarly, stocks may go up/down, you just need to keep pumping money in (i.e. buying more stocks) until you have a buffer (excess of stocks) that will allow you to ride the waves and sell down a little at a time to live off (after you ‘retire’).

Equally, it helps if you have the fortitude to ignore the waves entirely -better yet, be contrarian – knowing that the inevitable ‘upwards correction’ will come ‘eventually’.

The Perpetual Money Machine will work anywhere, anytime … you just need to give it time to warm up properly 🙂

Can you diversify a business?

I’ve just loaded 3 new videos into the Vault (click on this link, or check the VodPod Widget on the right hand side of this page for the latest) …

Now for today’s post

Now listen up!

You want to keep working that job forever? Stop reading today’s post! If you’re determined to stay poor forever, you deserve the extra 2.5 minute break 🙂

You want to work your job AND invest in real-estate? Well, keep reading, because SOME of what I’m about to say, applies to RE, too.

But, if you want to blaze the business path … hang about, because Dustbusterz has a GREAT question for you:

Tell me here ,if I am wrong in my assessment. I believe diversifying(i.e. buying or starting many businesses) is better than having all your money tied into just 1 business.
Currently, we own about 5 small businesses, which bring in small amounts of cash. Our intent here is that we will build these businesses up gradually over a set time frame , and at the same time, continue to buy or build more businesses to add to our income stream.
By having these several businesses, we somewhat mitigate future problems if say,1 of these operations should suddenly be stricken with cancer and we are unable to restructure and save it.
So having 10 smaller businesses (1 goes bankrupt or gets sold) it is less of a drain on your income stream as having all your cash in only 1 or 2 bigger businesses.

As I said to Dustbusterz, there are some great reasons TO enter into multiple businesses and some equally great reasons NOT to …

… but, I have to admit, diversification was never on my list … until now )

First, let’s look at why you might want to buy/start just one business:

– You can concentrate on it ( THE reason not to ‘diversify’)

– One business can become many through territory expansion, franchising, joint ventures, etc.

– A bigger business can be more atractive to the people who will pay you more (say, 6 years’ profits) than the typical ‘small business purchaser’ (who might only pay 3 to 5 years’ profits); these uber-purchasers include: e.g. the private equity firms, large corporations, IPO, etc.

Now, let look at how you may end up with multiple small businesses:

– The businesses are related in some way (this is how I ended up with a portfolio of businesses)

– The first business that you buy or start doesn’t have enough potential so you open up another on the side and … it just keeps rolling from there

– You are in the business of ‘flipping businesses’ … really!

Before I continue, let’s take a break to satisfy the real-estate guys:

With real-estate you can own one property or multiple … across a single location or many. It matters not, so long as you put good management in place.

And, if you decide that you are going to be in the business of flipping RE – well, then you have no choice but to be hands on with multiple properties … you just have to hope that it all holds together!

Not so with businesses; the management requirements in small business – indeed, any business – are relatively HUGE (certainly, when compared with the management stresses in real-estate). This usually points to having one business that you grow and grow, slowly and carefully adding management layers underneath you.

I believe that by diversifying, you are exponentially INCREASING management risk (hence, failure) … which may or may not offset the potential diversification ‘benefits’.

But, it can be done … as I said before, I managed it.

And so has Brad Sugarswho is a bit of a legend where I come from … I recall going to a free ‘business seminar’ and being surprised by the speaker: a lanky kid in his 20’s in a slick business suit. And, he’s gone from there to found a well-regarded multi-national business coaching company.

Brad spoke about how he would buy small businesses, often with ‘no money down’ and fix their basic money and management problems, and then sell them off. Brad often didn’t even work in the businesses himself, so I guess that you would say that he’s to ‘random’ small businesses as Ray Kroc was to McDonalds.

I particularly loved this technique that Brad shared:

1. Buy a business for as close to zero dollars as possible (this IS possible … just offering to take on the lease payments – as a take it or leave it ‘final offer’ – is often enough),

2. Install a manager

3. Help the manager build the business up

4. Sell the business to the manager (after all, they have seen how quickly it has grown!)

5. Repeat!

Personally – like RE flipping – this is a ‘business’ (that buys/sells businesses), not an investment. It’s not the kind of business that I like, because there’s no HUGE upside; although, if you can scale upwards of 50 such transactions … 😉

The FDIC might insure up to $50 Million of your deposits!

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own online business but didn’t know where to start, check out my latest post on I’m About To Find Out If You Can Make Money Online!!


Everybody (by now, I hope) knows that the FDIC will insure up to $250,000 of your deposits (recently increased from $100,000 in order to instill confidence in the American banking system), provided they are with an approved bank (most reputable banks are) in the event of a bank failure.

There are some questions as to how quickly you will get your money back … but, at least you know your principal is (relatively) safe, thanks to the FDIC.

But, the $250,000 limit is a real bitch – or, one day will be (!) – for our readers, but JT steps in to save the day:

I found this while looking for information on interest rates for bank accounts with multi-million dollars, and protection for those types of accounts. Like many I knew about the 100k FDIC coverage for normal bank accounts, but I was curious if I had more how could I protect it if I had it in an account. This is what I found,

There is something called CDARS which allows multi-million dollar FDIC protection. CDARS = Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service. From what I gather it uses it’s network power kind of like a clearinghouse to place large deposits with other FDIC insured banks to give multi-million dollar accounts supposed risk free FDIC protection up to 50 million. It’s a CD, so I believe there is a 2 year min, I could be wrong. Again, I read this rather quickly, and I say I believe, and what I gathered during my explanation. So bottom line is, read it for yourself. LOL I did a search on CDARS, and multi-million dollar FDIC and it popped up with a lot of links.

I saw this question started reading, and though the info I found belonged here. I’m not a banker, or a finance person I was just curious. So for anyone who just happens to have an extra 50 mil stuffed in a mattress some place it looks like there maybe a way to protect that money! LOL

JT is right, there is at least one ‘clearing house’ that (for an appropriate fee, of course) takes care of opening accounts in you name across as many banks as necessary to break your deposits up into lots of no more than $250k each … effectively FDIC-insuring up to $50 million  … legally!

But, you probably do not need to go through all of this … did you know that you can actually FDIC-Insure (and, this happens automatically, provided that you comply with the regulations) as much as $1.75 million in a single bank, without resorting to any third parties or paying any extra fees?

You simply open up different types of accounts: a deposit account for $250k in your name; another one for $250k in your name; a third one – this time a joint account (i.e. in both names) also for $250k; a fourth for your ROTH, and so on – and, it’s all legal!

But, there is a limit (about $700,000 will max out most people) …. then you just go and repeat at a second bank 😉

Now, not only does the FDIC allow this – they actually promote it in their own brochure (this brochure hasn’t yet been updated to allow for the increase from $100k to $250k per account name/type):

Basic Insurance Amount Is $100,000

The basic insurance amount is $100,000 per depositor per insured bank. Certain retirement accounts, such as Individual Retirement Accounts, are insured up to $250,000 per depositor per insured bank.

If you and your family have $100,000 or less in all of your deposit accounts at the same insured bank, you do not need to worry about your insurance coverage — your deposits are fully insured.

Coverage Over $100,000

The FDIC provides separate insurance coverage for deposit accounts held in different categories of ownership.

You may qualify for more than $100,000 in coverage at one insured bank if you own deposit accounts in different ownership categories.

Common Ownership Categories

The most common ownership categories are:

Single Accounts

These are deposit accounts owned by one person and titled in that person’s name only. All of your single accounts at the same insured bank are added together and the total is insured up to $100,000. For example, if you have a checking account and a CD at the same insured bank, and both accounts are in your name only, the two accounts are added together and the total is insured up to $100,000.

Note: Retirement accounts and qualifying trust accounts are not included in this ownership category.

Certain Retirement Accounts

These are deposit accounts owned by one person and titled in the name of that person’s retirement plan. Only the following types of retirement plans are insured in this ownership category:

  • Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) including traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs, and Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs
  • Section 457 deferred compensation plan accounts (whether self-directed or not)
  • Self-directed defined contribution plan accounts
  • Self-directed Keogh plan (or H.R. 10 plan) accounts

All deposits that an individual has in any of the types of retirement plans listed above at the same insured bank are added together and the total is insured up to $250,000. For example, if an individual has an IRA and a self-directed Keogh account at the same bank, the deposits in both accounts would be added together and insured up to $250,000.

Naming beneficiaries on a retirement account does not increase deposit insurance coverage.

Note: For information about FDIC insurance coverage for a type of retirement plan not listed above, refer to the FDIC resources on the back of this brochure.

Joint Accounts

These are deposit accounts owned by two or more people. If both owners have equal rights to withdraw money from a joint account, each person’s shares of all joint accounts at the same insured bank are added together and the total is insured up to $100,000.

If a couple has a joint checking account and a joint savings account at the same insured bank, each co-owner’s shares of the two accounts are added together and insured up to $100,000, providing up to $200,000 in coverage for the couple’s joint accounts.

Example: John and Mary have a $220,000 CD at an insured bank. Under FDIC rules, each person’s share of each joint account is considered equal unless otherwise stated in the bank’s records. John and Mary each own $110,000 in the joint account category, putting a total of $20,000 ($10,000 for each) over the insurance limit.

Account Holders Ownership Share Amount Insured Amount Uninsured
John $ 110,000 $ 100,000 $ 10,000
Mary $ 110,000 $ 100,000 $ 10,000
Total $ 220,000 $ 200,000 $ 20,000

Note: Jointly owned qualifying trust accounts are not included in this ownership category.

Revocable Trust Accounts

These are deposits held in either payable-on-death (POD) accounts or living trust accounts.

Payable-on-death (POD) accounts – also known as testamentary or Totten Trust accounts – are the most common form of revocable trust deposits. These informal revocable trusts are created when the account owner signs an agreement – usually part of the bank’s signature card – stating that the deposits will be payable to one or more named beneficiaries upon the owner’s death.

Living trusts – or family trusts – are formal revocable trusts created for estate planning purposes. The owner of a living trust controls the deposits in the trust during his or her lifetime.

Note: Determining coverage for living trust accounts can be complicated and requires more detailed information about the FDIC’s insurance rules than can be provided in this publication. If you have a living trust account, contact the FDIC at 1-877-275-3342 for more information.

Deposit insurance coverage for revocable trust accounts is based on each owner’s trust relationship with each qualifying beneficiary. While the trust owner is the insured party, coverage is provided for the interests of each beneficiary in the account. The FDIC insures the interests of each beneficiary up to $100,000 for each owner if all of the following requirements are met:

  • The beneficiary is the owner’s spouse, child, grandchild, parent, or sibling. Adopted and stepchildren, grandchildren, parents, and siblings also qualify. In-laws, grandparents, great-grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews, friends, organizations (including charities), and trusts do not qualify.
  • The account title must indicate the existence of the trust relationship by including a term such as payable on death, in trust for, trust, living trust, family trust, or an acronym such as POD or ITF.
  • For POD accounts, each beneficiary must be identified by name in the bank’s account records.

If any of these requirements are not met, the entire amount in the account, or any portion of the account that does not qualify, would be added to the owner’s other single accounts, if any, at the same bank and insured up to $100,000. If the revocable trust account has more than one owner, the FDIC would insure each owner’s share as his or her single account.

Note: The following example applies to POD accounts only. Coverage may be different for some living trusts.

Example: Bill has a $100,000 POD account with his wife Sue as beneficiary. Sue has a $100,000 POD account with Bill as beneficiary. In addition, Bill and Sue jointly have a $600,000 POD account with their three children as equal beneficiaries.

Account Title Account Balance Amount Insured Amount Uninsured
Bill POD to Sue $ 100,000 $ 100,000 $ 0
Sue POD to Bill $ 100,000 $ 100,000 $ 0
Bill & Sue POD to 3 children $ 600,000 $ 600,000 $ 0
Total $ 800,000 $ 800,000 $ 0

These three accounts totaling $800,000 are fully insured because each owner is entitled to $100,000 of coverage for the interests of each qualifying beneficiary in the accounts. Bill has $400,000 of insurance coverage ($100,000 for the interests of each qualifying beneficiary – his wife in the first account and his three children in the third account). Sue also has $400,000 of insurance coverage ($100,000 for the interests of each qualifying beneficiary – her husband in the second account and her three children in the third account).

When calculating coverage for revocable trust accounts, be careful to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Do not assume that coverage is calculated as $100,000 times the number of people –owner(s) and beneficiary(ies) – named on a trust account. Coverage is provided for the interest of each qualifying beneficiary named by each owner. Additional coverage is not provided to the owners for naming themselves as owners. For example, a father’s POD account naming two sons as equal beneficiaries is insured to $200,000 only — $100,000 for the interest of each qualifying beneficiary.
  • Do not assume that the FDIC insures POD and living trust accounts separately. In applying the $100,000 per-beneficiary insurance limit, the FDIC combines an owner’s POD accounts with the living trust accounts that name the same beneficiaries at the same bank.
  • All you need to do, is be prepared to handle a few different accounts … doesn’t seem that difficult to get the peace of mind that you need when banks start failing …. apparently, there’s more to fail, yet.

    You can calculate your insurance coverage using the FDIC’s online Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator at: