Does retirement pornography work?

Retirement PORN! Did I get your attention?

Retirement pornography was the focus of an interview I had with Rob Carrick for their very popular Let’s Talk Investing videos. Just the phrase seems to get people’s attention.


Here’s an excerpt from the book I co-authored with my colleagues Rein Selles and Tricia French, 10 Things I wish someone told me about retirement:

Quite often when I ask people what they want to do when they retire, there are some responses that come about frequently like ‘travel’. When people think about what retirement looks like, visions of lying on a beach reading a book and drinking sangrias may come to mind. Or, maybe there are visions of golfing during a sunny blue-sky day with white sands and immaculate greens. This is what I call, “retirement pornography”. In other words, it is the kind of retirement that society says you should have to be successful. I think the roots for this type of thinking started out of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in the financial industry called ʻFreedom 55’.

Retirement doesn’t have to be sexy. In fact, most successful retirees will tell you retirement is about doing what you want to do. Although we may think we want to travel a lot in retirement, very few people can travel 365 days of the year or even 90 days of the year. Most traveling in retirement is limited to less and its not usually to exotic places all of the time.

Three forms of financial pornography

It may be hard to believe but “sex sells”. Maybe not so much in the financial industry but there is a different kind of pornography raging. There are three types of Financial pornography . . . companies that sell investments use past performance; companies that sell financial products sell the dream of getting rich as fast as possible; and companies that sell retirement products sell the stereotypical retirement dream. For more information, check out one of my old posts which I recently updated “Don’t get lured by financial pornography


  1. JoeTaxpayer

    I like the analogy Jim.
    A public radio show (On the Media) did a piece on Food porn, how what we see on TV is shot and reshot until it looks perfect. 5 cakes in the trash to one good one. This sets up an expectation in our own kitchens that makes us disappointed in our own cooking.
    Of course, at 48, I’m not going to live up to the expectation I had of my self in my younger 20’s (in the bedroom.)
    It would be pretty bad for someone who by all other measurements is successful and well prepared to retire to have that Retirement Porn make a good thing look second rate.

    • Jim Yih

      Thanks JoeTaxpayer (I love that name)
      Good analogy to the Food porn . . . I had no idea 5 cakes went into the garbage.

  2. larry elford

    Good work, good writing Jim. If you know of folks who have been abused or lost money with the financial industry, check out the feb 25th, 2011 forum posting at

    titled, ways to GET YOUR MONEY BACK!

    I am here to help abused investors if anyone needs. Zero cost to abused investors who I can be of help to.
    Larry Elford, former CFP, CIM, FCSI, Associate Portfolio Manager, retired

  3. Vibhakar Vaidya


    I am planning to retire soon. I am only 52 years, having good health and almost no liability. I have put in >33years of service and would get pension sufficient to manage myself and my wife. I have a house, two settled daughters and expecting grandchild soon.

    I have been in the financial industry and have done my Masters in Management so I understand well the financial pornography. It is the child of management pornography that is spread through all channels.

    The best, and perhaps the only, way to avoid abuse by such pornography is to live a very simple, inexpensive and not-expecting life. It is more required to be committed to you-2 and nobody else. For others you may spread your love, affection, blessings and care to the extent possible.

    Wasting all the time in searching for financial strength (that is, indulging in financial pornography)leads to your frustration and, at the best, to help prosper your children after your death.

  4. m franklin

    Thank you for this. I am 53 and potentially able to retire in 2 years. I feel HUGELY the envy/feelings of inadequacy/pressure put on me by “retirement porn”. I am a divorced teacher and am not rolling in the bucks, but I could certainly have a simple, satisfying life. AFter saving for my pension, there is just not much more money. So thanks again. ( As teachers we also feel like all holiday times are pressure filled…I would ask people to please stop asking teachers “where they are going” on holidays or summers or retirement…We might not be going anywhere ! And it is awkward every single time.)

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