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In order to understand EXACTLY what’s going on, AND how some people are able to make a LOT of money, tax free…we need to talk about one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE investment accounts, and that would be: A Roth IRA, which stands for Individual Retirement Account.
You’re able to open up one of these accounts and deposit up to $6000 PER YEAR if you’re under the age of 50…and if you’re over 50, you can contribute $7000 per year, if you fall within the certain income brackets. The MASSIVE advantage to doing this is that ALL the money you deposit into this account will grow entirely tax free, after the age of 59.5.
In Peter Thiel’s case, you’re allowed to set up what’s called a SELF DIRECTED Roth IRA…which means, YOU get to invest your money however you want. In 1999, he opened up a Self Directed Roth IRA when he was 32 years old, making very little money, and starting a brand new, tiny company that you may have heard of…called PayPal. He then invested $2000 of his own money within that Roth IRA to buy PayPal shares, valued at 1/10th of 1 cent each…and that, in turn, gave him 1.7 MILLION SHARES to grow tax free within the account. Within 2 decades, that $2000 turned into $5 Billion.
HOWEVER…once news started getting out that people were able to accumulate HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS and BILLIONS of dollars tax free…that inevitably drew criticism from congress, who’s now moving to REMOVE certain aspects, and change the way the Roth IRA is structured.
The first would “limit the total amount of money that can be saved in tax-preferred retirement accounts,” meaning – once your account reaches beyond a certain point – anything ABOVE that amount would be taxed normally.
The second proposal would PROHIBIT the purchase of privately held companies within a Roth IRA, which would eliminate the strategy that Peter Thiel used while making BILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
In fact, congress is “considering reforms, such as banning the use of IRAs to purchase nonpublic investments,” calling it “a good starting point while protecting IRAs for every day Americans to save for their retirement.
Other members of congress say that this is the very spirit of the Roth IRA…and that “Earning a return is exactly the intention of making any investment, and if you can do this in a tax-free account like a Roth IRA, that’s even better. That’s just good tax planning and all perfectly legal.”
There’s no easy “solution” around this, but – from the way I see it – these accounts are far from the norm, very few of them exist – and I’m sure FAR MORE people have done something similar and LOST MONEY, than have blown up to the level where we read about them on the cover of Forbes.
So, I would say – we should do MORE to encourage people to save and invest for their retirement, there should be more education and awareness to incentivize people to take advantage of the resources available to them, and understand that Peter Thiel’s $5 billion account balance doesn’t take away from the average American saving for retirement.
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