Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for one of my columns at the Value Walk site:
Funny how you talk about your “friend”. On your website, you talk about the “thousands” with failed retirements, yet can’t link to one single person. You just make up imaginary people. At the same time, you have been given many links to successful buy and hold outcomes, yet you ignore those. Further, as pointed out thus week, yet again, there has never been a 30 year period in which a 4% withdrawal rate has never worked. That fact alone blows away makes your endless diatribes meaningless. Lastly, your the one sitting here with the failed retirement plan, yet you want to lecture everyone else.
You need to stop attacking everyone else. We are not your problem. You are.
There are thousands of people who have spoken over the course of the past 15 years in support of my right to post honestly re safe withdrawal rates and scores of other critically important investment-related topics. All of their comments are documented at my web site. I have a slider at the top of every page of the site that runs over 200 of these comments, some from a number of the biggest names in the field. I’ve never been in the majority. I am very much in the minority — about 10 percent of the population today believes that valuations affect long-term returns. But I have never had a problem generating support for my work. About 10 percent of every board population offers the most effusive praise for my work that I have ever seen offered for anyone’s work. It is an extremely gratifying and humbling experience to hear the sorts of positive things that many people have said about the work that I have done over the past 15 years.
But it is true that those people stop speaking once they see the reaction of many Buy-and-Holders to their words of praise. People don’t expect to see that sort of behavior in our society. People have lived long lives and never seen that sort of behavior before and it shocks them and they silence themselves in response. One of the best illustrations of the general phenomenon that I have seen was when Carl Richards sent me an e-mail telling me that my web site was his favorite on the internet, that he had learned more from me that from anyone else on the subject of investing, that he thought that the work that I was doing was of “huge value” and that he was banning me from his site because some Buy-and-Holders who visited the site had told him that they would never visit again if my words continued to appear there.
That’s the problem that we face as a society. If we allow people to say what they truly believe re investing advice, as we allow people to say what they truly believe in every other field of human endeavor, we will be able collectively to take things to a very good place. But if we don’t, we are stuck with Buy-and-Hold and all that follows from it. If we are not even able to make the case for why this strategy is so dangerous, we cannot win converts to the approach supported by the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research. The only way to move forward is to permit honest and civil discussions and, since the Buy-and-Holders are in the majority today, the practical reality is that they possess the power to stop such discussions from going forward.
Carl was the keynote speaker at a recent FinCon event. That means that he had about 2,000 people cheering on his words. Had he said at that event what he told me in his e-mail correspondence with me, that he views my site as the best investing site on the internet today, none of the things that you say here would be so, Sammy. I would have so many people coming to my site today that there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for me to answer all the questions directed at me. The people who would be asking those questions would be people who need help and who I would be happy to help if only circumstances were different. No one gains by our collective decision to deny those people the help they need and want. But the reality is that those people cannot gain access to the help they need and want today.
Carl is afraid to say the words that he would need to say for those people to get the help they need. There is a Social Taboo that stops us all from speaking openly and plainly and frankly about the 36 years of peer-reviewed research showing that valuations affect long-term returns. This Social Taboo is the #1 biggest public policy problem facing our society today, in my assessment. It is this Social Taboo that served as the primary cause of the economic crisis that began in 2008 and that is probably the biggest cause of most of the political frictions that we have seen evidence themselves in recent years.
I don’t believe that I am helping us overcome that Social Taboo by keeping quiet about my belief that the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research is legitimate research. I believe that each time one of us makes a decision to keep quiet about his or her true beliefs, it makes it that much harder for all the others who want to speak honestly to work up the courage to do so. Our Buy-and-Hold friends made a mistake. When the mistake was discovered, their first reaction was not to fix it but to cover it up. And our decision was to go along with the cover-up because that was the easier path to take in the short-run. Now, 36 years later, here we are, with millions having suffered in an economic crisis brought on by our cowardice.
I believe that we need to be charitable in the comments that we make about the Buy-and-Hold strategy and about our Buy-and-Hold friends who advocate this strategy. But I also believe that we need to be honest about the 36 years of peer-reviewed research showing that there is precisely zero chance that this strategy could ever work in the long-term in the real world. I believe that the answer lies in mixing charity and honesty in the proper proportions. Yes, we need to be nice. Kindness is a virtue, But it is not nice to be quiet about errors that have been made in studies that millions of people have used to plan their retirements. That’s a very, very, very cold kind of kindness, in my assessment.
I wish you all the best that this life has to offer a person, Sammy.