On this week’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver turned his attention on money, or what Oliver described as “the thing everyone likes to think they’re good with despite the evidence provided in every episode of the Suze Orman Show.”
According to Oliver (and Orman), Americans aren’t especially good at saving money, as proven by the number of people who want to go to Iceland to earn degrees in elf spotting. “No one should be spending $4000 to get an elf spotting qualification,” said Oliver, the dream crusher. However as a consolation prize, Oliver offered a free certificate in elf spotting on his website.
Despite some poor financial decisions, Americans have almost $24 trillion in retirement assets. However, a lot of that money is in the hands of financial services companies, including financial advisors. While that sounds reasonable, Oliver warns that the phrase “financial advisors” may not hold any real meaning or credential (in fact you can download a certificate calling yourself a “financial advisor” on his website now.)
Over the course of the segment, Oliver went over everything from the trouble with annuities to under-performing managed funds to index funds, and compound interest, which can also mean compounding fees. “Think of fees like termites — they’re tiny, they’re barely noticeable, and they can eat away your f–king future,” said Oliver. It’s a complicated landscape and people need to pay attention, which Oliver knows first-hand after his show tried to set up a retirement fund for its own employees.
To cut through some of the confusion, Oliver brought in Billy on the Street star Billy Eichner and Tony Award winning actress Kristen Chenoweth to dole out some sound retirement advice. In short: start saving money ten years ago, invest in low cost index funds, make sure your financial advisor is also a fiduciary, gradually shift from stocks to bonds, and keep your fees like your milk “under 1%”.