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First, from the second paragraph, when did the government have a role in planning my retirement?

They have a role in that if there is a large starving population who is about to revolt, the government will be overthrown. That is the extreme view. The less extreme view is that the general voting population will put in leaders to make sure that they don't starve to death. Regardless, the government attempts to maintain civil stability- the social security system, which will undoubtedly be the only retirement vehicle for many, is a government created program. "The act was an attempt to limit what were seen as dangers in the modern American life, including old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children."

So the government has had a role in planning your retirement since around August 14, 1935.

Second, the idea that the personal finance industry's advice has been proven to be bogus seems true today, when I am down 40% or so in my various investments.

I think it is more realistic to say that a segment of the personal finance industries advice was bogus. There are many contrarian points of view (including completely investing in TIPS as a vehicle to retirement which would have suffered very little loss).

I think it was true then, and is true now, that investing in individual securities should be a portion of a retirement plan, not the complete plan. And personally I think dividend paying stocks should be given more consideration than other stocks- you know at least what you are getting each year. Of course a lot of dividends will be cut this year and next, but a lot will not be.

If you had only invested in McDonalds stock you would actually be down quite a bit- in paper value (from $65 to $55 per share). However, your dividend stream would have gone up in the last couple years.

I think the real thing the financial industry has oversold is the expected rate of return on stocks- 10% a year may not really be realistic at all. Those returns were available in the 80's because stocks in general were priced at higher and higher values, not because they were intrinsically worth more (and I would place intrinsic value on dividends).

So what this means to me, and you, today is that our expected rate of return may be a bit lower than the talking heads have suggested, and that stocks should be a part of, but not the complete solution, to a retirement plan.
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