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Again, my basic argument is that people need to start financial planning by figuring out how much they can save and how much they will need to have at their endpoint, then worry about rate of return.

I generally agree, and I didn't mean to characterize your return assumptions as being ridiculously low - I was just making a rhetorical point that if I'm somewhere in the middle between your return assumptions and Charlie's, then I'll feel more comfortable using yours than his.

Part of the challenge is that what people "need" and what they want to have in retirement are two vastly different things. Sure, you might be able to invest in t-bills and manage a minimal standard of living in retirement. But people tend not to focus on needs - they have lists of things they want but could live without, and if you tell them they have to take some risk to get those luxuries, they'd say to roll the dice.

I often feel like the stingiest person on the planet, so I feel confident that I could probably get by if I weren't able to make another dime working for the rest of my life. But most people aren't that way.

If people want to seek the kind of returns Charlie thinks are possible, so they can save less and spend more, that's their choice, and if they fail, that's the price they pay.

I wish that were true. The fact is, though, that the financial irresponsibility that many people show ends up costing you and me and everyone else. If people didn't know that Medicaid and other assistance was there to back them up if they ran out of assets in old age, you can be darn sure that people would take more steps to ensure they'd have enough money to get through.

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