Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ameriprise and Tommy Lee Jones aren't speaking to me. Are they speaking to you?

For most of the people in this ad, the answer seems to be "yeah, maybe, if I don't add to the hundreds of thousands I already have in investments, and I don't cut back on the Aspen ski vacations."  I mean, none of these characters look like they are hurting at all.

For me, and for a growing number of Americans, the answer to "will I outlive my money" in retirement is "depends.  If I don't retire, the answer is no.  I won't outlive my money.  I'll just keep working and living off my paycheck until one day I simply don't wake up.  Then I 'win,' right?"

Or it's "no, I won't.  I don't make the salary that would allow me to put enough of it into retirement.  So just like the vast majority of working-class people since the dawn of the industrial age, all I really have to look forward to is work until I can no longer do it, followed by poverty until that day I simply don't wake up."

My question is, what does Tommy Lee Jones and this investment group want me to do about it?  Oh, right- absolutely nothing.  This commercial was not written for me.  It was written for people who have large amounts of disposable income at the end of every month who are spending it on luxuries instead of giving it to this investment group to play with.   Definitely NOT me.

It would be nice if the answer to Mr. Jones' question was something other than "take more of that extra money you have and put it into investments," because that's really not an option for an already huge and growing segment of the population.  How about "let's push Congress to write realistic tax law which shifts the burden to those who can most afford it and takes it off those who can least afford it (and who have been carrying that burden for more than thirty years now?")  How about "let's strengthen and expand Social Security so that it's more like a pension, recognizing that if we are going to have a permanent economy of stagnant wages we are going to have to do more to provide for the people we are denying the ability to save for themselves?"  Or maybe "let's adopt Socialized Medicine in recognition of the fact that the cost of medication is an enormous contributor to poverty in retirement?"

Any of those would be better answers for people who are forced to spend every penny of their paychecks than "invest more."  But I don't know why I expect anything other than this from advertising firms which believe that the answer to "my kids use too much data" is "get this unlimited data plan."  So my only response to Ameriprise's "invest more of what you don't have" advice is "which kidney should I sell?"

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