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But take a step back and review what has happened in this country since the late '70s and the passage of ERISA. Most workers used to be able to count on a Defined Benefits pension upon retirement. What are the numbers these days of those who are eligible? Most DB plans have been converted to Defined Contribution plans, and the typical structure and match for those plans is pretty crappy. Most workers need not only capture whatever match might be available to them and shelter whatever wages they can, but contribute the max to an IRA each year. In other words, between the enforced savings of paying SSI and Medicare taxes, most workers also need to be saving the max allowed by 401k/403b plans and the max allowed for yearly IRA contributions, or a savings rate in the neighborhood of 20% to 25%, not the 3% to 5% commonly reported as the median savings rate. Then, having gathered those assets, they need to put them to work.

You're right. Most aren't going to save or invest, and they will have to work until they die, or they will depend on the government to keep them from starving. So their choice is simple. They can fiddle and play all summer of their lives, as the grasshopper does in the folk tale, or they can work and harvest like the ant, so they can get themselves through the coming winter of their later years.

I've been a worker. I put myself through collage working 70-80 hours a week in the summer. I raised a family on hours of work that often went to 12 hours days, 7 days a week. The last thing anyone in those circumstances wants to do when he comes home is another 2 to 4 managing money. But that second job has to be done, and done well. The average work-week in this county is less than 40. Commute time adds a lot of hours. But it's a rare person who can't find four hours a week to manage their money. That they choose not to find those hours, or use them effectively, is going to cause them grief down the road. The often suggested workaround is "find an adviser". But their track records, as Dalbar reports, is pretty crappy, too. In most cases, the potentially best manager is the owner of those assets.

For the most part, poverty is a choice in which one has no good choices, for having squandered one's assets and opportunities. That poverty isn't necessary. Dollars could be saved and invested. Whether the saving and investing is considered a 'noble' activity, or merely the gambling game that it really is, makes no difference in terms of potential final results. But the latter is the far more effective approach. People understand games. People play games, and they don't mind the back and forth of win and lose. Investing is a game that can be won, but it can't be won without loses. The thought of having to accept those losses in order to get to the wins is what panics people. So they try to manage risk by avoiding it, and they end up losing big anyway. But if money is going to be lost no matter what, why not turn those losses into lessons that can improve one's game? Pick a sport, any sport. It doesn't matter. No one slams home runs the first time at bat. No one pulls consistent money out of markets on ten minutes of instruction or practice. That's just not enough time to gain the experience that leads to good judgment. Even 4 hours/week isn't enough unless the effort is consistent and it represents many, many years of 4 hours/week. Then, the payoffs begin to happen.

I know I'm a driven person. I did my first stock trade when I was ten. What kid do you know today who is reading the financial pages because he finds the numbers interesting? But investing was part of family life in my house. My blue-collar, not college-educated parents were old-fashioned patriots whose love for their country was expressed by being fractional owners of its companies. For birthdays, we were given stock shares. When the quarterly dividends came, we were escorted down to the bank where those dividends were deposited in a passbook savings account. "Thrift-saving-investing" was what we kids saw in our house, and it's what we continued into our adult lives. That model isn't unrealistic, and it needs to be replicated far more widely.

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