Chapter 11: role of life insurance in providing living benefits.
In general, in return for the payment of premiums on a life insurance policy, an insurance company agrees to pay death benefits to a named beneficiary if a policy is still in force when the insured dies. Such a policy could be used to provide retirement benefits to a surviving spouse. If the policy has cash values (generally, any policy other than a term policy), the cash values could also be used to provide living benefits while the retiree is alive, which can be used to provide retirement income.
WHEN IS THE USE OF THIS DEVICE INDICATED?
1. When the life insurance policy has cash values that can be accessed.
2. When the life insurance policy is no longer needed to provide death benefits.
3. When the need for living benefits starts to become greater than the need for death benefits.
1. If a life insurance policy is no longer needed to provide death benefits, it can be used to provide living benefits for additional retirement income (or, perhaps, exchanged in part or in full for an annuity in a Section 1035 tax-free exchange).
2. In the case of a life insurance policy other than a modified endowment contract (MEC), withdrawals from the contract are generally treated first as nontaxable return of investment in the contract.
1. While life insurance death benefits are generally excludable from income, living benefits are generally includable in income to the extent that they exceed investment in the contract. In the case of a modified endowment contract (MEC), living benefits would generally be includable in income as earnings, before investment in the contract can be recovered.
2. If life insurance is redeemed in the early years, living benefits may be small and expenses may be substantial.
3. Any withdrawal or loan reduces the death benefit.
WHAT ARE THE TAX IMPLICATIONS?
1. In the case of a life insurance policy other than a modified endowment contract (MEC), withdrawals from the contract are generally treated first as nontaxable return of investment in the contract.
2. In the case of a modified endowment contract (MEC), living benefits would generally be includable in income as earnings, before investment in the contract can be recovered.
Types Of Life Insurance
In general, life insurance can be term, whole life, universal, and variable. Whole life and universal can be offered with indexed features. Sometimes variable and universal features are combined. Life insurance is often offered, at a cost, with various guarantees. An overview of term, whole life, universal, and variable life insurance follows. For a comprehensive discussion of all types of life insurance, see The Tools & Techniques of Life Insurance Planning.
Term Insurance. With term life insurance, the insured must die in order for any benefits to be paid and the policy expires when the term expires. Premiums generally increase as the insured gets older. There is no cash value or similar investment pool, as there are for other types of policies, that would provide any benefits during lifetime. For purpose of retirement income planning, the only use for term insurance generally is if the person would like to insure that there are sufficient retirement funds for a surviving spouse. The term insurance could complete the retirement funding for the surviving spouse. Term insurance could be used to provide for a legacy or needs other than for retirement planning. The problem, of course, with the use of term at or toward retirement age is that the premiums will be high, and continue to increase as the insured ages. So the cost of term coverage may become prohibitive and lapse, perhaps shortly before it is needed.
Whole Life. With whole life insurance (or permanent life insurance), premiums are made for life or for some shorter period of time (including single premium policies). Premiums are generally level, with a portion of premiums being used to pay the current cost of life insurance and a portion creating a cash surrender value. The policy will pay a specified death benefit at death, so long as all premiums required by that date have been paid. The policy owner can obtain lifetime benefits from the cash surrender value by borrowing or by redeeming the policy. The cash surrender value will generally be credited with interest. Some interest may be guaranteed, with other interest depending on investment results. The investment results could be tied to investments in an index (e.g., the S&P 500). The cash surrender value could be used for providing retirement income. The death benefit could be used to provide retirement funds for a surviving spouse.
Universal Life. Universal life insurance provides for flexible premiums. The owner can increase or decrease premiums, or even skip premiums, assuming the cash values are adequate to cover current charges. The addition to cash surrender values for additional premiums will depend on the interest, expenses, and mortality charges when the additional premium is made. The amount of the death benefit may be adjustable, but an increase in the death benefit may require proof of insurability. Universal life can offer variable investment accounts (variable universal life). The cash surrender value could be used for providing retirement income. The death benefit could be used to provide retirement funds for a surviving spouse.
Variable Life. Variable life insurance permits the policyowner to invest the cash values in a variety of investments, much like mutual funds. Although there may be various guarantees (available for a cost), the policyowner bears the investment risk with the policy. Cash surrender and death benefit values can go up or down. The cash surrender value could be used for providing retirement income. The death benefit could be used to provide retirement funds for a surviving spouse. Variable life insurance is discussed in greater detail below.
Variable Universal Life (VUL)
Investment-Related Life Insurance
Figure 11.1 attempts to summarize the tradeoffs between the risks in investment-related life insurance and the long term returns the various types may be able to provide. In dealing with the role of life insurance in providing living benefits, the United Kingdom Financial Service Authority's terminology for the two primary categories of life insurance will be used rather than the typical U.S. terminology. The U.S. typically refers to "term" and "permanent" in spite of the fact that some term life insurance is no longer "temporary" with the advent of guaranteed death benefit universal life which is essentially term insurance for life and the fact that when the assets within a life insurance policy are used for living benefits it may no longer be "permanent." The Financial Service Authority of the United Kingdom uses the terms "pure protection" and "investment-related." Pure protection provides a clearer description of life insurance without the investment element and investment-related better describes life insurance with more capital going into it then is necessary to cover current mortality and expense costs from return-of-premium term insurance to properly funded variable universal life.
Any investment-related life insurance policy can be used to accumulate capital that can then be used for any living benefits purpose, including applying it to purchase retirement income. The risk return trade off would be essentially as shown in Figure 11.1 and the advisor would tailor the plan to the individual client's needs, desires, and risk tolerance in order to make it an eminently suitable strategy. However, the focus here will be on the variable universal life insurance financial tool to provide a needed death benefit at policy inception and then accelerating the same contracts accumulation object as the need for protection and concern of an early death gives way to a concern for adequate retirement income and an inordinately long life and legacy desires.
[FIGURE 11.1 OMITTED]
Variable universal life (VUL) has been chosen because it provides an opportunity for diversification and the most policy owner control, and responsibility, to adjust the contract to changing needs.
Focus will be on the advantages and disadvantages of using the same VUL contract, if needed, as a retirement distribution vehicle or whether it would be more prudent to extract capital from the policy and apply it any one of the annuity strategies discussed in Chapters 8 to 10.
VUL Policy Inception
While each and every policy will be different, as it is tailored to the individual's situation, the following will be a typical scenario.
It starts with the recognition that, if a person dies, someone may suffer an economic loss and that is an unacceptable situation and adequate life insurance is the solution. Typically, pure protection life insurance will be examined first and then, if personal resources allow additional capital for investment purposes, any one of the investment related life insurance contracts can be evaluated.
If VUL is the choice, the first step is determining an adequate amount of life insurance, and then determining what would be an adequate funding level and annual premium for a contract of that size. A recommend minimum would be what insurance companies call a "Target Premium," rounded up to the nearest $1,000. If that amount of premium is more than the individual can comfortably commit to, a solution is to use two policies. The first would be a smaller VUL with a comfortable annual adequate funding level and the second a renewable and convertible term insurance policy in an amount to complete the need for life insurance.
The second step is to evaluate the investment credibility of the VUL contract by breaking down the annual premium into where the money in the policy goes. See Figure 11.2, for an example.
The information to fill in such a table will be in the illustration system and the policy prospectus. Reviewing and quantifying these costs makes sure the policy owner will not be surprised when he gets his annual report which will look much like this. Of particular importance to the policy owner will be the issue of liquidity or lack thereof. If the chosen VUL is facilitated by a commission compensated advisor, the VUL contract will have a surrender charge that could last as long as 15 years. The amount of capital that is not liquid as a result of the surrender charge must be known, suitable for the policy owner's circumstances, and acceptable to the policy owner.
Examining Figure 11.2 also helps the prospective policy owner understand some of the typical features of the VUL contract, such as administration expense may start high and then decrease to a constant level, whereas the cost of the life insurance will typically go up over time assuming the policy owner has selected to keep the insurance company's amount at risk constant, which is typical when the policy starts out and the primary concern is death benefit.
A figure such as Figure 11.3 may be helpful in describing the choices of death benefit designs often referred to as Option 1 or A (level death benefit) and Option 2 or B (increasing death benefit).
[FIGURE 11.3 OMITTED]
Figure 11.3 can also be used to inform the client that the charges for the life insurance often referred to as COIs for "cost-of-life insurance" and administrative expenses are deducted monthly and may be changed, within limits, by the insurance company so that in managing the policy these charges should be monitored and a strategy for having these monthly charges deducted should be adopted.
One strategy might be to go back to Figure 11.2, total up the projected administration expenses and COIs for the first 5 years which comes to $4,185 and direct 50% of the first year's annual premium ($10,000 - $500 = $9,500 / 2 = $4,750) to the guaranteed interest account to make sure the policy can fulfill its life insurance purpose even if unforeseen circumstances limit available funding in some future year. The balance of the first year premium and the future premiums could be asset allocated among the available subaccounts within the contract. The costs associated with each subaccount for investment management and the subaccount applied charge for mortality and expenses should be reviewed and found by the client to be acceptable.
Another way to assist a prospective policy owner to understand the differences between investing in a taxable environment as opposed to within the tax deferred life insurance contract is the check list of VUL features in Figure 11.4 that encourages the prospective policy owner to indicate whether the applicable features provide positive, negative, or no value for the policy owner's personal situation.
VUL At The Turning Point
Assume the policy owner has owned the policy now for many years and has added capital as the family situation allowed using income bonuses and other opportunities to add capital. The policy owner may have borrowed money from the policy when the family situation required it, but now that the children are on their own and they are grandparents, the loans have been paid off. During these years, the policy owner has not only funded the VUL but taken advantage to the maximum of all his employer provided retirement accumulation opportunities. Now his retirement income assets are significant and almost adequate and his obligations are minimal. He realizes that the VUL life insurance policy originally designed for a death benefit is not the risk solution he now needs. The concern for the risk of dying too soon has given way to the risk of an inordinately long life. Adequate retirement income and leaving a legacy for their children, grandchildren, and favorite charities, as their parents may have done, are now their priorities. It is time to accumulate for them ... it is time to increase funding into the VUL and redesign it from maximum death benefit to--or towards--maximum accumulation.
Going back to Figure 11.3, they note that if they change the policy from Death Benefit Option 2, or B, to Option 1, or A, that future capital contributions to their VUL will immediately reduce the monthly COI deduction since such infusions immediately reduce the insurance company's amount at risk. Also, if they have positive investment results, they will have the same effect, both of which reduce the drag of COIs on their capital and allow the capital to compound more quickly. Indeed, it is possible that their capital could grow to exceed their current death benefit, which would minimize their COIs to just that amount required by law to maintain the contract as a life insurance policy. They make the changes and continue to fund their VUL up to, but not exceeding, the modified endowment contract (MEC) limit for the remainder of their working years.
Retirement Income Distributions From Variable Universal Life Insurance
Way back at the inception of this VUL policy, the young agent presented an illustration using an 8% gross return assumption that the consistent annual $10,000 annual premiums right up until retirement, with the continuation of the 8% return after retirement, would allow the withdrawal and borrowing from the policy of, for example, income tax-free retirement income of $5,000 per month. The couple are now asking an older and grayer advisor whether this is what they should do. After reviewing their situation, and their options, which will be reviewed shortly, the advisor suggested that this would be tantamount to pounding a nail with a saw. It is asking the VUL financial tool to do something it is not designed to do. That does not mean that it can't do it; it just means it needs positive investment performance to do it well. The linear illustration indicates success, but there is no such thing as long term linear returns in the diversified portfolio of subaccounts in a VUL. Returns go up and down as is illustrated in Figure 11.3.
Consider if one was involved in the strategy in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Each withdrawal would reduce capital and, in an Option 1, A, designed death benefit, the very next month the COIs would increase to cover the cost of the increased amount at risk. The dynamics in the withdrawal to cost basis followed by loans to generate consistent monthly income are an increasing amount at risk, causing increased COIs based upon the age of an increasingly older person, potentially exacerbated by negative market performance (think 2000, 2001, 2002) causing even more amount at risk, while drawing down even more investment units to maintain the income flow. The triple hit to policy capital of continuing withdrawals, market declines, and increasing COIs could easily destroy a policy. The potentially disastrous result would be exhaustion of policy capital and, on the verge of policy failure, the policy owner will have the last minute choice of either paying into the contract the now maximum COIs or letting the policy lapse and paying the ordinary income tax liability on the total amount taken out of the contract that exceeds the policy owner's cost basis in the policy. A policy owner who relied on this income stream and needed the money could find himself unable to keep the policy in force by paying the required COIs and with insufficient resources to pay the income tax liability. This would be a proverbial between a rock and a hard place scenario. There may also be a deduction from policy capital for unpaid loan interest.
So what sounds so good and looks possible using linear illustrations can run into serious real world problems. The key to successfully using income tax-free extractions of capital from a VUL contract is careful monitoring, not putting excessive reliance on the income stream, so that withdrawals can be suspended during down markets, making sure sufficient capital remains in the contract to at least pay the potential income tax liability if the contract must be terminated prior to death, and, preferably, for the policy to be in force when the insured eventually dies.
Some insurance companies are making guaranteed minimum living benefit riders available in their VUL policies, after the fashion of the living benefit riders in annuities. Insurance companies recognize the risks; so these riders do not come free, nor are they without restrictions on what the policy owner can do with the contract. Actions outside of those required by the rider may void these guarantees. These costs and restrictions serve to make advisors aware of how difficult successfully maintaining these guarantees are. For example, the guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit (GMWB) provided by one life insurance company might have the following requirements.
What is the Guaranteed Minimum Withdrawal Benefit (GMWB)?
The GMWB feature guarantees a minimum income benefit regardless of investment performance, subject to an annual withdrawal limit and a waiting period before withdrawals are permitted of the later of the 10th policy anniversary and the policy anniversary following the insured's 55th birthday.
1. The GMWB is only available when the policy is purchased.
2. The GMWB, once in force, is irrevocable.
3. The maximum cost of the GMWB is 1.5% (charged monthly at 0.125%). The current annual cost of the GMWB is 0.7%. The charge is in addition to any mortality and expense charges and fund management expenses.
4. The policy has a fixed required annual premium for the first 4 years and is flexible thereafter
5. All policies are issued on Death Benefit Option B which may not be changed until after the 4th year.
6. If the GMWB is purchased, an asset allocation or strategic program (monthly mandatory rebalancing) provided by the contract must be elected. Electing out of the asset allocation or strategic programs will cause the GMWB to terminate without value.
7. COIs and Administrative monthly deductions will be deducted from the sub accounts on a pro rata basis
8. Policy owner bears all of the investment risk and using the company mandated asset allocation or strategic program does not protect against loss.
9. Loans and withdrawals are limited prior to the later of the 10th policy anniversary and the policy anniversary following the insured's 55th birthday.
10. Excess loans and withdrawals prior to the later of the 10th policy anniversary and the policy anniversary following the insured's 55th birthday cause a recalculation of the GMWB limit.
11. The GMWB contains a feature that maintains a minimum policy value and death benefit, in order to protect the policy prior to the death of the insured, as long as the requirements are met. If this feature is required to be put in effect, no further withdrawals will be allowed.
1035 Exchange Of Life Insurance Into An Annuity
Assume the VUL life insurance policy did its duty. It provided death benefit protection as needed and the insured did not die. And the capital in the policy is now really needed to provide retirement income. Consider a Section 1035 exchange of that well funded VUL contract into a joint and survivor immediate annuity with a 20 plus year guarantee of payments even if they both die prior to that. Of course, this design will not serve everyone's purpose and any annuity would be tailored to the needs of the individual client, but this is a place to start.
What has been accomplished is that the cost basis of the life insurance policy has been moved into the annuity, and that includes all the money that was spent to provide life insurance protection over all of those years. It would be similar to a situation in which one was going to buy an annuity with a check for $50,000, but then looked at an unneeded VUL contract and noted that it has a cash value of $50,000 but a cost basis of $100,000. A 1035 exchange of the life insurance policy would provide twice the income tax-free return of basis compared to the outright purchase.
A Full VUL In The Hands Of A Retiree That May, Periodically, Need Income/Capital
This is the case of the original example in this chapter. The couple were taking advantage of all of their tax-advantaged investment accumulation opportunities available to them, so now they like their heavily funded VUL contract but do not, currently, need it for retirement income. They are happily maintaining their desired standard of living by taking income taxable distributions from their qualified plan accumulation on an as needed, or as required, basis, happy to pay the income taxes because the plans allowed them to accumulate far more than they had thought possible and they have a choice about how they use their VUL. Currently they are using it as their private unreportable bank. They have used some of the capital for remodeling their vacation home, and then put the money back when they received an inheritance. They changed the death benefit design to A or 1 in order to start to minimize the cost of the life insurance, which now goes down every time they put money into the contract and every time the market goes up, thus allowing the underlying capital to grow with less drag of costs on it. The now fixed death benefit assures that their legacy objectives will be met by the death benefit regardless of underlying market performance of their subaccounts. Essentially, self-insurance has been reached because the capital in the policy now meets or exceeds the original face amount. Of course, the fixed death benefit remains in standby so that if negative market performance drives the capital below the fixed death benefit, the COIs would come back thus protecting the legacy objectives of the policy.
VUL--From "We Might Need It" To "We Won't Need It"--Is "Our Legacy Money"
But, say the attorney and the CPA, "It is owned by you and thus is in your estate which means it will unnecessarily be exposed to federal estate taxes and state inheritance taxes. We must remove your personal ownership of the policy and move it into an appropriate entity so that your legacy wishes can be met without the hassle, delay and expense those government entities might cause." And so they do.
The happily ever after scenario would be that they did live a nice long life and the VUL contract subaccounts compounded significantly in excess of the policy's face amount leaving a generous legacy and setting a desired example for their heirs. The heirs, in appreciation of the legacy they have received in such an efficient manner, may do similar planning for their heirs.
The role that life insurance can provide in providing living benefits is unique and it is the existence of the tax advantaged death benefit that makes it unique. In both life insurance and annuities it is important to use their positive design features to accomplish a client's goals and avoid using a saw to pound a nail.
Figure 11.2 End of Annual Premium Administration Insurance Year Premium Exp Chg 5% Expense Cost 1 $10,000 $500 $1,000 $400 2 $10,000 $500 $500 $425 3 $10,000 $500 $240 $430 4 $10,000 $500 $120 $450 5 $10,000 $500 $120 $500 Ann Exp End of Total Total as a % Year Exp Premium of Prem Pd 1 $1,900 $10,000 19.00% 2 $1,424 $20,000 7.12% 3 $1,170 $30,000 3.90% 4 $1,070 $40,000 2.90% 5 $1,120 $50,000 2.24% Figure 11.4 Variable Life Insurance Differences from Taxable Portfolios Income Tax, Estate Tax, and Positive Negative No Distribution Differences Value Value Value 1. Deferral of income taxes on earnings at the federal, state and local level. 2. Withdrawals limited to--for--years due to a contingent deferred sales charge (CDSC) or 3. No CDSC, low-load contract. 4. Withdrawals during the insured's lifetime, exceeding cost basis, are taxed as ordinary income in the year taken. 5. Life insurance withdrawals are taxed on the FIFO basis. Cost basis first, gains once all cost basis has been removed. 6. The insured's death eliminates income taxes on the death benefit, including all of the compounded returns on the underlying capital. 7. The total contract value may be eliminated from the policyowner's estate, resulting in no federal estate or inheritance taxes at death. Life insurance contract owners have the ability to change the owner of the contract without causing immediate income taxation of pent up gains. If gift tax exclusion amounts are exceeded, gift taxes are an issue. Gifts of life insurance to irrevocable life insurance trusts and other entities are common, with the objective of removing the asset from the claims of creditors, and the assets and death benefit from the estate of the insured. 8. In order for exclusion from the estate in a gift transfer situation, at least three years must separate the date of the gift from the date of the insured's death. 9. The life insurance death benefit serves as a cushion against reduced capital assets if the insured's death occurs during a market slump--assures that a minimum amount of capital will be available to beneficiaries to buy groceries. 10. Withdrawals are subject to ordinary income taxation to the extent of gain in modified endowment contracts (MEC). 11. In MEC contracts, withdrawals are subject to a 10 percent penalty tax, to the extent of gain, prior to the insured's age 59 1/2. 12. Death benefits that can be established privately and are assured to be delivered to the designated beneficiary. 13. Death benefits that avoid the cost, the publicity, and the possible interference of the probate process. 14. Death benefits that can be protected from the creditors of the beneficiary, by means of the deposit option. Investment Account Differences 15. Deduction from the capital being invested due to front-end loads of--percent. 16. Low load contract. Deduction from capital limited to state specific state premium tax of--percent. 17. Life insurance subaccount selection compared to the taxable alternative: Diversification: Asset Allocation: Style: Choices: Number of Managers: Number of Subaccounts: Money Manager Review and Replacement Policy: 18. Multiple fund families as opposed to one. 19. Having a manager of managers overseeing hiring and firing of subaccount money managers. 20. No need to track cost basis. 21. Ability to move among subaccounts without income tax or expense concerns. 22. Ability to rebalance manually without expense, income tax, or cost basis concerns. 23. Availability of automatic rebalancing feature. 24. Availability of a guaranteed principal, guaranteed interest account guaranteeing a minimum interest rate of--percent. 25. Availability of fixed maturity accounts providing a guaranteed interest rate for funds placed in them for from--year to--years. 26. Not having to avoid adding capital prior to mutual fund distribution dates. 27. Not having to be concerned about embedded capital gains in mutual funds. 28. Not having to be concerned with forced capital gains, which can happen when many shareholders of mutual funds leave during a down market leaving the remaining share holders to pay tax on investments liquidated to cash out the departing shareholders. 29. Not having to worry about inadvertent triggering of the alternative minimum tax because of uncontrollable distributions. 30. Not being exposed to the possibility of having to pay capital gains taxes, even in years when mutual fund account values have decreased. 31. Not being able to book losses for income tax purposes to reduce current income taxes. 32. Not having to be concerned that mutual fund distributions can cause the loss of tax exemptions, tax deductions, and tax credits, and higher taxation of social security income. 33. Not having to manage for step-up in cost basis at death, when it may or may not exist at that time. 34. Not having to be concerned that mutual fund distributions may eliminate the possibility of using IRAs and Roth IRAs. 35. Not having to worry about the fact that mutual fund distributions in one year may require an increase in estimated tax payments throughout the following year. 36. Not having to be concerned about the intangible taxes levied in some states against other assets. Risk Management Differences 37. A life insurance death benefit at death protecting against the risk of death during a market downturn. 38. A guaranteed interest account providing a 3 percent minimum interest guarantee to use to avoid bond fund volatility. 39. The fact that the guaranteed interest account is a part of the insurance company's general account. 40. The availability of various risk reducing riders paid for with the tax-free earnings on the investment account. Disability waiver of policy costs: Living benefit riders that offer access to death benefit values upon mental or physical incapacity: Living benefits provided by any other living benefit rider such as Long Term Care or Guaranteed Minimum Withdrawal Benefits (GMWB) 41. The ability to potentially provide income tax free retirement income (however difficult to manage) by making withdrawals up to cost basis followed by policy loans. Contractual Differences 42. Some states provide some degree of creditor protection of life insurance assets from the contract owner's creditors. See your attorney. 43. Assets in the subaccounts of a life insurance contract are not subject to the claims of the insurance company's creditors. 44. The promises of the insurance company outside of the subaccounts are backed by the full faith and credit of the insurance company. 45. Life insurance assets typically are not counted as being available to pay dependent's education expenses on the college aid forms, whereas other funds often are. 46. Life insurance qualifies for 1035 income tax-free exchanges making it possible for a contract owner to move, either wholly or partially, from one life insurance provider to another, without interrupting the income tax deferral. 47. Life insurance policies may be 1035 income tax-free exchanged into annuities. This offers the opportunity to continue the shelter of any life insurance policy gains. Note that the gains have been converted from being income tax-free, if paid as life insurance policy death benefit, to being merely deferred in the annuity contract. The 1035 tax-free exchange also can be used to carry over losses of life insurance policies into annuities, to provide more income tax-free distributions of return of cost basis. 48. During life, life insurance contract owners can dictate when, and if, income taxation will occur and thus can control income taxes, whereas taxable portfolio owners have much less control of taxable distributions. 49. The ability to apply for a life insurance contract, await delivery of the actual contract, and then have a contractual right to review the contract for some period of time, usually at least ten days, and return it for a full refund if it does not meet policyowner expectations or requirements. 50. The life insurance application process requires financial and medical underwriting.
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|Title Annotation:||Part 3: INSURED SOLUTIONS|
|Publication:||Tools & Techniques of Retirement Income Planning|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2007|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 10: role of income annuities.|
|Next Article:||Chapter 12: the basics of retirement vehicles.|