So I just heard the news that Jack Bogle has passed. If you didn’t know, Jack Bogle was the man who started Vanguard, the investment company that popularized the index fund, of which I am a big fan. The index fund is a beautiful concept, the notion of taking a small slice of the entire market, so that your money grows as the market grows, rather than being tied to the fates of one or two or ten companies. It is based on the notion that no one is smarter than the market, especially not the average investor. Instead of trying to become an investing wizard, why not enjoy a slice of the pie as the overall market grows?
Jack Bogle popularized this idea starting in the 1970s when he founded Vanguard. What’s more, he offered his funds at a minimum of expense, arguing that the best way to serve investors was to take away as little as possible from their money (fancy that!). In the long run, he argued, fees eat up returns (You may be surprised at how much high fees can literally kill the growth of a fund) . Rather than merely enrich himself, Bogle created a company that is truly focused on the individual investor. In fact, Vanguard is literally owned by its clients, instead of by a board of shareholders.
Although the low-cost index fund is now incredibly popular, and there are numerous companies that offer it, it was not this way back when Bogle’s Vanguard ship first took to the seas (by the way, Vanguard literally got its name from a British naval ship, hence the sailing metaphor). It was Bogle’s Vanguard that originally brought the index fund concept to the public. Over the years, it has grown in popularity to monumental heights, but only thanks to the vision and persistence of Bogle.
I learned about Jack Bogle and Vanguard only in 2015. He was highly touted in “Money: Master the Game,” the Tony Robbins book that changed my life. Robbins’ reverence for Bogle was obvious. So Vanguard was on my radar from the moment I began investing that year.
Later in 2015 I discovered the excellent financial forums at Bogleheads.org. This site was originally started by clients of Vanguard who were fans of Jack Bogle. When I discovered this site in late 2015, I quickly learned about a local chapter of Bogleheads meeting here in Sacramento, and I have been attending monthly meetings every since.
So in a sense, I consider Bogle an investing mentor for me. I felt that I could truly trust his advice, and his company, at a time when I was completely new to the world of investing and weary of it. For me to trust something or someone seems to require a lot. Bogle had the vision, the integrity, the grit, and the ingenuity to become a giant of the world of investing… not because of how much he accrued for himself, but because of how much he gave.
And what he gave was a persistent commitment to an idea: the idea that the average person can “win” the market investing game through buying a broad swath of the market in an index fund and holding it for many years, therefore gaining from the long-term growth of the market as a whole. No frills, no high-stakes gambling, just a common-sense approach with a very large possibility for long-term gain.
In this world that can be so confusing at times, with so many mixed messages from people who may not always have our best interests in mind, it was such a breath of fresh air for me to discover Vanguard. To me it represents the vision of Bogle, a vision worth trusting.
Many thanks to you, Mr. Bogle, for all that you have done for so many of us who have benefited from your ideas and the company you built!