2 Problems and 3 Strategies Wall Street Just Isn't Talking About

When it comes to investing, there are a few things Wall Street is keeping secret from you. Find out what they've been hiding from you.

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By Mark J. Kohler

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The following excerpt is from Mark J. Kohler and Randall A. Luebke's book The Business Owner's Guide to Financial Freedom. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound

Let's get to the heart of why you and I can't get independent advice from Wall Street advisors: They're too addicted to the fees and the love of money. And while making money is why we own our businesses, consumers need to know the truth about how this industry works and what's going on behind the curtain.

In the investment industry, there are two cost structures, or powers at work, that consumers know very little about. These two combine to undercut the average investor. This is why you feel like your retirement accounts and any such goal to use Wall Street products is a waste of time and money!

Related: 10 Pieces of Financial Advice I Wish I Knew in My 20s

1. Annual fund operating expenses (fund fees)

In America today, there are an estimated 9,500 mutual funds, with more created every day. The internal fees associated with these investments vary just as widely. I'm not bashing fees per se. Certainly, everyone needs to be paid, and no one's opposed to paying for value. The problem is, most of these mutual funds charge a lot of fees but don't deliver an equal value The fees taken by the mutual fund managers and companies can be off the chart!

Based on a 2011 Forbes study titled "The Real Cost of Owning a Mutual Fund," author Tony Robbins summarizes that "If the fund is held in a nontaxable account like a 401(k), you're looking at total costs of 3.17 percent a year! If it's in a taxable account, the total costs amount to a staggering 4.17 percent a year!"

The result is that your "carefully chosen" mutual fund, selected by your advisor or broker, can barely exceed the market returns of a no-load index fund. In fact, Robert Arnott of Research Affiliates reports that 96 percent of mutual funds failed to beat the market over a 15-year period in large part due to these excessive fees!

Bottom line: We're doomed before we even get started when we trust in the investment advice of our so-called "independent advisors."

2. Administrative fees (plan fees)

If you didn't think mutual fund fees were bad enough, let's add talk about the administrative fees of a 401(k) (the vehicle that holds your mutual funds). Again, Robbins exposed this scheme, stating, "You've got to hand it to these providers: They're truly ingenious when it comes to dreaming up different ways to siphon off the money in your 401(k)! Just to be clear, we're not referring here to the absurdly high fees you're being charged by the mutual funds in your 401(k) plan. These are the additional fees that you're also being charged by the plan provider that's administering your 401(k)." Administrative fees can range from 1.6 to 7.75 percent or more, and again, that's on top of the actual mutual fund fees.

Related: 10 New Ideas for Making Money on the Side

Three strategies your advisor won't talk about

You'll never hear your advisor discuss the following three strategies, at least voluntarily -- and if they do, they will downplay, disregard and outright discourage you from considering them. And yet, these three strategies will allow you to build for your future while growing your greatest asset of all: your business.

1. Investing in your own business more aggressively

Your business can be your most valuable asset, at present and/or potentially in the future. We believe it will become the vehicle that drives you to your financial freedom. Why not maximize its value cautiously and carefully? You need to find ways to optimize your business more fully and feed, or "fund," a diverse array of assets that will give you financial flexibility and ultimate freedom.

Related: 10 Financial Mistakes Rich People Never Make

2. Buying and managing rental real estate -- even passively

Real estate is such an important part of wealth building. More specifically, rental real estate has incredible tax benefits, generates cash flow and builds tax-deferred equity, and it can even do so using leverage and the bank's money.

Real estate should be included in your portfolio (and I'm not talking about a REIT), but your investment advisor won't tell you that. They don't get a commission for recommending you buy a building to rent back to your business operations, a duplex where your child is going to college, a real estate project next to your parents where you travel twice a year or a few houses to rent in an upcoming neighborhood.

3. Self-directing your retirement accounts and investing in what you know best

One of the best-kept secrets on Wall Street is that you can self-direct your 401(k) or IRA assets in vehicles of your own choosing. But, the last thing the large brokers/dealers want you doing is taking over your IRA or 401(k) and investing in what you know best. If Wall Street was really looking out for your best interests, they'd give you this option.

Sometimes you'd be wiser to redeploy your 401(k) or IRA in investments you know more about rather than a mutual fund. That's right, invest directly inside your retirement account maintaining the structure and continue to make annual contributions within your overall tax strategy.

Here are just a few ideas of what you could do inside your retirement account without taxes, transfer fees or penalties:

  • Invest in a trust deed note and lend someone money to buy real estate, yet be in first position with the collateral to foreclose if they don't pay
  • Purchase a rental property and even borrow up to 60 percent from a bank in a nonrecourse loan. This can ensure cash flow going back into your retirement account with no personal guar­antee with your own credit
  • Invest in a racehorse, ranch or farming operation
  • Buy gold, silver or other precious metals
  • Invest in small business, real estate development or an online business, primarily owned and managed by someone you know personally and trust.
  • Start your own franchise owned by your 401(k) where you are still allowed to work in the business for a salary under the ROBS strategy.
Mark J. Kohler

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Author, Attorney and CPA

Mark J. Kohler is a CPA, attorney, co-host of the podcasts Main Street Business and Directed IRA Podcast and a senior partner at both the law firm KKOS Lawyers and the accounting firm K&E CPAs. He is also a co-founder of Directed IRA Trust Company. He is the author of The Tax and Legal Playbook, 2nd Edition and The Business Owner's Guide to Financial Freedom.

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