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John Oliver Takes on Retirement Plans

Financial advice doesn’t often cross into the world of late-night talk shows, but HBO made another foray into the industry (following the series Ballers) Sunday night with Last Week Tonight, a news show hosted by John Oliver.

A week after Oliver examined the debt buying industry, Oliver turned his attention to the nearly $24 trillion dollars of retirement assets in the United States and the financial services companies that manage it. 

The Daily Show alum cited a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority warning to investors that titles such as “financial adviser” and “wealth manager” are generic terms that don’t require professional credentials. Oliver then pointed out that even credentialed advisors are sometimes paid on commission and can recommend investment products (especially annuities) that may not be in the client’s best interest.

Over the course of the 20-minute segment, Oliver explained the concept of fiduciary advisors, hidden fees on 401(k) plans, and underperforming active management.  

“The problem with active management is that even many Wall Street experts find it difficult to consistently beat the market,” Oliver said, citing a stock-picking challenge where financial professionals were bested by a cat throwing a toy mouse at a grid of companies.

“Let’s all agree that the Wolf of Wall Street would have been way better starring that cat,” Oliver quipped.

Oliver concluded with a bit on the Department of Labor’s fiduciary law, as well as a mock advertisement featuring Billy Eichner giving five pieces of investment advice: start saving now, invest in low-cost index funds, ask if your advisor is a fiduciary and leave if they are not, shift investments from stocks to bonds as you get older, and try to keep fees under 1 percent.

Some financial professionals reacted to the episode on social media, especially the digital advice firms. 

TAGS: Industry
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