Swedroe: Ode To Jack Bogle

January 17, 2019

“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others,” from L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” is among the most famous lines spoken in movie history. They are words of wisdom from the Wizard to the Tin Man, who only wanted a heart.

If you want to know how much John Bogle—the founder of Vanguard and a pioneer of index funds—was loved by millions, all you have to do is look to his nickname: Saint Jack. Jack’s career was dedicated to one thing: Doing the right thing for investors by acting as a fiduciary.

To that purpose, he created the first (and only) truly mutual fund company. Unlike other mutual fund companies, Vanguard is owned by its investors. Jack had a laser focus on low costs and broad diversification. Every investor owes a debt of gratitude to Saint Jack, as he was a crusader whose relentless effort to drive down costs led to lower-cost funds for investors everywhere as competitors were forced to keep up.

Each of us who have had the pleasure of meeting Jack has a story about how humble and generous a man he was. I was lucky enough to have had dinner with him and serve on a panel with him. I have two stories I’d like to share.

A Kind & Generous Man

In 1998, shortly after my first book, “The Only Guide to a Winning Investment Strategy You’ll Ever Need,” was published, I received a letter from Jack. Wondering what it could be, I opened it to discover a personal note on his stationery saying how much he enjoyed the book (someone had given him a copy) and that I could use his note as a blurb.

Here I was, an unpublished author, totally unknown in the industry, and he was kind enough to take the time to not only read my book, but to send an unsolicited note. Saint Jack was generous enough to endorse others of my books, providing blurbs.

Below is a picture of the note I received from Jack after he had read “Rational Investing in Irrational Times.” That note meant so much to me that I still have it sitting on my desk 17 years later. Here’s a picture of it:

 

For a larger view, please click on the image above.

 

A few years later, I was a panelist at his beloved Bogleheads annual conference. One of my fellow panelists was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, William Bernstein. The other was the legend that is John Bogle. You could say I was a bit nervous.

At the end of the session, Saint Jack stood up and told the audience that he wanted them to know that the panel was the most distinguished he had ever served on. You can only imagine how I felt—honored, of course, but also humbled to be in the presence of such a kind and generous person.

Likely millions of investors owe at least part of their success to the man who was loved by so many. You can count me among them. Indeed, Jack is one of my heroes. After decades of working relentlessly on behalf of investors, I hope Saint Jack is now resting in peace.

Larry Swedroe is the director of research for The BAM Alliance, a community of more than 140 independent registered investment advisors throughout the country.

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