Yesterday’s blog entry reported on an e-mail sent to me by Academic Researcher Wade Pfau on April 5, 2012. Wade sent a folow-up e-mail later the same day.
He said: “Coincidentally the article stemming from that January 2011 blog post was published today. I’m attaching it and you can find your name on page 12 of the PDF. So please take it easy and don’t act like I’m an enemy of you or anyone because I don’t agree with 100% of your views.
Here is the link for the article:
I responded the next morning. The text of my response is set forth below.
I am of course grateful for the mention in the paper. Thank you.
I wish that you could read the paragraph that makes the mention through my eyes. You thank the Bogleheads, which is appropriate. And you thank Rob Bennett, which is appropriate. But there is something
horribly wrong being conveyed with those words.
I am a Boglehead, Wade!
The way it should be is that, when you are thanking the Bogleheads, you are thanking me because I am one of the leading voices in that community. I am not saying that you should have taken on that question in that paragraph. That obviously is not the place for it. But the idea that there is some distance between the Bogleheads concept and the Rob Bennett concept is the problem that is holding us all back .
You of course ran into the same thing. You posted some wonderful research at Bogleheads and Mel Lindauer suggested you had doctored the results. You came back at him in a firm way. That was one of your finer moments. That’s what we need. We need people speaking up to that segment of the Bogleheads community that opposes integration with those who accept and explore the message of the last 30 years of research.
We cannot have two camps. Wade. We can of course have disagreements within a single camp. That is healthy and to be expected. But we cannot have two camps. The same research applies for everyone. Investing works in the same way for everyone. Everyone must favor learning and therefore everyone must favor permitting all voices to be heard.
This is why it is so important that the Old School SWR studies be corrected. A big part of it is that we don’t want to see millions of failed retirements. We don’t want to be dishonest to our customers, the people who make use
of the research. But another very important consideration is that we don’t want to be dishonest with OURSELVES. Mistakes are a wonderful thing. They bring on learning experiences. Mistakes that are covered up do not bring on learning experiences. They bring on rigidity. Our participation in cover-ups undermine all the good work we do.
You didn’t create this problem. I obviously understand that. But you are part of it whether you like the idea or not and whether you think that is fair or not. Every single person working in this field today is affected by this problem. The work of each and every one of us is affected. How we deal with this problem determines to what extent the implications of our work can be explored and to what extent our findings can be heard and put to good use.
You have a part to play. I do too. My job is to REPORT the story. It’s an important job. I take pride in it. I cannot yield to pressure to perform my job dishonestly.
It is dishonest not to correct a study that gets the numbers that people use to plan their retirements wrong, Wade. That is not a controversial statement. It is an OBVIOUSLY true statement. The strange thing is that you don’t hear lots of people saying that today, only me. That’s exceedingly odd. But the oddness of our circumstances does not change the objective reality. The Old School studies must be corrected and we must make an effort to learn from the mistakes that caused them.
That’s how we achieve healing. That’s how we bring everyone together. That’s how we learn how to interact with warmth and kindness and good cheer and good humor. That’s how we become able to feel good about our futures again and about the work we all do.
If I were to say that it doesn’t matter much whether Bill Bengen corrects his study or not, I would be dissing Bill Bengen. I would be saying that his work doesn’t matter much or that I have such a low opinion of his ethical standards that I never expected him to be able to adhere to the most basic social norms. I’ve obviously never said such a thing about Bill and I obviously never will.
I would have been saying the same sort of thing about you if I reacted any other way to your statement that it was “harsh” of me to insist that Bill correct his study. I’ve obviously never said such a thing about you and I obviously never will.
This is a people business. People cannot live in this sort of dishonesty forever. What we are going through is a temporary state. It will change after the next crash. Then things will be flipped. There will be lots of angry people demanding the heads of those who failed to speak up and I will be the one asking for mercy and asking people to understand the pressures that people in this field faced and all this sort of thing.
Everyone working in this field today wants to fix this problem, Wade. Even the Goons want to fix it. They obviously won’t say so in direct words. But there is a part of them that wants to fix it. I talk to them every day. I know.
We cannot fix it in a day. I understand that. We need to be making consistent, measurable progress. We can’t settle for less than that. We need to work up enough courage to be able to insure that at least that much is being achieved at all times.
I am a Boglehead, Wade. If you have gotten in the habit of thinking otherwise, that’s a problem. It’s a trick that the Goons have played on you. We are all working toward the same goal and that needs to come through. This is your problem. Not
just yours. But it is the problem of everyone who works in this field and you are such a one.
I am always going to have the hand of kindness outstretched and I am always going to be willing to do whatever I can do to get things back on the right track. I am never going to be willing to post dishonestly on safe withdrawal rates. It is
an insane thing that pressures were ever exerted on me (or you or anyone else) to do such a thing.
I wish you all the best, my man. I am always available to talk over any aspect of this with you or with anyone else who sees opportunities to take things to a better place.