Yesterday’s blog entry reported on an e-mail sent to me by Academic Researcher Wade Pfau on May 16, 2011. I sent a response the following day.
It’s a revolutionary statement. You are telling the truth about safe withdrawal rates. Every advance that we have achieved over the past nine years started with my decision to tell the truth re SWRs in my May 13, 2002 post. It may be that you cannot see today where this is going to lead you in time. As someone who has already made a good bit of the journey, I can tell you that it is going to take you to some amazing places.
Yes, of course I have been saying this for nine years now. But who am I? I am some guy whose claim to expertise in this field is that I figured out how to get posts to appear at internet discussion boards. My words have power to those who see them. Not too many see them. You are positioned to be able to publish peer-reviewed research. You have the potential to have far more influence.
I of course have no more desire to antagonize the Goons than you do. But the reality obviously is that they ARE antagonized by honest posting on these matters. So that aspect of this is a problem.
My intent was very much to focus on your name (and on Bogle’s name) since it is the fact that you are saying these things (and that, as you note, Bogle has offered important support for the core ideas) that is the news here. I am going to have to give some thought as to whether there is a “soft” way to report this. It won’t work to say only that there is a “new academic study.” I need to give a link to the study for the story to make any sense at all. And, if I give a link, the Goons will be upset with you.
My guess is that I am going to play it the way I planned. My plan was to include your name (and Bogle’s name) in the headline but to offer only limited commentary. I would quote the key paragraph of your blog post (the one I quoted in my comment at your blog) and I would quote from my comment and perhaps from my e-mail to you from yesterday (I presume that you would prefer that I not quote from your e-mail below and I have no problem with that, so I will leave that out of it) and generally leave it at that. If I can think of other things that I can do to soften the blow to the Goons while still making the essential point that there are today people of influence in this field making public statements about the analytical errors contained in the Old School SWR studies, I will do that. But my guess is that I am not going to be able to tell the story that needs to be told without saying at least that much.
If it is any comfort, I think it would be fair to say that the Goons are losing power and influence BY THE DAY. There was a time when I was blacklisted at every major personal finance blog. Today I am having the experience of bloggers COMING TO ME and asking me to write guest blogs. This is a big change. People are having increasingly serious doubts about the Buy-and-Hold mumbo jumbo. About the only thing people are not willing to go along with today are direct and clear statements about the Ban on Honest posting. I believe that a big part of the concern there are the lawsuits that we are likely to see in days to come. But the wall is eroding. I believe that there will come a day in the not-too-distant future when you will be able to do your work in peace and not need to worry about the sorts of Internet Sewer Rats who have put up posts in “defense” of Lindauer and Greaney putting forward threats to destroy your career and all this sort of thing.
Please continue thinking through the implications of where your research leads. It takes time for it all to sink in. My sense is that you understand that your work is of great significance but that you do not today come close to appreciating just how revolutionary it truly is. That is going to come with time. You have caught a very large tiger by the tale, my good friend. I’m sure of it!
Do not hesitate to let me know if I say anything in the blog post or in the comments that follow that concerns you. I don’t think that is going to happen. But in the event that it does, I obviously want to do everything I can possibly do to keep things on a positive and constructive and life-affirming track.
Please take care.