In an ideal world, a master class available to everyone would reveal all the secrets to retirement planning, telling you how much to save, where to invest and what to do when the stock market crashes.
After all, there are few entirely conflict-free places where investors can educate themselves on the topic. That's why Joshua Rauh, a finance professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, felt compelled to open his graduate-level course on the finance of retirement and pensions to the masses.
"My goal is to try to empower people to make better decisions about their finances with an eye toward retirement and for retirees who are thinking about managing their money," Rauh said, "whether it is buying an annuity or having a spending rule."
The course is offered free online. I sat for nearly half of his online video lectures — on topics like "saving for retirement" and "making smart decisions as a stock market investor."
There's plenty that students will take away from his lessons, which you can watch any time after the lecture is released.
"A person that would really benefit is someone who is 40 and realizing they really need to start putting together a plan for retirement and haven't thought much about it," he said, though he says he believes that it will be equally helpful for people of all ages.
Each video lecture is about 45 minutes long, but all 10 are broken into bite-size segments that are relatively engaging. Each includes a mix of financial theory and prescriptive advice, some of which people with a reasonable base of investment knowledge may already know: actively managed mutual funds aren't worth the money, so buy index funds. Don't time the market. Stocks don't become less risky the longer you hold them.
But the illustrations that accompany the advice — how retiring in 2009, for instance, would have resulted in a nest egg 28 percent smaller than one resulting by retiring in 2012 — are instructive.