Jack Bogle's Advice for the Individual Investor

The AAII Journal published an interview with Vanguard founder John “Jack” Bogle, to whom AAII gave its Cloonan Award for Excellence in Investment Education in 2015. The interview focuses on advice for the individual investor. Bogle said, “by far the best way to own equities is to own them through either a Standard & Poor’s 500 index fund or a total U.S. stock market index fund” and that an investor should “hold it forever.” He also emphasized that investors should minimize costs, describing investing as “a zero sum game,” except that “it’s not a zero sum game” once fees are taken into account so he urges investors to “keep fees down as much as you can . . . eliminate them.” Bogle also emphasized that his advice is based on a long-term veiw by suggesting that investors should not even open their monthly statements (“don’t peek”) and “when you get your final retirement statement . . . you will be so amazed at how much money you’ve accumulated over 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 years that you won’t believe it.”

Bogle explained that he recommends index funds so strongly because they “eliminate th[e] three principle risks of equity investing” – “the risk of picking individual stocks,” “the risk of picking managers that fail,” and “the risk of various sectors.” He described the stock market as “a giant distraction to the business of investing,” by which he meant that focusing on recent events and trading on that basis is “a losing game.” He said to “trade the absolute minimum” because “the more turnover you have in your portfolio, the less well you’re likely to do.” He said investing is “not a game about markets; it’s a game about the productivity of American business.” He noted that stocks are “fairly highly valued” and noted the potential for a correction or “a revaluation in stocks,” but said “over time [the market] will take care of you . . . just by its internal rate of return.” He also emphasized “the miracle of compounding returns – if it’s not overwhelmed by the tyranny of compounding costs.”