This article was posted on November 16, 2005.
The various early retirement discussion boards on the Internet are a tremendous resource for learning about the subject. A number of successful early retirees give freely of their time to answer questions from newcomers. The good folks who populate these forums also tend to be savvy investors with highly-attuned "BS detectors". They are usually quick to skewer any interlopers peddling financial products, investment schemes, seminars, books, or newsletters of dubious value.
One recent example of this phenomenon has been on display at Morningstar's Vanguard Diehards forum over the past several months.
Self-proclaimed "financial consultant" and "career counselor" Rob Bennett of Purcellville, VA first came to the Vanguard Diehards forum back in July 2005 to promote a venture in vanity publishing, his book Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work. Morningstar moderators quickly deleted the promotional material for Rob's book from their forum, but Rob stuck around (posting under the screen name hocus) to pursue one of his passions -- the "safe' withdrawal rate (SWR) from a retirement portfolio. Rob's inability to understand the arithmetic behind the concept of survivable retirement withdrawals and his frequent misquotes and misinterpretation of the research on the subject generated quite a bit of discussion. There was even a cameo appearance in mid-September by author William Bernstein (who uses the screen name wbern on Morningstar.) Bernstein has two best selling books The Intelligent Asset Allocator and The Four Pillars of Investing to his credit. (See link.)
Dr. Bernstein, paging Dr. Bernstein.....
It was fascinating to see how quickly the Diehards figured out that hocus had nothing to say after he put up several long posts of jumbled logic and convoluted thinking in these two highly entertaining threads.
Book report: "Work Less, Live More"
Bennett has had more success in getting postive mention in the popular media where is subjected to much less scrutiny. He engaged the services of a publicist who was able to convince reporters from several publications to include minor quotes from Bennett in their articles.
Is it any wonder that people question a lot of the financial advice they read in the popular media?
For more information .....
For more on Rob Bennett and the Hocomania phenomenon see "What is Hocomania?" There is also a very popular discussion forum the Best of Hocomania where a dedicated team of scholars and researchers analyze the meaning and lack of content in hocus posts whereever they may be found.
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Copyright © 2005 John P. Greaney, All rights reserved.