• Mutual Funds
  • Achieving Greater Long-Term Wealth Through Index Funds

    by Charles Rotblut, CFA and John C. Bogle

    Achieving Greater Long Term Wealth Through Index Funds Splash image

    John “Jack” Bogle founded the Vanguard Group of mutual funds. In this first of two excerpts of our conversation, we spoke about why he favors broad market index funds, as well as his thoughts about exchange-traded funds and portfolio allocations.
    —Charles Rotblut, CFA

    Charles Rotblut (CR): Since you founded Vanguard, would you explain why you think investors should use index funds?

    John Bogle (JB): Let’s start off with the obvious. Imagine a circle representing 100% of the U.S. stock market, with each stock in there by its market weight. Then take out 30% of that circle. Those stocks are owned by people who index directly through index funds. The remaining 70% are owned by people who index collectively. By definition, they own the exact same portfolio as the indexers do in aggregate, so they will capture the same gross return as the direct indexers. But by trading back and forth, trying to beat one another, they will inevitably lose by the amount of their transaction costs, the amount of the advisory fees they pay, and the amount of all those mutual fund management costs they incur: marketing costs, processing, technology investments, everything. When we look at the big picture of the costs of investing, including sales loads as well as expense ratios and cash drag, it is a foregone conclusion that active investors, in aggregate, will underperform index investors. It’s the mathematics.

    Borrowing a phrase from Louis Brandeis: It’s the relentless rules of humble arithmetic. The 30% of investors who own index funds capture almost all of the market’s return. In a 7% return market, indexing should deliver approximately 6.95% to investors. (A typical Vanguard all-market index fund charges 0.05%.) The remainder—those who are trading back and forth, hiring managers, and all that kind of thing—will incur costs, in round numbers, of about 2% per year. So, the indexers are going to capture pretty close to a 7% return in a 7% market, while the active investors, who also collectively own the index, are getting the same 7% gross return minus about 2% for all those fees and costs, a net return of 5%. It is definitional tautology that the indexers win and the traders lose.

    CR: So you’re really focused on costs and not so much on the argument of whether the market is efficient or follows a random walk?

    JB: It does not matter. All investors together capture the market return whether it’s efficient or inefficient—and I think everybody would agree pretty quickly that the market is sometimes reasonably efficient and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is macro-efficient—meaning that stocks are fairly priced relative to, say, bonds—and sometimes it’s inefficient or deficient in micro-efficiency, which is how stocks are priced relative to one another.

    Those things have been known to get out of line. During the tech-stock bubble of the late 1990s to early 2000s, the market was just overlooking the fact that while the Internet was going to be a great business opportunity, only something like 5% of the individual companies were going to be successful in the long run, and 95% were not. That’s the way that entrepreneurial new businesses work.

    Whether the market is efficient or inefficient doesn’t matter as long as you get costs out of the way, invest for the long term, and pay no attention to the foolishness that goes on in the short term in the stock market. In one of the better sentences I’ve written, it was in “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” (John Wiley, 2007), I said, “The stock market is a giant distraction to the business of investing.”

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    Of course it is! Think about this: The stock market is a derivative of the value of corporate America. The intrinsic value of a corporation can be estimated by the dividend yield when you purchase the stock and the subsequent earnings growth. It is corporate America that creates value; the stock market itself creates none. In fact, the stock market subtracts value, due to all the costs we pay to play the game. It’s a little bit like the casino, one might say. And I say that advisedly.

    CR: What about the smart beta funds and the equally weighted funds that are trying to follow an index type of strategy, but look for various anomalies? What are your thoughts about them?

    JB: Who’s kidding who here? Maybe some of the so-called smart beta funds will win, but since they’re in the 70%, others will obviously lose. It’s very difficult to know which is which in advance. In the market-cap-weighted index fund, you know you will capture your fair share of the market’s return, the return shared by all other investors. If you look at the market as the aggregate investment position, and of all investors as a group, you know perfectly well that you’re guaranteed to capture that return in an index fund. If you do something else, you may do a little better, but the odds are against it because of the additional costs.

    There’s another important effect for your readers to understand here: If you’re going to pick an actively managed fund, how do you do that? The answer, too often, is to buy the fund with the best performance. How do you determine which fund has the best performance? You look at the historical returns, and you forget about reversion to the mean.

    The first rule investors should understand is that what goes up must come down, and what comes down must go up. We see this constant merry-go-round of mutual funds that outperform the market go on to reverse course and underperform. Reversion to the mean is everywhere, and it’s a very powerful force. I have charts showing this from probably the eight or 10 most successful funds of the modern era—Fidelity Magellan, Legg Mason Value, T. Rowe Price Growth, Vanguard Windsor, etc.—and they’ve all reverted to the mean. It’s pretty even-handed and always will be.

    Think about this for a minute: When you begin investing in the market, say you’re a young person starting your first 401(k) plan and you’re going to invest for a lifetime, today that lifetime is going to be something like 70 years if you’ll live into your 90s. You can own an index fund, never have a manager, and capture the stock market return over 70 years. Alternatively, you could own three or four actively managed equity funds. Historically, their managers have changed about every seven years: The new manager comes in and the new broom sweeps the old portfolio clean. Then, for better or worse, about half the mutual funds in business today will be gone in about 10 years, if past experience is any indication. This is a 50% failure rate. When you’re picking active managers, very few of whom will be around for the entire 70-year investment lifetime. I think I can guarantee you that you’re just making a whole multiplicity of bets. Ignoring the reality of reversion to the mean, these bets will turn out to be more or less or average, minus cost. Over a lifetime, these costs can be an enormous drag on your returns.

    I’ll just use 50 years in this example. If you earn a 7% return on the stock market, which is not an unreasonable expectation for the long run today, given today’s dividend yields, a dollar will grow to about $30. If you earn the same 7% minus two percentage points of cost, your wealth will be about $10. So, you put up 100% of the capital and take 100% of the risk, your most likely outcome is that you will get 30% of the return. You deserve better. So only do it with your funny-money account.

    We all are tempted to gamble. We tend to think “this time is different” and that good performance will persist forever. It’s okay to try it. But I would that say if you do, take a look at it after five years. And if it worked, try it for another five years. My guess is that if it worked for the first five years it’ll fail for the second, because of reversion to the mean.

    The index fund is a trip from the unknown to the known. The capturing of the market return through long-term investment is easy. The speculation that a smart beta strategy that some marketer made up—actually a version of active management—will win has no basis but speculation. Yet, the smart beta strategies are put forth in the guise of an index fund, or even worse, an exchange-traded fund (ETF).

    What’s the matter with an ETF? Well, it’s just an index fund that you can “trade all day long, in real time,” as an early ETF advertising campaign boasted. I have absolutely no idea why anybody would want to do that. None. But that was the original selling proposition for the S&P 500 SPDR (SPY), the original ETF. It’s now the most widely traded stock in the entire world. Every single day, it trades about $15 billion to $25 billion dollars. This is a fund that’s probably $150 billion (give or take) at the moment, so that’s 10% to 16% turnover per day. Per day! And that comes out to about 5,000% a year. Before using an ETF with that kind of turnover, individual investors should look at all of the academic research that clearly and universally concludes that the more you trade, the less you make. So why do it? You think you’re a member of the royal priesthood, but the reality is there is a great big average that owns the index collectively and trades stocks or strategies, with each speculator thinking they can beat the other. But believe me, one doesn’t beat the other. We’re not in Lake Wobegon, where all the investors are above average. It’s simply not possible. As a group, these investors achieve below-average returns because of their costs.

    That’s the certainty of investing. So use the index fund. Of course, it is boring. Just capture the market return year after year. Boring! But we have this epic view that trading is what the market is all about. Trading in the stock market has never been higher than it is today; it’s now around $56 trillion dollars annually. That’s just crazy.

    CR: I think your position on ETFs is a little misunderstood. You don’t mind ETFs, you object to how frequently they are traded, correct?

    JB: You’re certainly on the right track. If you want to make a lump-sum investment in an all-market ETF, an S&P 500 ETF, a total stock market ETF, a total bond market ETF, a total international ETF perhaps, or an emerging markets ETF, owning the ETF structure is not a big mistake. The economics say that owning the ETF shares is the same as owning the underlying fund. But if you’re putting money away, for example, for a child’s college education, do it with a regular S&P 500 index mutual fund, not an ETF, because you can’t conveniently invest $100 per month for your child. Plus, you won’t save anything because the costs are the same. Do the simple thing that’s in your own interest. But for broad-market ETFs in general, don’t trade them, as you’ll start to pay brokerage charges. You won’t have any transaction charges if you buy no-load funds, like the Vanguard Balanced Index fund (VBINX), which is what I would call a traditional index fund, or TIF. It’s really indifferent at that level.

    Those kinds of funds—broad-market funds—are probably 5% of all ETFs. I think there are now about 1,500 ETFs, and there are about a dozen broad U.S. market funds. They probably account for around 20% of the total assets of ETFs.

    When you get beyond that, you’re dealing with a whole lot of investment ideas that I think are flawed.

    One is that you should buy international stock market, rather than the U.S. market, or speculate on specific countries like Korea, Israel, or Brazil. But you defy the law of diversification if you go into single countries. You’ll also defy the value of diversification if you go into a small subsegment of the U.S. market.

    I think Vanguard has kept the list of ETF offerings as small as possible, but it’s still large. The major industrial segments—health care, technology, energy, etc.—are represented in the ETF world, and that’s fine, but some firms offer narrow ETFs where you look at their names and wonder what’s going on. For example, there was, at the beginning of the ETF boom, an emerging cancer fund. Well, that’s pretty narrow. And now there’s a cloud computing fund [First Trust ISE Cloud Computing Index (SKYY)]. The emerging cancer fund lasted about two years, and I think the cloud computing fund will be gone soon. Then you have, for lack of a better expression, the fruit-and-nut-cake funds. The industry tried it with single leverage, and that didn’t attract enough speculators. They tried it with double leverage, and that didn’t attract enough speculators. So now the typical ETF in this category has triple leverage. I think it would be very unwise for most investors to make those bets.

    In this wonderful marketing world of ETFs, you can bet that the market will go up, and then you’ll triple it, or you can bet that the market will go down, and you can triple that. How you know whether the market is going up or down is another question. Those leveraged funds are definitely short-term funds because they seek that multiple of the market’s return on a daily basis. If you double the return of the market each day, and some days it’s up and some days it’s down in a random fashion, you have no way of knowing what the return will look like over a week or a month or a year.

    As far as commodity ETFs are concerned, I don’t like commodities. Not because I have a distaste for them, but because they are not investments in the traditional sense of the word. Stocks have an internal rate of return: their dividend yield plus earnings growth. Bonds have an internal rate of return too: their coupon, or yield. Yield and maturity support a bond’s price, no matter what the market says about it. There is no internal rate of return on commodity funds, including gold funds. You simply hope that someone will pay you more for the fund than you paid for it. In the long run, you have to lose, because there’s no underlying rate of return to support you. You may make a good guess here and a good guess there, and I guess I’d say congratulations. But I just don’t think that’s a sound strategy for the long term. Currency funds are the same thing. It’s gambling. Gambling may be an interesting strategy if you’re in Las Vegas, at the race track, or playing the state lottery, but not with money you will need when you retire.

    Bill Sharpe has pointed out, and I pointed out in my recent article in the Financial Analysts Journal [“The Arithmetic of ‘All-In’ Investment Expenses,” January/February 2014], that due to the costs of mutual funds, the only sensible, mathematically correct way to maximize your account is with an index fund (Table 1). So that’s why index funds are booming. That’s why Warren Buffett is planning to invest in the Vanguard 500 index fund (VFINX) 90% of the portion of his estate that is designated for his wife.

    Indexing may be boring, but do me a favor: Never open one of your 401(k) statements from the day you start work to the day you retire, 40 or 50 years later. When you open that last statement, never having looked at it along the way, you are not going to believe how huge it is. You should have a doctor standing by in case you faint or have a heart attack.

      Actively Managed Funds Index Fund Index Advantage
    Expense Ratio (%)* 1.12 0.06 1.06
    Transaction Costs (%) 0.50 0.00 0.50
    Sales Charges/Fees (%)** 0.50 0.00 0.50
    Cash Drag (%) 0.15 0.00 0.15
    “All-In” Investment Expenses (%) 2.27 0.06 2.21

    *Data from “The Arithmetic of Investment Expenses,” by William F. Sharpe, Financial
    Analysts Journal, March/April 2013.
    **The 0.50% estimate for sales charges/fees is the midpoint of the range between 0% for do-it-yourself investors and (at least) 1% for investors who pay sales loads and fees to brokers and registered investment advisers. I have chosen not to include the “service charges” for loans, withdrawals, etc., often paid by investors in 401(k) retirement plans.

    Source: John Bogle, “The Arithmetic of ‘All-In’ Investment Expenses,” Financial Analysts Journal, January/February 2014.

    CR: That brings up a good point. How does someone balance limiting transaction costs versus allocation or even rebalancing?

    JB: Let’s take rebalancing as a subset of asset allocation. Choosing an asset allocation is the first decision you need to make as an investor, and the most important. What is the proper allocation for an investor?

    I subscribe, and have for a long time, to the wisdom of having more safe money when you’re older and more risky money when you’re younger. The return on equities is almost mathematically certain to be higher than the return on bonds over the long run, but you need the little anchor of stability that bonds offer. How much in bonds? A small amount when you’re young and a larger amount when you’re old. I leave the precise amount to wiser heads than mine. I’ve often used this formula: Your [percentage] bond position should be equal to your age, with the remainder in stocks. But that is a very crude rule of thumb, which is I think, in a way, unfortunate, because nothing is that simple.

    For example, when you think about asset allocation, think about all of your investments. Social Security, for example, has a capitalized value of around $300,000 to $350,000 when you retire, depending on your lifetime earnings. Social Security is a fixed-income position with as much safety as you’re going to find in this world. Add the cost-of-living hedge that Social Security provides, and there aren’t a lot of things better than Social Security for your retirement, believe me. It may be expensive to get there, but once you get there, it’s a big asset.

    If you’ve accumulated $350,000 of your own savings, you could easily say all of your money should go in stocks, leaving you with perhaps 50% stocks/50% safe rates. I wouldn’t actually do that; I’d have a lower stock allocation than that. But I would say, “Here I am with 50% of fixed income with an inflation hedge (e.g., Social Security) and 50% in equities. Do I want more or less than that in equities?” That involves a little mental discipline. The problem with all this is that we look at the equity side, but we don’t get an integrated statement that shows your total portfolio, including Social Security, and how it performs when the market goes down, let’s say, 50%, as it did a few years ago. You just see that equity fund going down 50%. However, your total holdings, which include the income on your bond position, have gone down maybe 22% because the bonds went up in that period. There are a lot of factors that go into this. It comes down to, “what do I have to do to be able to sleep well?”

    It’s a behavioral problem more than anything else. I think we all have a high level of confidence that the stock market will do better than the bond market in the long run, but there are these bumps along the way that bring out our worst instincts at exactly the wrong time. If that were not the case, the best advice, obviously, would be to get everybody to buy the S&P 500 and leverage it 3-to-1! If you can get yourself through all the bad times, you’re going to have a huge amount of money down the road. But most people are not up to that and too many investors don’t have the grit to stay with stocks when the market falls sharply.

    As a mathematical matter, having 100% equities is a good idea and being leveraged to some degree at least is a good theoretical idea. But the reality is that we, as human beings, have to live in the moment. And so, by protecting ourselves against our own foolish behavior, I think we will do better. Right now it’s pretty obvious that bond yields are pretty poor relative to history, although curiously enough, not all that bad in real terms. In other words, Treasuries may return 3% and we may have 2% inflation—a 1% real return on a Treasury bond—and that’s not too bad historically.

    CR: What about bond funds? A lot of our members are concerned about the direction of interest rates and how an increase in rates will impact bond funds.

    JB: That’s a good question and a complicated one.

    I don’t look at bond funds as a unity. You can hold a short-term bond fund if you’re willing to sacrifice income in favor or principal stability. You can hold a long-term bond fund if you want a higher interest rate and therefore a higher long-term return, but you have to be willing to tolerate the higher volatility.

    I tend to favor, mostly for behavioral reasons, an intermediate-term maturity, which will only have roughly half the volatility of the stock market. Given the mathematics of all this, if you’re a holder of a bond fund, you really want interest rates to go up. Yes, the principal value will drop when rates go up, but the reinvestment rate on those bonds will also rise. If the rate today for a short-term, intermediate-term, long-term combined corporate bond portfolio (leaving aside the government bonds for the moment) is 4%, and yields go up to 6%, your return for the next 10 years will not be 4%. It’ll be 4.4% or 4.5%. This is because the reinvestment rate will rise. It does require discipline, and I would not fault someone for saying “it’s not worth it to me to get that low return; I’m going to put it all in the stock market.” If you can hold that investment in the stock market through thick and thin, that is likely to be the better strategy.

    I used this example once many years ago in a different context. Think about a car that goes 80 mph and a car that goes 60 mph. The car that goes 80 mph will reach its destination first almost every time—almost, for it has a higher risk of crashing. The more aggressive investment should do better and it almost certainly will do better, but some of the strategies will fail you, some of the funds will fail you, and there may even be a long period where the market will fail you—where stocks will not do better than bonds.

    We certainly saw from about 1980 through today that bonds outpaced stocks because rates were very high in the beginning. There was no way bonds could not outpace stocks, just because the rates got up to 13% or 14% on intermediate-term Treasury notes.

    All these factors are confounding, and I operate on a rule of simplicity. Yes, this could happen and that could happen, so just take a position somewhere in the middle and hold on. Plan on keeping your strategy not only when things are going badly, but when things are going well. If you can do that, you’re going to end up with a good return in the long run.

    The second excerpt of our conversation appeared in the July 2014 AAII Journal. In it, we spoke about the common mistakes Bogle has seen investors make, high-frequency traders and his concerns about the ownership structure of most mutual fund companies.

    Charles Rotblut, CFA is a vice president at AAII and editor of the AAII Journal. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CharlesRAAII.
    John C. Bogle is the founder of the Vanguard Group of mutual funds and president of its Bogle Financial Markets Research Center.


    Hasan Sarwar from CT posted over 2 years ago:

    I have lot of admiration and respect for Mr.Bogle and do own multiple Vanguard Index funds. He mentions many funds reverting to mean. Though not a mutual fund, BRKA or BRKB
    have outperformed S&P for a very long time.
    Expenses, zero!

    Jerry Durham from TN posted over 2 years ago:

    Mr.Bogle has a very sound knowledge about investing. I am very fortunate to have my 401(k) plan through Vanguard. My plan offers both index funds and active funds as options. Although my investments are mostly in index funds, I also use a couple of active funds to balance out my portfolio. Although the index funds have lower expenses, the two active funds I use have expense ratios of approx. 0.35-0.45 which is still very inexpensive. I feel that a mix of index and active funds will give me a greater chance for investment success. Of course other fund companies charge much higher expenses than Vanguard and that could make a major difference in returns!

    George Bradshaw from NC posted over 2 years ago:

    How can you argue with an investment guru?

    Homer Milford from NM posted over 2 years ago:

    A really great article. How can I save it for my grandchildren? I am serious and at my age not much into computers. Shortly after I retired eleven years ago I did a long calculation on my 43 years of stock market performance and I just equaled the Dow Jones. I could have saved 8 to 10 hours a week with an index fund (22,360 hours by 2003). The moral of the story is that unless you are in the market more for kicks than profits you should be in index funds

    Agostino Schito from MD posted over 2 years ago:

    I am new to investing and still trying to understand all point of views. My 401K with Charles Schwab is managed by their adviser program where they invest in all available funds (there are not many available). My returns are lower that the S&P but my adviser says that we are more "diversified" and in the long run it will be better.
    I would like to take over the management of my investments but here is what I don't understand. If the strategy suggested here is the best possible how do we justify the higher performance of the model shadow stock or model fund portfolios as defined here at AAII? Do we agree that the active AAII investing approach is superior compared to the "boring" index strategy? If we agree on this principal why would we discount any other actively managed fund or strategy?

    Anne from Virginia posted over 2 years ago:

    Great article of simple wisdom.

    Regarding Agostino's question about AAII active investing,here are my interpretations
    1/ AAII published 10 yrs return from 2013 of its Model Fund Portfolio as 9.6% compared with 8.3 % for Vanguard 500 Index
    2/ However these returns are calculated without considering all the costs mentioned by Mr Bogle in the article here.

    I am a novice and would like to hear from AAII and other members if my understandings are incorrect.

    Thank you in advance

    Charles Rotblut from IL posted over 2 years ago:

    Hi Anne,

    All of our model portfolios are actual portfolios. The return information we show reflect all costs incurred.


    Charles Rotblut from IL posted over 2 years ago:

    Hi Homer,

    Near the top of the article, on the left hand side, you will see a link labeled, "Download printable PDF." If you click on that link, an electronic copy of the file will appear. Scroll your mouse over it and you should a disk icon appear. Click on that, and you can save the file to your computer. You can then share it with your grandchildren.

    If you still have problems, please contact member services and ask them to send you a ".pdf" copy of the article.


    Jeffrey Thompson from KY posted over 2 years ago:

    Mr. Bogle remarks that you should buy the S&P 500 and leverage it 3-to-1. What is meant by leveraging this investment?

    William Penczak from TX posted over 2 years ago:

    I think I know what Mr. Bogle meant by leveraging 3 to 1 (taking more risk to improve potential gains threefold, but chancing that losses will increase threefold). However how does one do that? What is a mechanism in the market for doing it?

    Thos Mcphillips from FL posted over 2 years ago:

    Thanks for a great article. I've been reading and listening to J.Bogle for over 50 yrs and I'm a life member of AAII and grateful to both.

    T.P. McPhillips CFP (ret.)

    Thomas Mason from IL posted over 2 years ago:

    I've been investing in the SSR portfolio since near its beginning and have enjoyed and benefitted from it - both financially and educationally. I also have invested in the Shadow Stock and Fund Portfolios, although I haven't stayed on top of them as conscientiously as I have the SSR.

    Here are my questions for Charles - What are the most efficient, broad market index funds and what diversification choices do we need to make even among index funds (exchange, micro vs small vs large cap, etc.)? Are there bond equivalents or do funds like PTRAX and BOND serve that purpose?

    Gail Stevens from SC posted over 2 years ago:

    What does he mean by leverage 3 to 1. How should i do that and with what Vanguard funds. I have Vanguard Total World and Total Bond

    John Steinmetz from CA posted over 2 years ago:

    I hope this discussion will continue and Mr Rotblut will respond to the questions.

    Rajendra Bhatnagar from VA posted over 2 years ago:

    I am greatly impressed by Mr Bogle's view on safe and reliable investment for the long term. I wonder why AAII model Funds Portfolio has a number of Guggenhelm equal weighted ETFs instead of simple Index funds.

    I will love to hear from AAII experts about this strategy. Do they agree with Mr Bogle?

    Alvin Hawk from AL posted over 2 years ago:


    Brian Casiday from CA posted over 2 years ago:

    I think William Penczak's analysis as to what Bogle meant by leveraging, but I also have his question as to how to do it. Does Bogle simply mean "take $10,000 cash, borrow $20,000 from a source outside your brokerage account, and buy $30,000 worth of the S&P 500"? If that's what is meant, it's a different concept than what is usually meant by "leverage" in the investment world. Would love an explanation. Thanks.

    Charles Rotblut from IL posted over 2 years ago:

    Regarding leveraging the market 3-1, Jack talked about ETFs that do it earlier in the article. ProShares Ultra S&P500 ETF (SSO) is designed to give you 2x the return of the S&P 500, for instance. You could also get leverage by using futures or options strategies. Alternatively, your broker might let you buy shares of the S&P 500 SPDR ETF (SPY) on margin.

    The general idea is that you are putting more money at risk than you would by simply buying a traditional index fund. Costs and tracking errors make it harder to maintain 3-1 leverage in reality.

    Jack's point was that conceptually since stocks realize the largest capital gains of any asset class, there is a mathematical argument for maximizing your exposure. But as he also points out, it's tough to do so from a behavioral standpoint.

    I'd take a look at your portfolio decisions during the last two bear markets to see how willing you were to stick with stocks. If you were scared about your stock positions then, you should be very cautious about using leverage now. Leverage is great when the market is moving in your favor and awful when the market turns against you. Throughout history, leverage has cost many investors a significant portion of their wealth.


    Joseph Plesh from FL posted over 2 years ago:

    More information is required on Equal Weighted Index funds. Vanguard doesn't offer any and it would be nice to know why.

    Chris Simber from NJ posted over 2 years ago:

    Great article...Anything Mr. Bogle says is worth noting, and anything that he writes is worth reading. But alas, far too many still think that they can time or beat the market.

    Richard Brand from CA posted over 2 years ago:

    I am a great admirer of Mr. Bogle and have been AAII member for many year

    Mike Hoffman from MN posted over 2 years ago:

    Joseph in FL, Equal weighting would likely be considered smart beta which Jack talks about as not a good idea. I do own the RSP equal weight s&p 500 as I believe history shows small beats big capitalization in returns. This does seem to revert to the mean when markets drop as small caps often don't have the dividend protection that big caps do.

    Etf as Buy and Hold from HI posted over 2 years ago:

    If Etf is used to buy and hold, would it be more efficient ie lower costs then having to pay the annual percentage to the mutual fund equivalent?

    Charles Rotblut from IL posted over 2 years ago:


    Jack says in the article, "If you want to make a lump-sum investment in an all-market ETF, an S&P 500 ETF, a total stock market ETF, a total bond market ETF, a total international ETF perhaps, or an emerging markets ETF, owning the ETF structure is not a big mistake."


    Dave Gilmer from WA posted over 2 years ago:

    Can you correct this statement so I can understand exactly what JB was saying:

    "But I would that say if you do, take a look at it after five years."

    Found it just above what I think is the first reference to ETF's in the body of your third question.


    Charles Rotblut from IL posted over 2 years ago:


    Jack was referring to actively managed funds and how their long-term performance reverts back to average.


    Donald Barkman from TN posted over 2 years ago:

    I liked the article a lot and generally agree with what it contains, but there are some logical slights of hand in it.

    "...it is a foregone conclusion that active investors, in aggregate, will underperform index investors." (end of 1st paragraph) While this is true, none of us is an "aggregate investor." We are each, discrete investors. The rule that applies to the aggregate does not necessarily apply to the individual. To wit, in a race, all the runners will, in the aggregate, have the average time; some however, will finish in the front and some in the back. It depends on skill. So, if you are in fact knowledgeable and conscientious in your investing practices, you should individually be able to outperform the aggregate. That's a tall order which is why for most of us, adopting Bogle's approach does make sense.

    Next error. "The first rule investors should understand is that what goes up must come down, and what comes down must go up." Not entirely so. Again, this is true for the aggregate market in regressing to the mean (e.g., P/E ratio). However, the situation for individual equities may be different (although his point is about mutual funds where it is more accurate). If you have a well-managed firm, there is no reason its profit margins cannot stay elevated and its stock continuously improve over time. That's not to say that it will not have price fluctuations around some central, upward moving mean, or have an oscillation around its mean P/E ratio, but it is not doomed to regress to the performance level of all other firms. Unfortunately, well managed firms in a complete sense (products, leaders, succession, strategies, capitalization, etc.) are not necessarily abundant. Hence Bogle's position that most of us cannot beat the average by picking winners in the market any more than we can at the track.

    Next up...Trading ETFs. The comment about SPY trading $15 billion a day being "turnover" is a bit misleading. In the sense of inventory turnover of shares in SPY itself, that might be true, but in the sense applied to portfolios it is not. Most of the time "turnover" in this type of discussion relates to the buying and selling of the equities or individual investments held in a fund. SPY holds the S&P 500 mix of equities and they only change when firms enter or exit the index. That's very low portfolio turnover.

    All in all, the article comes out in what I think is the right place, but it is not without its rhetorical embellishments.

    Dave Samuels from CA posted about 1 year ago:

    A few comments. "What goes down must go up"-take a look at CSCO, INTL, etc. from 1998 to today. They are still struggling to recover losses from nearly 17 years ago so this may be a lesson in avoiding stock picking and sticking with indexes. On leveraging 3:1 tracking error will get you every time. Your stock (or index) drops significantly from where it was purchased, recovering from leverage is very difficult. Finally I am a proponent in the equal weight (RSP) versus cap weighted (SPY). Although RSP expense ration is higher than SPY (.4% versus .09% according to Yahoo Finance) RSP increases exposure to small & mid-cap which over time outperform large cap as one of your readers pointed out.

    Ira Gerson from IL posted about 1 year ago:

    It seems lots of comments are always made about buying funds with low expenses.
    Since returns are posted after expenses, why shouldn't I buy a fund with slightly higher expense(say 10-15%) if it's return is higher than one with the lower expense?

    Robert Franzen from MO posted 5 months ago:

    After a lifetime of investing, and 17 years of advising clients on the art of investing, I have firmly concluded indexing is the winning strategy for most mortals. Jack Bogle is right! While it is undisputed that a skilled trader can beat the market sometimes, it is a very rare trader who is skilled enough to beat it all the time. Just like a blackjack player can have a good day or a good week, it is only a very few who have mastered the skill, discipline and patience to make it a career.

    If you are a non-believer, go back to the table and review the numbers. By choosing the indexing path, you are ahead of the game by a full 2%+ annually right from the starting gate! It is a rare actively managed fund that can perform well enough to close this gap over a long period of time – And, for the rare few that do, you will only know about it after the fact!

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