I’m some guy who posts stuff on the internet.
Some people think that I should learn my place. Some people think that I should stop talking back to my betters.
I can’t do that. I think of my fellow community members as my friends. When you learn things that can help out your friends in a big way, you let them know. I will continue to report the safe withdrawal rate accurately. I will continue to post honestly on what the historical stock-return data says about the effect of valuations on long-term returns.
I’ll continue to get flak for doing so too. I think that much is more than fair to say.
The fellow who runs the Clever Dude blog came up with a great solution to the abusive posting problem a few weeks back. There were some abusive posters posting comments on a guest blog entry that I wrote for that blog and the guy who runs it said: “I’d like to invite any and all of you to submit guest posts as well (go to my Contact page) to counter Rob’s article or to write about any other topic you like.”
That’s the right stuff. Civil and reasonable humans work out their differences by talking them over, not by participating in never-ending smear campaigns. I followed by putting forward a similar invitation of my own. I said: “I extend the same offer re space at my blog. I would love to see people contributing guest blogs that offer ideas counter to my investing views. I of course have strongly held views and I of course am obligated to state my sincere views. So I see the biggest weakness of the Financial Freedom Blog [now the A Rich Life blog] being the lack of balance in perspectives being shared. I get some comments putting forward other points of view, but not enough of them. So if Schroeder or others would like to make some points in a guest blog, I very much encourage them to send me some words.”
There have been no takers. None of the Passive Investing enthusiasts who have terrorized the Retire Early and Indexing communities over the past six years have written up any words explaining their case in civil and reasoned language. Surprise! Surprise!
I say “Surprise! Surprise!” because I have made similar offers on a number of earlier occasions. I asked Greaney to participate in a debate of the safe-withdrawal-rate topic at the Motley Fool board in which only he and I would post and members of his Goon Squad would not be permitted to disrupt. No dice. I offered to appear on a radio show with Greaney at which he would argue in support of the Old School SWR studies and I would argue in support of the New School SWR studies. No dice. I included in an article that I posted to the web site several years back an offer to provide space for Greaney or Sholar or any of the other “defenders” of the Old School studies to make their case. No dice.
I want dice!
I want dice because it is important to be fair and balanced. I say that the demonstrably false claims advanced in the Old School studies are likely going to cause millions of busted retirements in days to come. That’s a startling claim. If it is true, I have absolutely no choice but to advance it. To fail to try to get the word out to millions of people whose retirements are likely to fail would be an unforgivable dereliction of my responsibilities to the community. On the other hand, if there is something wrong with the claim, I have a responsibility to let people know that and to correct my words. So I should be doing all that I can both to publicize the flaws of the Old School studies and to learn of any flaws in the New School concept (the New School argues that it is impossible to calculate the SWR accurately without including an adjustment for the valuation level that applies on the start date of the retirement).
How are we all to learn whether the “defenders” of the Old School studies have any justification for not calling for the correction of them unless they tell us what it is? I believe that the reason why they have not offered any justification is that there is no possible justification. Still, I don’t think it hurts to open this blog space to anyone willing to take a stab at defending the Old School methodology. Hence — the Rob Bennett Challenge to Passive Investing Enthusiasts.
I hereby challenge any defender of the Old School studies to write up a blog entry explaining why he or she thinks it is a good idea not to include an adjustment for the effect of valuations in an SWR study. Send it to me (please note the “Contact Rob” tab at the left-hand side of this page) and I will schedule it for posting at the A Rich Life blog.
We’ve gone well beyond discussion of the flaws of the Old School SWR studies in recent years. So I would like to make the Challenge broad enough to cover more than the topic that kicked off The Great Debate. I believe that the truly core issue is the Passive Investing issue. Does it make sense to urge investors to stick with a stock allocation elected when prices were reasonable when prices have reached dangerously overvalued levels? I say “no way!” If you say “yes, way!” please give some thought to writing up some words and passing them along for posting where your fellow community members can read them and learn from them.
I will not comment on any blog entries submitted within the text of the blog entries themselves. I may or may not comment in a subsequent blog entry posted under my own name. I won’t offer the first comment to any blog entry posted as part of The Rob Bennett Challenge. If others comment, I may or may not offer my views in response to those comments, as I would re comments posted in reaction to my own blog entries.
I’m not expecting to receive any blog entries in response to the challenge. I would love to be surprised.
There’s no deadline. I’m happy to see your reasoned defense of either the Old School SWR studies or the Passive Investing concept whenever time opens up in your schedule for you to do us all the favor of writing one up.
As Clint Eastwood nearly said:
Ya feeling challenged today, Goon?
Well, are ya?
Note: I am of course with the references to “Goons” having a little fun with those good friends of mine who have been terrorizing the Retire Early and Indexing boards for six years now. Non-Goon submissions are both welcomed and encouraged. They will be pushed to the top of the list! They are preferred!
Today’s Passion: When I’m not caught up in the important business of challenging Goons, I often spend my time coming up with saving advice sayings. My favorites are collected in an article entitled Rob Bennett’s Favorite Saving Advice Sayings.