I explained in yesterday’s blog entry that it has been four years since William Bernstein drew our attention to the grave flaws in most retirement planning tools. The tools have been proven dangerous to the aspiring retirees who make use of them. We need to get them fixed or taken off the market altogether.
How do we get from where we are today to where we need to be?
I noted yesterday that it is not one or two or three retirement planning tools that are flawed. It is most of them. There are scores of calculators and studies reporting bad numbers to aspiring retirees. We need to get them all off the market.
It sounds like quite a challenge, and it is certainly fair to say that this effort is going to take a good bit of time and a good bit of work. I don’t think that our “Save the Retirements!” initiative will turn out to be quite so daunting an endeavor as it might appear to be on first impression, however.
We have been discussing the flaws of the retirement planning tools for fours years now in the Financial Freedom Community discussion boards. In all that time, no one has come up with a single reasoned argument or a single sliver of historical data supporting the la-la land assumptions used in these calculators and studies. How then is it that the tools have not already been taken off the market?
The thing that has kept the false studies and calculators around for so long is that there are so many of them. Ask the creator of Tool A to report what the historical data says accurately, and he says: “Oh, there are lots of other tools saying just the same thing.” Ask one of the others to fix his tool, and he says: “Hey, Tool A says just the same thing, why should I be singled out?”
The flawed retirement planning tools today all stand together, and the flawed retirement planning tools someday will all fall together. Persuade the creator of one or two of these tools to make the necessary corrections, and all of the others will feel exposed. Fix one inaccurate calculator, and you fix them all. Fix one inaccurate study, and you fix them all.
So we don’t actually need to fix scores of bad retirement planning tools. We only need to fix a few, and the ball will be rolling on its way to where we want it to go.
How do we get those first few studies fixed?
It’s not going to happen as the result of me insisting on action in my blog entries. We need the sort of pressure that can be brought to bear by getting big-time publicity directed at the problem. We need an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times.
That’s not something we can pull off in a day or a week or a month. You don’t get two chances to pitch an idea to a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. We need to build our case until it is absolutely rock-solid and absolutely clear and absolutely compelling. When the case is strong enough, then we pull the trigger and contact a reporter at the Wall Street Journal and watch the dominos start to fall.
I don’t mean that we need to build our case on the merits. That case is rock-solid today. What we need to do is to think through how best we can present the case to make the story compelling to readers of the Wall Street Journal. What is it that the typical reasonably informed investor most needs to know about the flaws of today’s retirement planning tools? How can we illustrate the problem so that the importance of the story can be conveyed in the fewest possible words?
Answering those questions should be our focus for the next few months. First, we determine how it is that we need to present our case. Then we make a few test runs, getting our story placed in smaller and more accessible media outlets. Then we take our “Save the Retirements!” story to The Big Show.
It’s time for a product recall. Let’s all put our heads together and come up with some creative ideas for getting the word out to the people who most need to be warned of the dangers of today’s highly misleading and highly dangerous retirement planning tools.