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Are you trying to learn how to deliver massive tax value to your clients? Then look no further. Retirement Tax Services Podcast, Financial Professional’s Edition is a show hosted by Steven Jarvis, CPA. Steven aims to bridge the gap between tax professionals, financial advisors and their mutual clients in their quest for reducing tax expenses in retirement.
Today we are taking a slight deviation from taxes to discuss legacy planning. Legacy planning is an essential part of any wealth management or financial plan. Done correctly, a legacy plan will ensure that your possessions or wealth will remain with the people to whom you would like to leave them. However, without a legacy plan, you leave your inheritance to chance. To help us discuss this topic in depth is Rod Zeeb, the founder and CEO of The Heritage Institute.
Listen in as Rod explains the difference between the amount of money and the impact you want the money that you leave to have on your children or loved ones, as well as how to navigate this. You’ll learn how to determine what you really want in a legacy plan, the value of collaboration, and why it is important to remember you can’t be an expert at everything.
Steven and his guests share more tax-planning insights in today’s Retirement Tax Services Podcast. Feedback, unusual tax-planning stories, and suggestions for future guests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Thank you for listening.
We’re not overpaying. No, we’re not overpaying. We’re not overpaying anymore. The tax code’s complicated, boring, and overrated. You don’t want that, you want a pro. One thing that you should know: this is a radio show. It’s not tax advice, don’t take it that way.
Steven Jarvis: Hello everyone, and welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services podcast, financial professionals edition. I am your host, Steven Jarvis, CPA. And in this show, I teach financial advisors how to deliver massive value to their clients through tax planning. Really excited for the conversation today because we’re gonna take a slight deviation from taxes and talk about legacy planning. And my guest to talk about this today is Rod Zeeb, who is the founder and CEO of The Heritage Institute, and of a great company called Genace. So, Rob, welcome to the show.
Rod Zeeb: No, thank you, thank you for having me.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, I’m really excited to have you here. I’d love for you to just to kind of give a brief introduction about what these two companies you’ve created do, and then we’ll get into more of the details of how you work with advisors.
Rod Zeeb: Okay, so the two companies. The Heritage Institute trains professionals, trusted professionals, and we got started because I was an attorney, so I’m a recovering attorney, estate planning attorney, and we saw families who did great tax planning, great estate planning, and then the families blew up. And so the Heritage Institute trains professionals, first on just how to be a trusted advisor, and then second, if you have clients that wanna have multigenerational, how to do that, which takes time. And then Genace is the company that we actually do the work. Because a lot of advisors, they look at this and go, “This is really cool, but I don’t have time. So can we work with you?” So what we tell people is, if this is something you wanna do, there’s three options, one, you can go get trained and Heritage will do that, two, we can work with you, or three, find somebody else. But, kinda that’s it.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, I can definitely relate to that. We take a similar approach on taxes. We work with a lot of advisors through our essentials membership to say, “Hey, here’s the resources, you go do it.” And some advisors love that and take it and run with it, and other advisors, to your point, say, you know what, I can spend my time on other things that are my highest and best use, so let’s just partner together and, RTS, you do the work for us. But your focus isn’t on the tax side, even though there’s a tax piece to anytime we’re talking about legacy planning, so talk more about… I love the way you frame this, ’cause you have a very intentional way of talking about how you’re setting up these multigenerational families for success.
Rod Zeeb: It really is driven by what’s the outcome that they’re looking for? So we start with really helping the client clearly identify what their desired outcomes are, how they’re gonna measure it, that they’re getting it, and that they’re having success, and what it means to them. And so like in the estate planning world, when I was doing estate planning, it wasn’t how much money do you wanna leave to your kids, it was what impact do you want the inheritance to have on your kids, which then change how much they get sometimes. Or how it comes. And so then that also naturally leads into things like philanthropy, and then it naturally leads into things like tax planning, because if that’s what you want, how then can we do it most efficiently? So it all kind of blends together. But it starts with, rather than really focus on the money and the assets and the planning part, it starts with, What do you want? What do you really want? And how you gonna measure it?
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, it’s such an important approach to take, because headlines with dollar amounts it seems like are easier to write. You see a lot more of them, to say, “You can save X amount of millions of dollars if you set up this kind of,” whatever it is. But people will then jump to, Let’s just talk about the dollars. And until you have that really clear goal, the way I like to talk about it as far as the tax piece goes, is that taxes should be an important passenger on the bus, they never drive the bus. And so if we don’t know what the goal is, it doesn’t matter what tax strategy you think is most clever, we’ve gotta start with what is that outcome. I like that phrasing for it.
Rod Zeeb: Yeah, and it’s funny, I was talking to one of my friends who did estate planning for years, and back in the ’80s was doing all… That’s when we were doing the family limited partnerships, and, mom and dad own a little bit and they got all this discount stuff. Well then, 15, 20 years later, they all of a sudden had these partnerships with people who didn’t wanna be partners. And so you realized we didn’t look down the road. The desired outcome for the family, it usually was, “We wanna save money and we wanna have the kids working together.” But they didn’t do the second part. It ended up driving them apart.
Steven Jarvis: So what are some things that you train advisors on to help them have this conversation differently, because it’s not just advisors and tax professionals or attorneys that will start with, Hey, how much do you wanna leave? I think a lot of consumers think this way too, of, my legacy is the dollar amount, is how many zeros. So how do you reframe that conversation?
Rod Zeeb: Really, it goes from the… If they say dollars or time, it’s going, “Okay, so what are you gonna do with those dollars?” Is really a great way to start with it. For example, I actually worked with a financial advisor one time who called me and he said, “I want you to walk me through this… ” Even though he’d had the training, he said, “Walk me through it.” And I go, “Okay, fine.” And he goes, “I wanna generate $100,000 of new revenue between now and May.” And this is in August, in one year, so we had nine, ten months to do it. And I knew $100,000 was a number. So I said, “Well, how you gonna do that?” And he goes, “Well, I normally make $10,000 for new clients, I need ten new clients.” “Cool, what are you gonna do if you have that $100,000?” And that’s the question that gets… And he goes, “Well, my wife and I have taken up golf and we love it. We’ve gotten really passionate about it. We wanna take this trip. We’re gonna start Bandon Dunes, which is in Southern Oregon on the beach, go all the way down the coast highway and play like Pebble Beach and all the different things, and end up down in San Diego, at Torrey Pines.”
Rod Zeeb: “It’s gonna take us like… ” They had 15 courses, they had identified. “It’s gonna take like 40 days, 45 days to do this, and that’s what we wanna do.” “Cool, you get 10 new clients, you’ve got time to go take 60 days off to play golf.” And it got really quiet. And he goes “No.” Like, “Oh, so do you really want ten new clients at $100 000, or do you want a schedule that will allow you take 60 days off and go play golf?” That’s where… That’s the shift. It’s the shift from a number to what are you gonna do with that number?
Steven Jarvis: Hey, what a great example of changing that conversation, that even if somebody is starting with a dollar amount because if you would have just ran with his dollar amount and said, “Okay great, let’s talk about how to get you 10 clients,” and maybe you could have helped them do that, and he would have been successful in terms of getting to that $100 000, but to your point would he would have actually accomplished his goal? And I’m sure you see this all the time working with people on estate planning to your earlier story of, “Great. We dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s on whatever plan we initially came up with but we get partway through and realize this didn’t do what we wanted it to.”
Rod Zeeb: Right, right. And that’s that next falling. It’s what we call the appropriate next question. To get them to clarify, “Man, what do you really want out of this and how are you gonna know you’re getting it?” That’s the other piece to this? How are we gonna measure it? Measure success?
Steven Jarvis: Yeah. So what are some examples you’ve come across of measuring success in terms other than dollars? I think that’s just kind of a default for people as their success, especially in our country is measured by the dollar signs.
Rod Zeeb: Well, if you ask my son, I guess Mica knows him but you don’t. My son Ryan, he had a case where a couple who had been planning for retirement and they were both professionals, making a lot of money, and they wanted to buy a house in the Hamptons, on the beach in… On the shore, I guess it is in Hamptons. Which is not an inexpensive investment.
Rod Zeeb: So what they did really well, they saved up, they’re all ready to go, but at age 64, they had a little bump in the road and that was, they got a divorce. And all of sudden the husband’s then talking to the financial advisor and he’s got half what he had before, and so the advisor’s going, “We can’t buy the house in the Hamptons. That’s just… ” And this guy is devastated, and then Ryan want back to that same question I asked you earlier. He said, “What are you gonna do with the house?” And he said, “Well, I’ve taken up painting and I really wanna do some painting and stuff. So I’m gonna take two weeks and I just wanna paint. And alright, my kids, my grandkids will want them to each… To have a couple of weeks where they can come visit me at the shore.” “What else?” “Well, that’s it?”
Rod Zeeb: “Okay, so you really don’t need a house at the Hamptons. You need a house at the Hamptons for a month and yeah okay, so if we can budget in enough to lease a house at the Hamptons for a month, are you good?” “Yeah.” So the shift then became, it wasn’t the measurement of success wasn’t that he have a house at the Hamptons. The measurement of success is, “Can I spend two weeks painting at the Hamptons and have my kids there?” Does that make sense? It really goes back to what are you gonna do with that money or the time?
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, this is one of those areas where I love collaborating with financial advisors on tax planning, because for a lot of people, by the time they get to a tax prepare they are very focused on the numbers, they are focused on, “Hey, can you help me get a refund?” The conversation can get steered a lot more to taxes and I do my best to try to steer it other directions and incorporate some of this but financial advisors are in such a great position to learn these things and have these conversations, to have this higher-level discussion and ask the appropriate next question of, “Well, what is it you’re gonna do with that?”
Rod Zeeb: Yeah.
Steven Jarvis: So that by the time we’re incorporating the tax planning piece or the estate planning piece we have this much clearer idea of what those desired outcomes are.
Rod Zeeb: Right. And that’s really, as you think about the client’s decision-making process, people have a really hard time making a decision and acting on it until they’ve identified, they really know what they’re getting and what the value is to them to get it. And so that’s part of what we train is having the conversation so that you trigger all of that. You help them identify what they want, how they’re gonna measure it, what the value is to them for them to get it, and now when you tell them it’s gonna cost x number of dollars or so much time or whatever, price is only an issue in the absence of value. If they’ve set the value, then it’s not an issue. And they’ll actually do it. That’s the issue. How many times have we seen people, you’ve done great planning or whatever and nothing happens? They go, “Well, that really sounds cool,” but it never gets signed, or it doesn’t get done.
Steven Jarvis: Definitely see that with tax planning where the idea sounds great, “Of course we wanna save that much money,” but then when it comes to the execution, the follow-through, the reporting, these steps we have to take that… It just kinda falls by the wayside, because there’s not that real strong connection to, “If I follow through on this plan, here’s how it’s gonna impact my life.”
Rod Zeeb: Right. And this I’ve already identified, “This is the value to me to get this.” So now when you say, “This is what it’s gonna take.” It happens, which is nice.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah. So Rod, you spend a lot of time working with financial advisors doing this training. What are some other things that stand out to you as far as the mindset shifts or the approach changes that you’re seeing from the majority of advisors?
Rod Zeeb: I think part of it is, there’s a mindset shift that’s coming from the clients that’s driving the advisors to have to look more at the outcomes and the impacts and things. It started maybe a decade or more ago in philanthropy when we saw the rising generation starting to get involved. And up until then, my generation and the older generation, whatever, if they wanted to help the community they gave it to United Way, and they expected the organization to do good things. The rising generation came in and said, “I wanna know how my dollar is impacting.” They wanted accountability and it was a whole shift of, “How is my dollar getting In making a difference?” And that whole shift to what the impact is or the outcomes are as opposed to just doing a good thing has permeated everything. That’s… For a lot of financial advisors it became, again, driven by the clients. They started going, “Wait, my wealth is more than just my money.” And so now we have wealth advisors. And they’re looking at a bigger picture. So… But that shift is really… And it’s permeated everything. I was talking to an attorney in Salt Lake named David York, who’s a great architect attorney, and he described it this way. He said, “When I first started I thought that I was the first person that the client should see,” so we gotta get their estate in order ’cause they may die tomorrow. You just never know.
Rod Zeeb: And he said, “But what I realized was over time I did really good estate planning, but it may be running counter to what the clients really wanted. And so what I really needed to know is what do they really want and then do the estate planning instead of the other way around,” he said. So my first model was I focused on the assets and the taxes and the family purpose was off to the side, now we focus on the family purpose and then that drives the assets and the taxes. And I think that shift is something that we’re doing a lot of conversations about because that’s being driven by the client, so it’s not going away and particularly it’s being driven by the younger generation, so it’s really not going away, no one’s gonna end up with all the money.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah. So in your experience, not only is this a more effective approach, but really it’s what consumers are looking for. If advisors are listening to this and their clients aren’t already asking for this, they probably will be soon.
Rod Zeeb: Yeah.
Steven Jarvis: So this is just a shift in what consumers are after.
Rod Zeeb: Yeah. And you don’t want them to hear from one of their friends that, “Well, my advisor is doing this.” Yeah.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah. Yeah. We talk about that all the time on taxes of, “Okay, what happens when someone else asks your client, ‘Oh, when was the last time an advisor looked at your tax return?” And they should be able to say, “Oh, my advisor looks at my return every year.” But if you can’t give that… If they can’t give that answer, then another advisor is gonna be very appealing to them.
Rod Zeeb: Right.
Steven Jarvis: I love this framework for getting that family purpose really clear for starting there. As you work with advisors, do you see this training all the way through to the end? Do you help them with that transition to, “Okay, now we need to get into the specifics,” and how does the estate gets set up and what are the tax planning strategies? Or do you focus more on the overall methodology or approach?
Rod Zeeb: We focus more on getting them to the right questions and how to get them the knowledge and stuff. We don’t get into the technical side. Even though I’m an attorney, I don’t do the estate planning attorney… Estate tax stuff anymore. Although then I’m in a position when I talk to the estate attorney, I can say, “Okay, this is what I’ve seen happen.” So the financial advisor becomes a translator to the other advisors by saying, “This is what they really want and now how can we do this?” But no, we don’t get into, “Are you gonna do this trust or that trust?” or whatever. We leave that to bringing… And that’s when we talk about the collaborative team. You need to have more than one person probably to do this right, get the right collaborative team.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, I love that. So this isn’t… Like so many things, this isn’t a checklist of, “Here’s all the pieces of paper you need in place or all the forms you need to sign.” It’s training advisors on how to approach this in a way that delivers massive value to their clients and then being that coordinator for, “Now let’s go work with your estate planning attorney and as the advisor, I’ll make sure they really know what those desired outcomes are.” Or, “Let’s go work with the tax repairer and make sure that these planning strategies are getting implemented and reported correctly.” I like to remind people all the time that if it doesn’t get reported to the IRS, it may as well not have happened.
Rod Zeeb: And that’s one of… The people that I worked with, both the tax people and the estate planning people, when I brought the case to them, one of the comments I’d hear was, “Now I can plan with a laser beam rather than a shotgun because I know exactly what they’re looking for.” And that opens it up for really good planners to do really good plans when they have a better picture of what the target is.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, for sure. So Rod, what… You were an attorney before you got into training, why the focus on advisors instead of attorneys?
Rod Zeeb: Because it needs everybody, okay? And you really do… When you’re talking about having clients get what they want, they need more than just the estate planning attorney. And really in terms of who’s the person that has the bigger picture of what the client wants, it’s normally the financial advisor or the CPA. The estate planning attorney gets a little picture. And so the financial advisors were in that position in the first place and they’re the person that probably the clients trust the most to be able to tell them everything. It’s easier for them to ask these questions than it is a lot of other people.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah. I can really relate to your answer there because I get the same questions sometimes as I talk about things that can go wrong with tax planning, with tax preparation. I’ll have advisors say, “Well, wait, you’re a CPA. Why aren’t you going and teaching other CPAs how to do this differently?” And very similar to what you’re saying, advisors are in such a good position to spearhead this effort. That if they’ve got the right tools and the right resources, they don’t have to be the technical expert on every piece of it, but they have such a great overall view of their client’s life and that clarity on what are those desired outcomes. As much as sometimes I wish it was otherwise, financial advisors are often in a better position than I am as a tax repairer to say, “Okay, here’s what needs to be done differently,” or, “Here’s where this could go wrong,” or, “Here’s what needs to get communicated.” So that also drives why I spend so much time working with advisors because of that position of trust, that position of insight that they have in their client’s life.
Rod Zeeb: Right. And that’s… ‘Cause what happens when you have a lot of different advisors, we may get… Like as an estate-planning attorney, I may have gotten a completely different story from the client than you did or that the financial advisor ’cause they’re answering the questions that I’m asking and I’m asking only one little niche while the financial advisor has the opportunity to ask the whole thing and really get the full picture and then be able to give everybody else what they need. And then you don’t get… I had one client came in and goes, “My financial advisor said one thing, my attorney said something else, my CPA said something else. Who am I supposed to follow?” I said, “Well, maybe we should tell them all the same story and then find out.” And it was true ’cause when we did that, all of them went, “Well, I didn’t know that. If I knew that then… ” And it was… The plan just fell together really quickly when they all had the same information.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah. That’s one of the coolest things we’ve seen come out of this collaboration that we have with advisors where we work with them to have shared clients that we do the tax planning, and then the advisor collaborates with us is that… It’s like that game of telephone you played as a kid where you sit next to each other and everybody whispers it in their ear and at the other end of it, it’s nowhere close. What’s great about how we work with advisors is I’ll have taxpayers come to me and say, “Hey, before we file my tax return, my advisor told me that we have to get a Roth conversion done before the filing deadline,” and I’m immediately thinking, Well, that’s not how that works, because the Roth conversion had to be done at the end of last year.
Steven Jarvis: But instead of telling them that their advisor doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or this is all wrong, or confusing the client, I say, “Hey, great news, I’ll work really closely with your advisor. Let me get on the phone with them, we’ll get this sorted out and make sure you’re taken care of.” And they say, “Okay, great.” And then the advisor and I can talk and say, “Oh, no, no, no, ho. Here’s what we actually meant.” And we get it all sorted out, and the client doesn’t have to get confused, the client doesn’t have to sort through all those details. But it’s still… Even though… And at that point, I’m picking up the phone, the advisor is still the one that was in that position to see the whole picture, and having that collaboration just avoids that game of telephone.
Rod Zeeb: Well, and what’s great about for the financial advisor is the client now loves them.
Steven Jarvis: Yes.
Rod Zeeb: Because they’re getting what they wanted, and it’s all coming from the financial advisor. So that’s the beauty of this is when it’s done right with collaboration, the financial advisor gets the benefit of all the other expertise for them. They get credit for it.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah. Normally, my guests are financial advisors, I would have thought the episode where I didn’t have a financial advisor, we’d talk less about how great they are, but unfortunately for us, it’s true. That’s just such a key position to be in, and ultimately the client is the one who wins, and so I’m more than happy to have the advisor get the credit as long as we’re getting the tax money done.
Rod Zeeb: Yeah, and this fits everywhere. We train a lot of nonprofit executives.
Steven Jarvis: Oh, interesting.
Rod Zeeb: Because they’re working with clients who have a specific thing that they wanna help, and the more that they can clarify what it is that the client wants to see happen, the donor wants to see happen, they get it done. And a lot of times, philanthropy is not a bad tool for tax planning. So yeah, that’s again, one of those collaborator things. A lot of times in our training we’ll have some financial advisors in a nonprofit, and it’s great insight is to hear from the other person what questions they ask and why they get a different story than with the question I was asking and the story that I got.
Steven Jarvis: It is always interesting to try to compare those stories. So, Rod, for people listening to this episode, if they wanna learn more about what you do and the programs you have, how would they follow up?
Rod Zeeb: For the Heritage Institute, for the training, it’s www.theheritageinstitute.com. You have to have the in there or you get some college somewhere that does driving or something, I don’t know, it’s not us anyway.
Rod Zeeb: And so, yeah, the website’s on there, and there’s a resource page that even if you’re not gonna get the training, there’s a resource page that has a bunch of different resources on it that may be helpful for them in things that they’re doing. The other piece that we talked about with Genace, so a lot of the financial advisors, even after they have the training, they go, “I don’t have time. How do I do this?” That’s the Genace that we talk about, and it’s G-E-N-A-C-E. So it’s Genace. The website is genacegroup.com. That’s really for the financial advisor who says, “My client needs and wants this, I wanna be part of it, but I don’t wanna drive the ship. I want somebody else to be… ” Especially when you started getting into the family meetings, there’s a lot of financial advisors who goes, “I don’t wanna open up Pandora’s box.” And so that… Genace, then, the advisors from Genace are all folks like me that are trained, but we don’t split fees or sell insurance or do anything else, so we just do the heritage piece for a fee, and that also is really comforting for the clients.
Rod Zeeb: One of my clients, one time he asked me a question, I said, “I don’t know but I can find out.” And he said, “You know, you’re the first guy that said that to me, that’s one of the reasons I like you, because I know you can only be an expert at two and a half things.” I have no idea how you can be an expert at a half thing, but I think his comment is right, our clients know we can’t be an expert at everything. And they really appreciate it when the person who is driving the ship brings in the right people when they’re a little bit, either something they don’t wanna do or something that they’re not trained to do.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, yeah, such a great approach. We definitely take a similar approach when it comes to tax planning. So we’ll make sure those get linked in the show notes if you wanna follow up with all the great stuff that Rod is doing.
Rod Zeeb: Cool.
Steven Jarvis: Rod, we always wanna make sure that people take the information we share and turn it into action, ’cause that’s how we get value, so we like to wrap up with action items. So aside from following up and learning more about what you do, what are action items you would recommend to advisors listening from the conversation we had today?
Rod Zeeb: Number one, I think it would be starting with that, just starting with that mindset of not looking at whenever they say a number, asking the next question of, “What are you gonna do with that number?” To try and get to the depth of what do they really want, and that once you get there and they’re starting to talk about their desired outcomes. Then, it’s just a matter of following up with… And these are not brain teaser questions, it’s just the next relevant question of, “What would that mean, how can you do it,” kind of thing.
Rod Zeeb: So I think that’s the number one shift is to start focusing really on helping the client clearly identify what they want and what the value is to them to get it. That’s a huge thing. And the thing is, a lot of times the clients don’t, they know internally, but they really don’t know. They’ll give you a big picture and then the more you ask questions, they’ll go, “Well, no, what I really want is this.” And that just takes a little bit of time. So getting into the mindset of we wanna know what the outcome and the impact is gonna be, and what they’re really looking for there, and then we can do the planning to get them that. That shift right there. And that’s, like I said, that’s being driven by the clients, so that’s something that, especially the younger clients, you’re gonna need to do anyway. But just having that mindset of, “How are we gonna get there?”
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, love that. So making sure you’re leading with the outcome in mind and then asking those next appropriate questions. Don’t just take the initial response at face value, but dig a little deeper, make sure we’re getting to, “Okay, well, what would you do with that? What would that mean for you?” Those are great questions, whether it’s estate planning or tax planning, or just really understanding your client’s life, leading with the outcome in mind, and then asking those great questions.
Rod Zeeb: And one of the things about that last question you ask about, “What would that mean to you?” Always remember that price is only an issue in the absence of value. If you ask what that means to them, and they identify what that means to them, now, when you start talking about the price in either time or money, it’s not as big a deal. If they’ve identified, “This is really important to me.” If they haven’t done that, now you’re having that battle all the time about, “Does it have to cost that much?” So that question of what would that mean to you actually helps both the client and the advisor.
Steven Jarvis: I love that. Rod, I really appreciate you coming on the show today. It’s been great talking to you about this.
Rod Zeeb: Yeah, this has been good. This has been fun.
Steven Jarvis: And for everyone listening, to get more great information, whether it’s about tax planning or other guests that we have, other topics we cover, be sure and follow us on social media. Give us a like wherever you listen to the podcast so our audience can keep growing. And until next time, remember to tip your server and not the IRS.
We’re not overpaying. No, we’re not overpaying. We’re not overpaying anymore. The tax code’s complicated, boring, and overrated. You don’t want that, you want a pro. One thing that you should know: this is a radio show. It’s not tax advice, don’t take it that way.
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