Laurence Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University and one of the nation's leading authorities on Social Security, has announced his bid to run as a write-in candidate, hoping to get a viral campaign going among voters less than pleased with their current options.
No, the quiet academic is not out on the hustings talking to farmers in Iowa or miners in West Virginia; rather, he got the word out through an article published this morning by Bloomberg.
While relatively few Americans have heard of Kotlikoff, the professor is very well known by the financial press (including your humble correspondent), as he has had his hands in virtually every area of personal finance and economic policy over many decades.
This means he's got a paper trail possibly on par with Thomas Jefferson's. The opposition research staffs of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton can get started here with the 479 papers listed on his CV.
If there is one overarching issue that he has addressed more than others, policy-wise, it is what is called intergenerational accounting. He has often argued that the current generation is overconsuming at the expense of the young, and that current accountings of the nation's debt greatly underestimate the true gap between America's future financial obligations and expected revenues.
So why am I writing about this? Probably for the same reason Bloomberg did, and the other financial media that will doubtless follow suit.
Kotlikoff - and this is not a political endorsement, this is me sharing what I know - has a reputation as a problem solver who has taken on some of the most nettlesome issues. Most recently that has been Social Security, which is so layered with complexity that most ordinarily sophisticated people just can't figure out the optimal claiming strategy. He has recently published a New York Times bestselling book on the subject, "Get What's Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security"; the government literally just shut down some of those strategies, likely in response to Kotlikoff's revealing them.
Once, after I wrote an article on Social Security, a reader wrote in a highly specific question about what he and his wife should do. I of course had no clue, but I referred the matter to Kotlikoff, and he solved the problem in the blink of an eye. He has similarly addressed the whole gamut of financial planning questions (he is the creator of ESPlanner software, popular with financial advisors) and has come up with a number of consumer-friendly approaches to challenges such as divorce.
Kotlikoff has not revealed very much about his thinking on foreign policy matters, or offered the kind of detailed positions he provided in his third-party run in 2012 on an internet-based platform called Americans Elect. (Perhaps he'll respond to your comments on this site.)
But in an election year marked by a noteworthy level of voter disenchantment and economic anxiety, it seems that Kotlikoff's long shot entry into the race is relevant at least to this audience. Not a day goes by without many of Seeking Alpha's contributors writing multiple articles about tax, economic and monetary policy, and many of those are noted in this digest. And many of our readers are financial advisors who use or know about Kotlikoff's software.
Now for the day's news and views on retirement and portfolio issues:
- Another retirement finance expert, SA contributor Dirk Cotton, proposes a retirement mission statement.
- Bruce Miller on income investing and planning for the dreaded RMDs.
- RIA Gary Gordon: When you exit the stock market, don't let the door hit you on your way out.
- Smart beta outfit Research Affiliates discuss how smart beta can go horribly wrong, and why a crash in the strategy could be coming.
- Andrew Hecht discusses the five 'massive' issues facing stocks for the balance of 2016.