Here are ten angles that we might pursue in our efforts to get publicity for the “Save the Retirements!” initiative:
1) The Consumer Protection Angle: Think of what would happen to the chief executive officer of a company who made safety claims that he knew to be false for a trampoline or for a diving board. He would face serious financial liabilities or possibly even jail time, right? Should the rules be so different for those who knowingly or negligently put forward false claims about the historical stock-return data that cause thousands of busted retirements?
2) The Paradigm Breakdown Angle: The discrediting of the conventional-methodology safe withdrawal rate claims has implications far beyond the busted retirements that are likely to be a direct result of the false claims. The same analytical errors responsible for the flaws in today’s retirement planning tools are the cause of many other misperceptions of what the historical stock-return data says about how to invest successfully for the long run. What is really at issue is the replacement of the Stocks-for-the-Long-Run Investing Paradigm with a new and more realistic understanding of how to invest successfully for the long term.
3) The “Rise of the Internet Discussion Board as a Powerful Communications Medium of the Future” Angle: Scores of community members helped us identify the flaws of today’s retirement planning tools during our four-year research project. This experience shows how the internet discussion-board can come to serve as an important communications medium of the future.
4) The Emotional Investor Angle: A core premise of the Efficient Market Theory is that investors generally pursue their self-interest in rational ways. We have generated a great deal of evidence to the contrary during The Great Safe Withdrawal Rate Debate. We have seen that in many circumstances investors are willing to suffer large financial losses rather than face realities that cause them emotional discomfort, even in cases in which those realities relate to something as objective in nature as the calculation of a number. I think it is fair to conclude from our experiences of the past four years that investing is primarily an emotional endeavor.
5) The “Triumph of Common Sense” Angle: We have seen many cases of “experts” getting tripped up by things they thought they knew for sure which turned out to be just not so. In contrast, we have seen numerous cases of ordinary investors who possessed greater insight into what works because they employed their common sense to the task of developing investing strategies in ways that the “experts” did not.
6) The “Everything Old Is New Again” Angle: Many of our findings are in an important sense not new. Many community members at first found them shocking because our findings are so at odds with the conventional investing wisdom of today. But many of our findings are very much in tune with the conventional wisdom of earlier eras. We have even turned up comments by Benjamin Graham (co-author of the classic investing guide entitled Security Analysis) endorsing the long-term timing concept!
7) The Self-Deception Angle: The promoters of today’s retirement planning tools are often fooling themselves as much as they are fooling the aspiring retirees who use their tools to plan their retirements. This is a case where the guy who is selling the defective trampoline has one of his dangerous products in his own backyard for his own kids to jump around on.
8 ) The Reluctant Heroes Angle: William Bernstein, author of The Four Pillars of Investing, and Dallas Morning News Columnist Scott Burns are heroes to our movement for telling it straight on the safe withdrawal rate matter. Still, neither has done much to publicize what they know about the false safe withdrawal rate claims put forward in many of today’s retirement planning tools. It’s obviously a big story likely to affect the financial futures of millions. Why haven’t Burns and Bernstein (and others who have gone public with their knowledge of the flaws of the existing tools) done more to publicize the matter?
9) The “Media Watchdogs Who Didn’t Bark” Angle: It shouldn’t be entirely our job to publicize the flaws of today’s retirement planning tools. Given how long the flaws in the existing tools have been public knowledge, shouldn’t there have been lots of articles written about them long before now? I sure think so. Why is it that media watchdogs have been revealed as toothless when it comes to protecting the public from misleading and dangerous investing research?
10) The “Failure of the Investing Research Community” Angle: What ever happened to the concept of peer review? Some of the names attached to the flawed retirement planning tools are respected names in academia. How is it that they came to employ such transparently absurd assumptions in the retirement planning tools they helped build? How is it that they failed to learn of the flaws in these tools in a timely way?