Thursday, January 17, 2019

RIP Jack Bogle

"If a statue is ever erected to honor the person who has done the most for American investors, the handsdown choice should be Jack Bogle.... In his early years, Jack was frequently mocked by the investment-management industry. Today, however, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he helped millions of investors realize far better returns on their savings than they otherwise would have earned. He is a hero to them and to me. --Warren Buffett (2016 Annual Letter)

John Bogle, who founded Vanguard and revolutionized retirement savings, dies at 89 (LINK)

Jason Zweig recounts Mr. Bogle's long and influential career (video) (LINK)


Back when I was first reading Jack Bogle's book Enough, I emailed him the following quote from Seneca that I thought was a perfect compliment to the things he had written about in his book: 
"What difference does it make how much there is laid away in a man's safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another's and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already. You ask what is the proper limit to a person's wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough." 
Mr. Bogle was kind enough to both respond to my email as well as pass along some words of encouragement to a young man still early on in his investment career. A short while later, I came across another quote that reminded me of his book, and again passed it along. Though not quite as fitting as the one above, it was a longer quote from Arthur Schopenhauer:
"It is difficult, if not impossible, to define the limits which reason should impose on the desire for wealth; for there is no absolute or definite amount of wealth which will satisfy a man. The amount is always relative, that is to say, just so much as will maintain the proportion between what he wants and what he gets; for to measure a man's happiness only by what he gets, and not also by what he expects to get, is as futile as to try and express a fraction which shall have a numerator but no denominator. A man never feels the loss of things which it never occurs to him to ask for; he is just as happy without them; whilst another, who may have a hundred times as much, feels miserable because he has not got the one thing he wants. In fact, here too, every man has an horizon of his own, and he will expect as much as he thinks it is possible for him to get. If an object within his horizon looks as though he could confidently reckon on getting it, he is happy; but if difficulties come in the way, he is miserable. What lies beyond his horizon has no effect at all upon him. So it is that the vast possessions of the rich do not agitate the poor, and conversely, that a wealthy man is not consoled by all his wealth for the failure of his hopes. Riches, one may say, are like sea-water; the more you drink the thirstier you become; and the same is true of fame."
He once again replied with kindness and, as he put it, delight that those of us who digested his work made interesting connections to other things. And as I look back at the quotes above, they once again seem fitting ways to describe a great man that gave far more than he took from the world, and was always happy with having enough.


And since it's only fitting to let Mr. Bogle have the last word, let's go back to the inaugural issue of CFA Magazine (Jan/Feb 2003). Charley Ellis moderated a panel of investing greats (Bernstein, Bogle, Brinson, Buffett, LeBaron, Neff, and Templeton), and the final question he asked the panel was: "Given the option to say whatever you would like to say that, 30 years from now, bright, young people would be sitting down and reading, saying 'Gee, I'm glad I was able to read this particular thought,' what would that thought be?" Bogle's reply, which was the last among the panel members: 
"First, put the client’s interest ahead of your own, and, one day at a time, help to make this field of investing more of a profession and less of a business. Second, learn every day, but especially learn from the experiences of others. It’s cheaper! And third, never, never lose your idealism, no matter how rough your career might be, and never lose faith in your nation."