Giving Accurate investment Advice Is Not Enough – We Need to Come to Terms with the Buy-and-Hold Cover-Up

Published on

Todd Tressider is the owner of the Financial Mentor blog. I had an amazing conversation with him at one of the financial bloggers conferences. His blog is highly successful and Todd is a highly respected member of the financial bloggers community. He was a speaker at several of the events that I attended. He is in tight with a number of the big shots in this field. He could have helped me out in a big way. So I tried very hard to become friends with him.

He told me that he had seen my work relating to safe withdrawal rates and that it prompted him to do his own research into the question. He told me that everything that I said checked out – the safe withdrawal rate is not the same number at all valuation levels. He wrote a long article on the topic that pulled a lot of readers into his site. All very promising.

The Errors In The Buy-and-Hold Studies

The trouble started when I tried posting at his site, I pointed out in some of my comments that other sites continued to report the safe withdrawal rate inaccurately and described some of the abusive tactics that had been employed to keep the people who read these sites from being informed about the errors in the Buy-and-Hold studies.

This Todd did not like. He called me on the phone and we talked the matter over. He said that he would ban me if I continued to provide background on why so many Buy-and-Hold retirement studies have not been corrected since I advanced my famous post of May 13, 2002.

Todd is a good guy. He is offering accurate information on safe withdrawal rates. He reaches a lot more people than I do because he does not antagonize the Buy-and-Holders (the thing that sets the Buy-and-Holders off is their readers or clients learning about the dangers of the advice they offer, they don’t really care that much if there are other people in the world learning how stock investing really works). Is the answer for me to try to be more like Todd?

I don’t think so. The people who post at sites dominated by Buy-and-Holders (Todd’s site obviously is not such a one) are people too. Is it okay if those people are misled? Is it okay if those people suffer failed retirements? I sure don’t think so.

Safe Withdrawal Rate Claims

I don’t have a concern if the Buy-and-Holders continue to assert at those sites that the safe withdrawal rate is always the same number so long as those presenting research-based advice are permitted to participate in the discussions without any harassment and the readers thus have a chance to hear both sides before putting together their retirement plans.

For so long as only one side of the story, the side that has been discredited by the peer-reviewed research for 42 years now, can be heard, those sites are fraudulent enterprises. Is that not so? I have a big problem with that.

And it’s not just that following the Todd Tressider strategy for dealing with the Buy-and-Holders will cause millions of failed retirements. We don’t today know everything there is to know about how stock investing works. We all learn by engaging in conversations with others with an interest in the subject. I believe that I have learned a few things over the years.

I learned from Todd Tressider and I learned from Wade Pfau and I learned from Bill Bernstein and I learned from Rob Arnott and I learned from John Bogle and on and on and on. Much of what I learned from these people I learned because of things they said in response to my safe withdrawal rate claims. Had I kept it zipped, they and I would both have missed out on important learning experiences. For what good reason?

Yes, we need accurate information on safe withdrawal rates. Todd performs a public service by supplying it. But I think we all have a responsibility to give back to the communities in which we participate. We do that not only by advancing accurate information on substantive questions. Another important part of the job is to call out fraud when we see it. Fraud hurts us all. It is crazy that I feel a need to say that. But, given the circumstances that apply, it must be said.

Fraud is bad. We should all call it out when we see it, Yes, even in the investment advice field. It’s not all about turning a quick buck. People use investment advice to put together their retirement plans. This stuff matters.

Rob’s bio is here.