Never heard of this dude, but it’s kinda fun watching him read my investment advice

Faithful readers may remember my comment in an earlier conversation with Helaine Olen regarding the financial industry’s basic dilemma: The best advice fits on an index card, which is available for free at the library. Commenter Alex M asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, Alex’s question led me to produce my own version of the index card, manufactured in less than five minutes using only materials found in my kitchen. That led to this picture and post.

Last night, Sendhil Mullainathan reposted my little investment guide. Justin Wolfers, Joe Weisenthal, and Huffington Post gave me 1.5 minutes of fame.

But my favorite recitation comes from someone I have never met, certified addiction recovery coach Luscious Conway. It would have been nice had he mentioned me in the video, but hey–I’m there.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

6 thoughts on “Never heard of this dude, but it’s kinda fun watching him read my investment advice”

  1. Good advice, now that I can see and understand (in the video and on the soundtrack) what the advice is.

    Unfortunately, the picture on Same Facts is too little for me to read.

    How if we could only get brokers to distribute copies of the card …

  2. Fine advice for those lucky enough to have a 401K (some 60% of households), then *able* to simultaneously save 20% of their income and do things like keep a roof over their heads, the electricity on or put their kids through school.

    At that point you have good advice for the the top 20% or less.

    This means we’re failing the vast majority of our households.

    Even the most able to save aren’t really making a lot of money. When there is no demand, savings don’t do much better than stuffing your money in a mattress. I’m old enough to remember when savings accounts did better than inflation. Mine now earns 0.2% per annum.

    My 401K is more productive, but in December 2008 was worth less than my lifetime contributions, even with a conservative investment strategy. Millions of Americans simply won’t EVER be able to catch up, myself included, I fear. I get to work forever. This does not bode well for the following generations. Retirement has become less of a goal than a sentence. If the younger generation wants the rest of us to get out of the way, perhaps we should consider that “not eating cat food” as the goal of the majority of retirees to be not a Good Idea.

    The very best strategy to make a decent retirement? Make sure everyone’s boat is, in fact, lifted, and that policy isn’t focused on sinking those under you. Right now we’re lifting the 1%’ers boats by shallowing the harbor with everyone else’s life, to mangle more than a few metaphors.

    We need more than a ‘social insurance’ pact. We need to have an economic policy that is oriented towards the majority of Americans, not just the top 1%. I’m beginning to fear that this won’t happen without a revival of the guillotine.

    1. Bruce–in December 2008 your 401K looked awful. If, OTOH, you followed the advice of Harold, you might have selected a no-load index fund such as the Vangard S&P 500. An inexpensive well-diversified fund; minimal fees; no actively managed fund; no individual stocks.

      In that case you’d have recovered very nicely. S&P 500 up 88% since Dec 2008.

      Your other points are relevant to our national condition, but your statement in your next-to-last paragraph is not about a strategy YOU can follow to make a decent retirement FOR YOU as an individual. For an individual, Harold’s advice is still good.

      1. Right, if one were to add to Harold’s index card, one might add:

        1) As you approach retirement, your investments should shift to safer and safer funds.
        2) Do not try to “time the market.” You can’t do it, except by chance.
        3) Do not panic in a crash and sell (this is possibly the worst thing you can do). Hold on, things will rebound.

        I agree with Bruce’s general (macroeconomic/political) comments, but that’s not what this is.

  3. Can you clear something up for me with respect to the investment advice? Does saving 20% of your income include your 401k and IRA contributions. Or are you recommending saving 20% in addition to those? If the latter, that could amount to saving close to 40% of your income, depending on the rules for your 401k and your income, and that seems really high. But if it’s the former, all of your savings could end up in 401k and other accounts, which seems unwise. Thanks.

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