Ask any sports fan, and they’ll tell you the same thing: Defense wins games, not offense. No matter how good your offensive plays are, they aren’t enough on their own. You simply can’t win if you can’t defend against your opponents.
As we move further into January, I have the Super Bowl on my mind — but I also have a point to make here. This same principle of good game strategy also applies to growing your net worth. Sure, your main objective is probably to go out there and earn more, save more, invest more, just like the main objective of any game is to score. But the more you earn, the more you may risk losing.
It can be uncomfortable to think about and prepare for, but the fact is no one is immune to risk. You may lose your wealth by becoming sick or injured (whether on the job or not), or by death (especially if you are providing for others who rely on you), or by becoming embroiled in a lawsuit, or simply by market exposure in a down market. There are a million ways to lose your hard earned assets, and it can happen much more quickly than it took to build them. Sadly, most people don’t even consider many of these circumstances (divorce, bankruptcy, your teenager’s car crash) until it’s too late.
That’s why, for many, protecting your wealth is just as important as building it. A strong defense is a necessary part of the team that allows the offense to win games. As with anything in life, there’s no way to completely eliminate risk, but you can put as many barriers as possible between potential creditors and your property.
Depending on your particular circumstances, there are many ways to protect your wealth. For instance, Asset Protection Trusts can be run by an independent trustee, keeping the account safe from most creditors and making it possible to shield assets for your children.
You can also consider transferring assets into a Family Limited Partnership where they are no longer technically owned by you personally and are thus further out of reach of creditors.
You can ensure the continued financial security of yourself and your loved ones with a good disability income insurance and life insurance plan. Planning ahead of time for the worst–a loss in the family–can give someone peace of mind that their family’s well being will not be disrupted. A small percentage of your annual salary may be able to buy a huge amount of safety and comfort for your family by protecting you against loss of income, putting a crucial buffer between you and an unexpected hardship. It may be a challenge to talk about, but these precautions could make all the difference when you and your family need it most. Your insurance advisor should be well versed in the most suitable options for your family.
There are many more options to keep you and your property safe — but only if you take steps to build those defensive walls around your family, yourself, and your wealth. Your financial planner can help you decide exactly which strategies are right for you.
Does setting up a strong defense mean giving up a small percentage of the earnings you are trying to protect? Of course. But investing in the appropriate layers of protection can pay off exponentially in the long term, both in assets that are protected from creditors, and in peace of mind and stress you shouldn’t have to face when you’re already going through a difficult time.
Everyone has different levels of risk tolerance and is comfortable with different amounts of protective investment. As with every financial decision my clients and I face, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, it’s worth asking yourself exactly how meaningful it would be to you to give up a little now in order to set up a strong defense for the future.
Adam Tau is not an attorney and the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal advice or an investment recommendation. Please consult a professional with expertise prior to taking any action.