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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode
  • Reach out to a new CPA by articulating your desire to learn. Ask questions and gather information about the best approach to various situations. This breaks the ice far better than a this-is-how-we-do-it-so-get-used-to-it approach.
  • Avoid fighting fire with fire. When you receive negative communication, take a deep breath. Hostility is unprofessional. Additionally, you could burn potentially valuable bridges.
  • When in doubt, let the client judge. Trying to pry them away from another COI is petty. Instead of bristling, articulate your strategy clearly and transparently. Leave the decision-making to them.
  • Many conflicts can be prevented with proactive communication. Each time you onboard a new client, reach out to their CPA. When positive professional relationships form, the client receives optimal value. In time, you may receive referrals, too.

Executive Summary:

Welcome back to the Retirement Tax Services Podcast! Steven’s topic today is somewhat controversial: Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel and his billion-dollar IRA.

Selling his eBay shares to finance buying shares of other start-ups, Thiel has gone from $2000 to $5 Billion in a tax-free Roth account. Critics assert that IRAs exist solely for non-billionaires to save for retirement. Others mention that no laws were broken.

Steven’s not interested in politics. Instead, he’s been inspired to discuss how you, as an advisor, should use Roth accounts and clear expectations to deliver value to clients.

Peter Thiel & His Roth vs. Realism

We have an article at Retirement Tax Services entitled “7 Reasons Advisors Should Not Do A Client’s Roth Conversion.” If you haven’t read it yet, please do. In fact, read it before continuing here.

Much of the controversy stems from the fact that most Americans lack Thiel-scale financial resources. We can’t utilize a Roth account on so grand a scale.

Thiel bought several PayPal shares for his IRA at $.30 in 2001. Afterward, when eBay bought PayPal out for $19 per share in 2002, he received a gain of $31.5 million, tax-free. Apparently, there were early Facebook shares in the mix, as well.

Anyone interested in finance took note of Thiel’s massive windfall. Politics aside, it can be tempting to tout his success.

You can almost read the email in your head: “Hey, did you hear about Peter Thiel’s Roth account netting $5 billion in tax-free income? Come work with XYZ Financial and we can help you set up your own Roth IRA.”

However, that’s a terrible idea: Leading with a famous example to draw people in creates dramatic, often unrealistic expectations. You may not intend to mislead them. However, odds are that they’ll ignore your disclaimers.

You can be as upfront as possible about how unlikely such gains are. Regardless, some prospects and clients will still hear you saying, “Come on in! Let’s make your $5 billion.”

Don’t Use Peter Thiel To Sell Snake Oil

It can be great when events in the news drive tension to financial or tax planning. However, you must be extremely careful in these times.

In the 19th century, con artists roamed the rural US in theatrical wagons. They sold snake oil (that didn’t always come from snakes) as a miracle cure-all. Getting labeled a “snake oil salesman” is still unflattering today.

Don’t risk disillusioned clients calling you this. Even when they’ve deceived themselves, they’ll blame you (sometimes as publicly as possible). In other words, trendy, no-substance marketing gimmicks are never worth it.

Sidestep any urge to promote Peter Thiel’s economic adventures to prospects. Nix trying to cash in on wild economic headlines in general, while you’re at it. No short-term promotional benefit is worth permanently poisoning your professional reputation.

It’s okay to cite a past success that you’ve had a part in. Usually, it’s fine to mention a fellow advisor’s successes, too.

Regardless, as quickly as possible, learn all you can about the prospect or client you’re talking to. Quantify what tax planning could deliver them in their specific situation.

Next, explain how you’re going to help them along the way. Rather than build unrealistic expectations, be transparently real. Trendy marketing cannot compete with maximum value delivered openly and reliably.

Your Action Items

  • Get tax returns from every client and prospect, every year. This puts you in a great place for offering specifically tailored suggestions. You can potentially quantify what those suggestions will mean for them, as well.
  • Catch Steven’s webinar with Micah Shilanski later this month. If you aren’t sure what to review on a tax return (or your go-to-s haven’t changed in a while), it’s a don’t-miss opportunity. You can register now at
  • Observe your advising from another angle: Are there financial strategies that you find yourself bringing up with clients often? Consider them from the opposite direction: Can you articulate reasons why they wouldn’t be a good idea, in some cases?
  • Leave a 5-star review where you get your podcasts (please). Your feedback helps us grow. That, in turn, helps us deliver more value back to you.

Steven has more Roth realism in this edition of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast. You can contact Steven at

Thank you for listening.


Steven Jarvis:

Hello everyone! And welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast: Financial Professionals Edition. I’m your host, Steven Jarvis, CPA. And in this show, I teach financial advisors how to deliver massive value to their clients through retirement tax planning. On today’s show I want to talk about the article I’m sure you’ve all seen by now, about Peter Thiel and his $5 billion Roth account. The article is almost a month old, so I fully realize I’m not breaking any news here, but I want to talk about it from a different perspective than I have been hearing. As a quick recap, Peter Thiel is one of the original founders of PayPal. And before PayPal made it big Peter purchased a whole bunch of shares of PayPal stock inside a Roth account, which today has left him with a $5 billion balance in that Roth account that is not subject to any income tax. So, not surprising that this made big headlines. Now the initial article and a lot of the immediate reaction was very politically focused and really focused on who should be taxed and how much they should be taxed.

That’s not what I’m going to cover today because that’s not why you’re here and that’s not why your clients come to you. It’s not for your political opinions, I promise. If you let it, ‘tax’ is easily a topic that people will make political. But if you want to deliver value to your clients, the focus has to be on their situation and helping them minimize the amount of tax they are legally required to pay because no matter the political beliefs, what I have found is that people, when they look at their own situation, they are more than happy to pay less in taxes for themselves. Whether perception or reality, most people have a stronger emotional reaction to saving a thousand dollars in taxes than they do in earning a thousand dollars more in returns in their retirement account. So, it just really reinforces that for us individually, taxes can be a very powerful way to deliver value, both quantitatively, as well as qualitatively through the peace of mind and comfort it gives us.

The Importance Of Harvesting Low-Hanging Fruit [02:34]

So, since we are skipping all the political fun of talking about what taxes should or should not be, what am I going to talk about today instead? I want to talk about how even things that seem like simple tax planning ideas to you as an advisor, can be massive value to your clients. And I want to talk about the importance of being intentional when you set expectations with clients and prospects. As a financial advisor, you know all about Roth accounts, Roth conversions might be the single most used tax related theme by advisors across the country. You hear it all the time. The general premise behind a Roth account does not take some high level finance course to understand. And I think at times, because of that, advisors will tell themselves, ‘that’s the low hanging fruit, I need something more complex to set myself apart.’ First of all, it may be low-hanging fruit for you. That doesn’t mean it is for your clients or prospects. And second, low-hanging fruit can still make delicious pies, so don’t ignore it. Your clients come to you because they aren’t sure what to do, when it comes to their finances and saving for retirement. Or because they realize there is value in having a partner to help them in these important areas of their lives. If you read the article – and a lot of the reaction to it – you’ll quickly see that awareness and understanding of Roth IRAs is not the norm outside of the financial planning industry. Which means that for advisors who focus on tax planning, there’s still huge opportunity to deliver value to clients and prospects. Even with what may seem to you like a relatively simple topic. To be clear, simply offering to set up a Roth account is not massive value. That is something people can do on their own, and definitely pay less for it than you are going to charge.

Massive Value Through Clear, Individual-Specific Advice [04:18]


Massive value is helping your clients or a prospect you are working with and hoping to have as a client, understand what making Roth contributions could potentially mean for them in their specific situation. It is not capitalizing on hype; it’s giving individual specific advice. Massive value is definitely not making blanket recommendations that everyone use a particular strategy, whether it’s tax related or otherwise, a good practice is to make sure you can articulate the reasons not to pursue something. Even for strategies that might apply in many or most situations, there are going to be exceptions and you should know them. Specific to Roth conversions we actually have an article on that goes through five reasons not to do Roth conversions. Okay, so going back to the Peter Thiel article, a huge focus of the article was pointing out how Peter was able to use his Roth account in ways that the vast majority of us never could. No one offered to sell me.

PayPal shares for 1/10th of a penny. Would have been nice, didn’t happen. Even though a lot of time was spent on the private placements he had access to purchase. Most of the takeaways I have seen from this article, have been centered around the account he used to do it, which of course was a Roth account. This should be a really great reminder for all of us of the importance of setting expectations, regardless of the topic we are discussing. I talked about it a couple of weeks ago on the show when Penny Phillips was on with me, and in a follow-up episode. But it’s really critical that you get clear with your clients, what it is you are promising to deliver and what you are taking responsibility for. The clearer your expectations are, the more likely it is you can actually deliver on them.

This should always be your approach, but can be even more critical when there are extreme examples out there. Your clients might not come in expecting that the Roth account you help them open is going to wind up at $5 billion. That’s a bit extreme, but if you’re not clear with what they should expect, you’re leaving it up to their imagination. And at some point, they most likely are going to be disappointed if you’ve just left it to their imagination. In that same vein, it can be great to have events in the news that draw attention to financial planning or tax planning. But you need to be very, very careful when such extreme examples are out there. As a reminder, I am not your compliance department, even though I might be about to sound like it, putting out a message like, ‘Hey, did you hear about Peter Thiel’s Roth account where you’re in $5 billion of tax-free income, come work with XYZ financial, and we can help you set up your own Roth IRA.’

That’s a terrible idea, because whether it’s your intention or not, you’re leading with this extreme example to draw people in who are understandably going to expect that you are offering similar results. The advisors I know who crush it with tax planning aren’t using tax planning as a marketing gimmick. It’s not about using even your own most extreme examples of savings to attract additional clients. Definitely use your stories and stories of advisors you know – if you’re newer to this – but as quickly as possible, you should be learning about the prospect or client that you are talking to and quantifying for them in their specific situation, what tax planning might be able to deliver and how you’re going to help them along the way.

Action Items [07:34]

Hey, podcast listeners, are you interested in content with action steps that you can take to deliver massive tax value to your clients? Then you are going to love our powerful training sessions online at Retirement Tax Services, we meet with the top producing highly innovative financial advisors from across the country. We discuss their most pressing tax concerns and strategies on how they can take tax theory and transform it into tax planning for their clients. Register today at:, or click the link in the show notes. Aren’t you ready to start being a part of the conversation? Yeah, I thought so. We’ll see you online.

That leads us nicely into what of course is our most common action item on this show, which is to get tax returns for every client and every prospect you work with. Reviewing a prior year tax return is a great way for you to learn a lot, very quickly about your clients or potential client and put you in a place where you can start offering specific suggestions and potentially quantifying what those suggestions will mean for them. If you aren’t sure what to look for on a tax return or feel like what you do review on a tax return hasn’t changed in a while. I will actually be co-hosting a webinar at the end of July with Micah Shilanski, who was a previous guest on the show and is the co-founder of The Perfect RIA. And we’re going to spend a whole hour talking about how to deliver value through reviewing tax returns.

You can head out to to register. It’s going to be a great event! We will be going through real examples and just for fun, I’ll make sure I have a redacted 1040 that Micah hasn’t seen before, so we can put him on the spot and see what he can do with a brand-new tax return.

The other action item I’ll throw out is that if there are common strategies, whether tax planning or otherwise that you use, and that you feel like you bring up with the majority, if not all of your clients. Make sure you can go through and really clearly articulate the reasons why those wouldn’t be a good idea, or the situations in which those wouldn’t be a good idea. They might be close to universally applicable, but there’s always going to be those exceptions. So, make sure that you are aware of and able to articulate to your clients of, ‘Hey, here’s when I wouldn’t recommend this strategy.’ So that, you know, you’re really taking a specific and individualized approach to how you are making these recommendations to your clients.

All right, thanks for listening everybody. Be sure and go out and leave a five-star review wherever you get your podcasts. Good luck out there, and until next time, remember to tip your server, not the IRS!


The information on this site is for education only and should not be considered tax advice. Retirement Tax Services is not affiliated with Shilanski & Associates, Jarvis Financial Services or any other financial services firms.

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