Perspectives: The Impact of “Language Blindness”

The words we use can blind us from the reality we should see.  It is important to ask if we are blind to the new realities of retirement because of the words we use?

The words we use betray their origins and the implicit biases of our own histories.

For instance, take the word: “Decumulation.”  Decumulation is the word used by many to describe what comes next, after accumulation.  Accumulation is a word that comes from the investment management and asset allocation lexicon.  Decumulation is an investment management way of talking about retirement as the opposite of accumulation.

For those of us who walk the path of the client, we know from direct experience that retirement management is much more than the opposite of investment management or asset allocation.

Do the words you use lead you to think, by default, that retirement management is about placing decumulation products (income products) in defined contribution accounts or that it is about implementing decumulation solutions (systematic withdrawal plans) in taxable accounts?

What words would you need to use so that default thinking about retirement  management becomes focused on risk management and creating downside protection in the years leading to retirement and beyond?

This is why we use the following words among the hundreds that you can find in the RMA Glossary:

- Retirement Management

- Retirement Planning

- Wealth and Consumption Management℠

- Wealth and Consumption Planning℠

- Risk Management Techniques Allocations

- Retirement Allocations, etc.

What does this do for me?  What painful problem does this solve for me?

Well, let me ask you back in the form of a question: How do we think systematically about critical issues when we all feel the pain, suffering and uncertainty that consumes us all as we grapple with business models and sell safely what we know and have to sell in the face of the Fiduciary Rule?

Francois Gadenne
Co-Founder, Chairman & Executive Director
RIIA®

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