Bogle Sees Stocks Outperforming Bonds

Vanguard Founder Jack Bogle says the odds are “very, very much in favor of stocks” outperforming bonds over the next decade, but also says investors might want to take a bit of risk off the table.

“I would say given the dire outlook for the U.S. economy, unless our Congress can get its act together, that one might want to be a little more conservative than one usually is,” Bogle tells Morningstar. “If one wants to do anything at all it will be to lean to the conservative side. I am not recommending, you know, all of a sudden go out and do something very conservative. But if you are worried, just take a little bit less risk rather than a little bit more risk thinking there are some advantages here because there are lot of problems down the road that we have no idea whether they will be solved one way or the other.”

At the same time, Bogle says stocks look like a good bet to outperform bonds over the next decade. “Stocks … have a yield of around 2.3%, the same as the 10-year Treasury, but they have earnings that should grow even if the economy grows a little more slowly than say at 4% instead of 5% in nominal terms, that would be a 6% return on stocks. Maybe they can grow a little faster. That would be a 7% return on stocks for example, unless P/Es change radically,” Bogle says. “So in terms of what will do a better job for you over the decade ahead, the odds are very, very much in favor of stocks. But that’s not guaranteed.”

While the two ideas — the recommendation to take a bit of risk off the table when he thinks stocks are likely to outperform — may conflict, Bogle says you also must consider the possible consequences if stocks don’t outperform. “I also like to think of the consequences — I don’t like to think about them, they are rather unpleasant — but the consequences if things go wrong, so we can call it some dry powder or we can talk and call it a little formula for sleeping better at night when you go through these volatile times,” he says. “It’s just a question of being at peace with yourself as an investor and staying out of speculation.”

Bogle also discusses whether or not there’s a bubble in Treasuries; regulatory changes; and what the government can do to promote growth.