Here’s a good take-down of the error-filled, misleading, and pandering story on 60 Minutes last week about 401Ks.  I’m in the 60 Minutes demographic I suppose, but based on their advertising, not exactly their target audience.  So I feel that I’m qualified to critique their reporting. They often have stories that cater to the interests of the aging middle class, and sometimes fear-monger (any story about the Web) or pander (feature stories about grandchild-aged prodigies).  But last week’s story about 401ks was pretty bad.  Given the current economic climate, they could have stepped back from the up and down gyrations of the financial markets and shown how long-term investors generally fare better.  Instead, they showcased individuals whose early retirement plans have changed based on 401k losses.  If they’d interviewed these people before the recent stock market and real estate bubbles, would they have been planning on early retirement? Doubt it.  I guess I’d be more sympathetic if they’d actually been defrauded, bilked or were victims of some elder-scam, but they were just riding the wave like everybody else.  And at worst they’ve probably lost 30% of what they had invested – after their meager 401k contributions (tax free, with employer matches) were inflated through no effort on their part.  If they’re in their 50’s, they might live another 40 or 50 years.  Even pessimists would agree, there’s a small probability of the markets recovering in the next half century.

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