Tributes from around Philadelphia, and the country, have poured in for the late Vanguard founder John C. Bogle, who insisted everyone call him “Jack.”
Here’s a personal tribute: Around 2001 when I started covering mutual funds, Bogle took me to lunch at the Princeton Club (his college alma mater) in Manhattan to give me “some tips.” That was outrageously humble of him, given that he’d created the index mutual fund, He’d also received a heart transplant in 1996, and yet I could barely keep up with the pace of his ideas for stories. He was then 70, and still worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. He died at his Bryn Mawr home last week at age 89.
For those not familiar, Bogle launched what is today’s Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund in the 1970s, and pioneered low-cost investing. Knowledge@Wharton dubbed Bogle the “father of indexing.”
Decades later, Vanguard’s funds charge an average of 0.11 percent in annual expenses for consumers. That is, if you invest $1,000, you pay $1.10 in fees annually.
That expense ratio, the annual cost paid for money management, is much lower than the 0.52 percent industry average for funds and ETFs in 2017, according to Morningstar. The rest of Wall Street, including competitors BlackRock, Fidelity, and State Street, are now in an ongoing war with Vanguard to cut fees, and the effect has been to democratize investing.
Who benefited? We did -- the retail investor.
Bogle was seeking to help the small investor as recently a few months ago.
At a June 2018 meeting with SEC chief Jay Clayton, which Bogle attended along with members of the Institute for the Fiduciary Standard, Bogle aired his views on a hoped-for fiduciary standard to protect investors. Bogle applauded the commission’s “attempt to ensure that the best interests of investors are not superseded by the interests of service marketers,” calling the new rules “the essence of fiduciary duty.”
Although we still lack a fiduciary standard on Wall Street, “as an adviser, he was constant: ‘Press on, regardless,’ ” the Institute’s head Knut Rostad said of Bogle. SEC head Clayton last week chipped in too, saying "Jack Bogle had unwavering passion for America, our capital markets, and most of all our Main Street investors.”
The Bogleheads, a group of low-cost investing devotees who dubbed Vanguard’s founder “Saint Jack,” mourned him online, saying: “He drove one of the greater transfers of wealth to the average person.”
An Inquirer reader wrote in: “I am now retired, and in a way I owe my ability to retire without too many financial concerns to John Bogle," while another wrote, “Jack Bogle gave us an idea and then made that idea into a reality. I wrote to him and got a personal note back about my efforts to help women learn The Bogle Way.”
The Bogle way meant buying “the market” instead of actively managed funds or individual stocks, which he believed rarely benefited amateurs, particularly in an era when few Americans still had pensions and directed their own retirement plans.
“Bogle’s cost crusade has permeated investor consciousness. Investors are demanding lower cost mutual funds and ETFs. As it turns out, costs matter! The investing marketplace has changed thanks to Jack Bogle and I doubt what he has done can ever be undone,” wrote another Boglehead. You can read their tributes on the Bogleheads.org forum: .
And a Collegeville, Pa., pizza shop hoisted a goodbye sign for Bogle: Collegeville Italian Bakery Pizzeria Napoletana at 3846 West Ridge Pike lit up a tribute to him on their outdoor billboard.
Owner Steve Carcarey said he and his wife, Patrizia change their sign nearly every day, and wanted to honor the Vanguard founder “out of respect, to Bogle and his family and what he’s done for the community.” And yes, the pizza shop owner invests in Vanguard funds.
Third year a charm?
The third year of a presidential term, on average, has been the best for the stock market. Traditionally the second year has been the worst.
In 2018, the stock market lost 4.4 percent. But have hope: In the past 74 years, the S&P 500 fell for two years in a row only twice -- after the “dotcom” bubble burst in 2000 and 2001; and in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. In those periods “there was an accompanying recession, which we do not expect this year,” said Paul Tully, founder of Eagle Wealth Strategies in West Deptford, N.J.
His conclusions mirror those of David Kelly, JP Morgan’s chief market strategist, who contends the U.S. economy is “a healthy tortoise” that "will slow but not stall.”
Jeremy Siegel, a Wharton School finance professor, estimates that stocks could rise as much as 15 percent in 2019. The average in a year-end Barron’s survey totaled 2,975 for the S&P 500. Either would be a substantial improvement over the 2018 year-end value of 2,507.
“This market feels worse than it is,” Tully added. The stock market decline in 2018 wasn’t nearly the 36 percent decline in 2008, but “it feels worse because the economy is doing fine.”