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The Ben Stein Pass/Fail Test
Old 10-28-2010, 04:46 PM   #1
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The Ben Stein Pass/Fail Test

Try this on for size. You are having a test for the first 40 or so years of your work life. The test is on the subject of financial planning and getting your retirement right. If you pass the test, you get to live in a lovely home on a golf course or overlooking the lake, and you get to spend your days looking for your ball in the rough. At night you get to eat anywhere you want and have a comfortable, secure, and restful sleep. You get to give money to your kids and grandkids and give them a leg up in life. You have the best medical care money can provide. You cheerily and effortlessly pay your bills as they arrive. And you get to have the feeling you did something smart with your life. That's door one.

If you fail the test, you get to live in modest, cramped, noisy quarters. You get to worry about whether your wife is safe walking home from the Safeway. You get to feel sick when the monthly utility bill comes in the mailbox. You get to have to avoid creditors and juggle debts. You cannot sleep from fear and worry. And there is someone you cannot look in the eye when you get up in the morning and brush your teeth: yourself, because you know you screwed it up bigtime, this one and only life of yours. That's door two.

Which outcome would you like?
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Old 10-28-2010, 04:49 PM   #2
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Ben Stein is an IPOS
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Old 10-28-2010, 04:52 PM   #3
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Khan:

But what do you really think. Don't hold back.
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Old 10-28-2010, 05:14 PM   #4
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Try this on for size. You are having a test for the first 40 or so years of your work life.
I wish every high-school commencement ended with those words. I wish to God mine did.
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Old 10-28-2010, 05:43 PM   #5
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I don't need door #1 wide open. Doing well enough.
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Old 10-28-2010, 06:08 PM   #6
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Ben Stein is an IPOS
I got the POS part ok.
But what does the "I" stand for?
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Old 10-28-2010, 06:32 PM   #7
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Which outcome would you like?
I'm missing the point. What is Ben Stein talking about? Why are you telling us about it? If you could trouble yourself to be a little more explicit ...
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Old 10-28-2010, 06:39 PM   #8
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GregLee:

I just saw it linked to in another Blog I was reading. I just thought the Young dreamers would be motivated by it and were at a stage in life at which they could do something about it.

It really is a choice for many people as to where they wind up in life some 40 years out. If you give up all the stuff, then just maybe you can have something better than a get-by lifestyle down the road.
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Old 10-28-2010, 07:30 PM   #9
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I got the POS part ok.
But what does the "I" stand for?
Chalk up one vote for "Ignorant" (not commenting on Ben Stein, just guessing the intent behind the acronym).

To me, Ben Stein will always just be that guy from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Edit: Nothing wrong with Stein's message quoted in the OP. Not many young people think beyond the next weekend, so framing it the way he did may be valuable to them. Presumably, anyone hanging out here has already grokked what Ben is talking about.
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Old 10-28-2010, 08:08 PM   #10
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IMO, Mr. Stein jumped the shark a long time ago. But last I cecked, he is still nobody's fool.
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Old 10-28-2010, 08:11 PM   #11
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Very good stuff. Ben Stein is spot on.

FWIW, in Door #1, Ben Stein is speaking of a good but modest retirement. I think that if you really do it right, you can add many luxuries to his scenario.

On a related note, here's one of my favorite Ben Stein articles: Yahoo! Personal Finance: Calculators,Money Advice,Guides,& More
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Old 10-28-2010, 08:35 PM   #12
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I don't agree with everything the guy says, but he's not ignorant or an idiot. Columbia undergrad, Yale Law School grad, lawyer, law school professor (recent professorial posting on this board notwithstanding), former presidential speechwriter and an entertaining speaker.

And ignoring the ad hominen attacks on him, the quote from him in the OP is solid. A good way of looking at the cumulative impact of relatively small choices we all have every day: to save a little or not save a little.
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Old 10-28-2010, 09:32 PM   #13
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Bill Maher does a wonderful job of putting Ben Stein in his appropriate place here:

Bill Maher: New Rule: Rich People Who Complain About Being Vilified Should Be Vilified

He should have realized that his part in "Ferris Bueller" was the height of his career and disappeared.
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Old 10-28-2010, 10:08 PM   #14
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Good point. Make that 20-30 years on this board.
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Old 10-29-2010, 12:12 AM   #15
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Bill Maher does a wonderful job of putting Ben Stein in his appropriate place here:

Bill Maher: New Rule: Rich People Who Complain About Being Vilified Should Be Vilified

He should have realized that his part in "Ferris Bueller" was the height of his career and disappeared.
The only problem with this is that Bill Maher is one of the world's biggest idiots, and he is nasty to boot.
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Old 10-29-2010, 12:44 AM   #16
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I don't agree with everything the guy says, but he's not ignorant or an idiot. Columbia undergrad, Yale Law School grad, lawyer, law school professor (recent professorial posting on this board notwithstanding), former presidential speechwriter and an entertaining speaker.
And ignoring the ad hominen attacks on him, the quote from him in the OP is solid. A good way of looking at the cumulative impact of relatively small choices we all have every day: to save a little or not save a little.
TikiToast had a slightly different impression of him a few years ago:
Keeping it Simple...Ben Stein...
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Old 10-29-2010, 01:11 AM   #17
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I failed the test long ago. We will never have door #1, but door #2 may open to a slightly more pleasant world. If I win the argument. Only if.
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Old 10-29-2010, 05:04 AM   #18
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The now very familiar bootstrap narrative always sounds so good... that is if you're as near-sighted as those "choosing" door number two.

There are so many things that can happen to one in life ...e.g...idiots blowing up the financial system, pushing you out of a job and into spending down your retirement funds to save the house....etc. etc. etc.

So as it regards retirement self funding, whether it's a matter of choice or just good fortune is very debatable.

In America, if you've managed to save enough for retirement throughout your working life, you're the exception.
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Old 10-29-2010, 06:44 AM   #19
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The only problem with this is that Bill Maher is one of the world's biggest idiots, and he is nasty to boot.
Agree completely ...
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Old 10-29-2010, 07:38 AM   #20
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TikiToast had a slightly different impression of him a few years ago:
Wow! Who was TikiToast? I am disappointed that I missed her (before my time, apparently).
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