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How to Tell You’re Not Retirement Ready

For most of us, retirement seems like this far-off thing, this thing that will happen to us one day, when we’re old and gray, but not something we really need to worry about now. That kind of thinking is really dangerous though, because as we all know, time goes by quickly- all too quickly.

Sure, you might be young and in the prime of your working game right now, but before you know it, it will be time to start preparing for retirement. And, the truth is, if you haven’t saved enough by that point, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening.

Hopefully, you have already started putting SOME money aside, but if you’re over 35 or so, you really need to be amping up your efforts. Below, we’ll share some tell-tale signs that you’re not preparing for retirement seriously enough, and, if you find that these signs apply to you, it’s definitely time to start taking your retirement planning more seriously.

Sign #1: You Can’t Pay for Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses Easily

What would happen if you suddenly got sick or needed surgery and had to visit the doctor How would you pay for it? Would you finance it or would you be able to pay for it out of pocket, even if it meant dipping into your retirement savings?

If you fall into the first category, of having to finance it, you’re in trouble! Medical bills are costly, yes, but they’re a reality, a reality you’re probably going to face a lot more often as you near retirement age.

If you’re already struggling and don’t have funds to fall back on for situations like this one, then you definitely need to be more stringent about saving for retirement and about saving in general!

Sign #2: You’re Swimming in Debt

Debt is a serious problem among Americans of all ages. However, it becomes even more serious when you’re getting close to retirement age and you’re still swimming in it.

This is a pretty good indicator that a large chunk of your income is going to paying off debt, which is not what you should be focused on at this point in your life.

If you’re struggling with debt, stop it from mounting by curtailing your spending and get out of it as best you can. The sooner you can do that, the sooner you can start saving seriously for what matters most- retirement.

Sign #3: You Make Impulse Purchases

Finally, if you find that you’re still making a lot of impulse purchases, especially those of the expensive variety, this is a big warning sign that you’re not thinking about what’s truly important and about your future.

It’s time to grow up, to stop spending, and to start saving.Otherwise, retirement is going to be burdensome, and that’s really the opposite of what it should (and could!) be if you start saving seriously now.

 

Show Us the Money – Fortune 500 Companies Keep $2.1 Trillion in Offshore Tax Havens

Fortune 500 companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in profits offshore to avoid US taxes that would amount to an estimated $620 billion tax bill, according to a report by the public interest research and advocacy organization, Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).

The study used the companies’ public financials filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reach their conclusions. Nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of top American companies according to gross revenue maintain tax havens in countries like Singapore, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Switzerland, Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Parking money overseas means the companies defers their tax bill until they repatriate the money back into the US. Companies avoid paying taxes by booking profits to a tax haven because US tax laws allow them to defer paying taxes on profits that they report are earned abroad until the money comes back to the United States. But there are no deadlines to when the profits should be repatriated, meaning the profits can sit overseas, tax-free, indefinitely.

What makes the whole situation more egregious is that profits booked as offshore often remain onshore. There is not an imaginary stockpile of billions sitting in an account in Bermuda. Most of the profits reported as overseas are earning interest in US banks or invested in onshore assets but are registered to foreign subsidiaries.

According to the study, the top Fortune 500 offenders include:

 

  • Apple holds $181.1 billion offshore through three tax havens.
  • General Electric has $119 billion offshore in 18 tax havens.
  • Microsoft is holding $108.3 billion in five tax havens.
  • Pfizer has $74 billion distributed through 151 subsidiaries.
  • Google reported operating 25 subsidiaries in tax havens in 2009, but the CTJ’s findings discovered that Google only discloses two in Ireland. The amount of cash the company reported offshore grew exponentially from $7.7 billion to $47.4 billion.
  • PepsiCo kept $37.8 billion offshore through 132 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens.
  • Bank of America reported having 264 subsidiaries in 2013 but disclosed only 22 in 2014, holding $17.2 billion offshore.
  • American Express has reported $9.7 billion offshore through 23 subsidiaries.
  • Nike holds $8.3 billion offshore through three subsidiaries.
  • Morgan Stanley holds $7.4 billion offshore via 210 subsidiaries.
  • Walmart reported operating no tax havens yet the CTJ found them to have 75 tax haven subsidiaries not included in its SEC filings. According to the report, “Over the past decade, Walmart’s offshore income has grown from $6.8 billion in 2005 to $23.3 billion in 2014.”

“At least 358 companies, nearly 72 percent of the Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the end of 2014,” the study reported.

There are no incentives for these companies to repatriate the money and pay US taxes, therefore, the money “sits” overseas. Earlier this year Obama proposed a 14 percent mandatory tax on the stockpiled profits and a 19 percent minimum tax on foreign earnings going forward which has met with opposition from Congress.

 

5 of The Biggest Suspected Corporate Pyramid Schemes

Although most developing pyramid schemes are blacklisted and crushed by the Federal Trade Commission, there are still a couple that successfully manage to swindle hardworking individuals off their hard earned money. According to FTC officials, the schemes occasionally manage to penetrate the market and take advantage of people who find it difficult to differentiate between a legitimate business and a pyramid scheme. So, what’s a pyramid scheme? How is it different from regular, legitimate businesses?

Going by the commission’s definition, a pyramid scheme is a “an establishment or model of business that promises investors or consumers huge profits not from any actual investment of sales, but rather from recruiting more members into the organization”. It may sound simple- but it’s definitely way more complicated than you think. Some companies use this system of businesses, but still manage to maintain legitimate operations- consequently making it harder for the FTC and judicial system to make informed and definite decisions. In fact, the FTC has been engaged in many prolonged legal battles due to this, with some being concluded in favor of the businesses.

Here are 5 of such cases involving big corporations which have been suspected of conducting pyramid schemes:

1. Amway

Amway, a 50 year company, which was even recently ranked as the world’s most profitable direct selling firm by Direct Selling News, has always attracted a fair share controversial legal battles- including overseas- on pyramid schemes. In a particularly interesting case in 1979, the FTC made a ruling that Amway was not a pyramid scheme since payments were not made to
distributors for recruiting new salesmen and women. In fact, this alone changed FTCs definition of pyramid schemes to date.

2. Herbalife

Herbalife has lately been facing a significant number of allegations on being a corporate pyramid scheme. In addition to being investigated by the DOJ, SEC and FTC, it was recently declared an illegal pyramid scheme in Belgium. Additionally, back in the year 2004, it was subjected to a serious class-action lawsuit by its distributors who were frustrated by its inability to provide a concrete opportunity to make a profit.

3. Mary Kay

Although Mary Kay has been in the FTC watch-list for a while now, one of its most controversial moments was when Virginia Sole-Smith, a writer, referred to it as “The Pink Pyramid Scheme”- through a story published by Harper’s Magazine. In a subsequent interview, the writer further emphasized on her piece saying that its distributers only make money from recruiting other sales people and commissions from orders made by recruits. Interestingly, FTC maintains that the commissions paid on actual sales are completely legal.

4. Nu Skin Enterprises

Over the past two decades, Nu Skin has been at the center of a legal storms, not only in the United States, but also in China. In addition to being investigated by a Chinese government agency and subsequently dismissed as a pyramid scheme by the Chinese media in 2014, the company was the main subject in a pyramid scheme report published by Citron Research in 2012. In the 1990s, it was subjected through legal battles after being investigated by the FTC and the states of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Although it was forced to make settlements, it refused to admit to any wrongdoing.

5. USANA Health Sciences

Unlike the previous companies, USANA couldn’t take pyramid scheme allegations lying down. It sued Barry Minkow, a fraud investigator who was previously a stock-fraud felon, for publishing and distributing a 500 page report on the company’s alleged fraudulent pyramid scheme activities in 2007. The two parties agreed on a settlement but that hasn’t stopped the FBI and SEC from investigating the company.

Interestingly, all the mentioned companies are still active despite facing numerous pyramid scheme allegations. Since there are many others which fall in the same category of companies, individuals are advised to be extremely vigilant as they assess individual companies before committing themselves.