Host John Oliver spoke to the audience before the “jarringly inappropriate” theme music rolled to discuss the horrific terrorist attack in Orlando. There isn’t much information to go off of, just that at least 50 people were killed, 53 injured and “right now, this just hurts”. This terrorist attacked what Oliver argued was a combination of things that made American great, “a Latin night, at a gay nightclub, in the amusement park capital of the word”. He showed a video posted to Twitter today of people lined up around the block to donate blood to help the victims. While Oliver acknowledged that right now there is little anyone can say about these events to dull the pain, he offered this small bit of proof that “that terrorist dipshit is vastly outnumbered”.
I personally wasn’t certain that writing up a recap of a satirical comedy show was appropriate today, wondering if perhaps a more somber approach should be taken. I ultimately decided complete the recap. Laughter can often provide a brief respite from the pain, and in times like these, spreading the things we love can only be helpful. On that note, enjoy the episode, laugh where you can, and please visit this link to see ways you can help the victims of the Orlando shooting.
The show opened with a quick recap of the 2016 Presidential Election, or, as Oliver called it “the fiery two-party pileup on the hellbound fuckspressay”. This week Hilary Clinton became the Democratic party’s presumptive nominee. Despite the fact that the race seems to be between only two individuals, one would have thought the level of discourse would improve, become about the issues or perhaps even slightly more intellectual. This was not the case. After Donald Trump tweeted that Obama supported “Crooked Hilary” because he wants “four more years of Obama”, Clinton responded by saying “delete your account”. Which, while incredibly enjoyable to see, did have the unfortunate side effect of moving the fight “onto his turf”. Oliver pointed out that there is no way Clinton can beat Trump at social media. “He’s pretty much Twitter’s id made manifest”, whereas Clinton has made more than a few social media mistakes. To combat the depressing nature of the next few months, and to give us a short, concise way to respond to politicians on social media, Last Week Tonight revealed a gif of Abraham Lincoln vomiting. It truly is the best way to respond to most of Trump’s tweets and a large number of Clinton’s.
The main segment dealt with money, specifically, retirement plans. Oliver acknowledged that there are people who simply cannot do that, for reasons the show has already explored in depth in the past. This segment dealt with people who can afford to save for their retirement, and the ways in which people do that. Most retirement savings are in the hands of financial services companies.
One of the financial service representatives you’ll deal with are financial advisors, but even their titles are a bit misleading. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority even warns consumers that individuals with the titles Financial Advisor, Financial Analyst, Financial Consultant, Financial Planner, Investment Consultant or Wealth Manager do not hold any specific credentials, and are instead “generic terms or job titles”.
Consumers need to keep in mind that those individuals tend to work on commission, meaning that the products they recommend may not be of particular value to the consumer, such as annuities. Those are not suitable for all consumers, but certain financial advisors push them hard, in order to get the resulting commission. In fact, some advisors don’t just receive commission. In some cases they receive cruises and “ghastly” Superbowl style rings for achieving high annuity sales. The reality is that not all financial advisors are legally required to act in their client’s best interest. The exception is a fiduciary advisor, who are obligated to act in the best interest of their clients or consumers.
Financial advisors are just a small part of this terrible pie. Many people have the benefit of a 401 K through their employment, and while they should absolutely take advantage of this form of retirement savings, there are a whole host of fees ranging from legal fees to bookkeeping fees to finders fees, just to name a few. As Oliver quipped, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they had an elf spotting fee”.
These fees accumulate primarily due to compound interest. Most companies spin this as a positive, letting you know that because of compound interest, a relatively small investment can add up overtime. Compound interest works both ways, however, meaning that as your savings grow, so too do your fees. One report found that fees can sometimes eat up a full two thirds of what you normally would have been able to save without these innocuous fees. Oliver likened them to termites, in that they are incredibly small but can “eat up your fucking future”.
Generally speaking, employees with a 401 K have two options for their savings: an index fund where the rates of return match those from the market or an actively managed fund, where a team of experts manages your savings in an attempt to beat the market. The problem is that even Wall Street experts have a hard time beating the market, and one news source found that a highly trained cat can match the success rate produced by Wall Street investors, who consistently fail to accurately predict the market. Even investment advisors themselves prefer to invest in index funds with respect to their own savings, which is pretty telling.
Last Week Tonight came into this information when deciding to set up 401 Ks for their own employees earlier this year. Representatives from John Hancock Retirement Plan Services came to give a presentation to the staff about their retirement funds, and the researches began looking into the accumulated fees. They asked why they happened to be so high, and were dissatisfied with the answer. They found out that over time, their broker would receive close to a million dollars in commission off those plans, which was so high “Janice in accounting actually gave a fuck”.
Thankfully, things are changing. Earlier this year the United States Department of Labor ruled that “all advisors handling retirement accounts act as fiduciaries” beginning in 2017. With rulings like these, saving for retirement doesn’t need to be as complicated as the process Last Week Tonight went through to help their own employees. In order to help viewers remember these key rules, they put together a video outlining them for us, which you can check out at the end of the segment below.
Last Week Tonight will return next week at 11:00pm on HBO.
[about Donald Trump having won the Republican nomination] “It’s like if the NCAA Champions were between Duke University and a flaming jet ski driven by a dog dressed like a clown.”
“Getting a lot of likes does not necessarily mean you’ve accomplished something good. That, incidentally, is a phrase anyone under the age of 20 should frame and hang in their bedroom.”
“Financial analyst is just a fancy term that doesn’t actually mean anything, sort of like brand ambassador or the John Oliver Effect.”
“Thank you Suzie Orman for pointing out that disingenuous swindlers can be women too. #LadyCrime #Feminism”
“'Sometimes I invest in index funds' might be the least interesting secret anyone has ever divulged while drunk. It’s right up there with my favorite movie is The Constant Gardiner and one time in college I got totally wasted and read the entire Wikipedia page for rope.”
“The President’s last year in office seems to be moving away from bipartisan solutions to ‘bye Felicia’.”