From time to time, a person will invent something that improves the lives of millions of people. Some of these inventors achieve fame, like Benjamin Franklin or Alexander Graham Bell, but many do not.
Have you ever heard of John Bogle? Most people haven’t, but he altered and improved the lives of tens of millions of people.
In 1951, John Bogle was attending Princeton and conducted a study for his thesis. He discovered that most stock fund managers do not perform better than the stock market indexes.
Often, managers would pick a portfolio that beat the indexes, but after the fees and expenses, the performance would fall behind. Today, this is well known, but it wasn’t so in 1951.
After graduation, Bogle began to work for an investment firm and quickly tried to convince the firm to create an investment that matched the stock index S&P 500.
This did not end well, and after a lousy merger Bogle was forced from the company. He didn’t give up. He was able to convince the board of another company to let him try to create a fund that would match the S&P 500. Finally, in 1976, he was given a chance.
This new fund would not have active managers buying and selling stocks. The fund would simply buy what was in the S&P 500 taking no thought if those companies were good or bad.
This was a scary proposition in 1976. Not having a manager that could manage risk and navigate the fund through bad markets was potentially frightening and carried the risk of lawsuits.
After some hardships and pushbacks against such a radical idea, Bogle eventually gained ground and established a pattern of low-cost, yet good-performing investments.
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Vanguard has now grown into one of the largest investment firms that hold more than $5 trillion for investors around the globe. Yes, that is trillion with a T.
Today, there are thousands of index-based investments available to investors offered by hundreds of companies.
Why is this so important? What makes Bogle so great?
Vanguard became one of the largest providers of 401(k)s. His idea saved billions of dollars in fees for his clients, which translated to better performance.
Millions of people have been able to retire better and earlier than they would have otherwise.
Even if you didn’t directly invest in Vanguard, you probably still benefited from their low-cost philosophy. Over the decades, the financial service industry has been lowering fees and cutting commissions to compete with Vanguard.
In January of this year, Bogle passed away. Few knew his name, but many have benefited from his ideas.
Bogle was a significant force for good in the world of finance and business that desperately needs more characters like him.