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This review is from: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Hardcover)
Who better to make a straightforward argument for the index mutual fund than the man who developed the first of its kind for Vanguard in 1975. The stock market offers the return of the businesses it represents to investors. These returns are not received, because rather than 'buying' the market with a fund that tracks those returns, investors are sold actively managed funds that try to outperform the market and in the end dilute those returns with crippling fees and costs from excessive trading. The argument has been made by other distinguished writers in recent years, but investors will find this industry giant's take on the matter forceful.
What's new is Bogle's sobering expectations for future market returns. Over the past century companies have produced a 4.5% dividend yield and a 5% earnings growth rate (9.5%) for investors - before actively managed fund costs have stripped away much of that wealth. Today dividend yields on equities are under 2%. Earnings growth rates in the future may or may not be lower than the historical average. What seems apparent is that investors are less willing to pay for those earnings than they have in the past - as measured by a decline in price earnings ratios. Bottom line: we may be looking at a period of market returns of just 7-8%, and after all the "intermediary" costs of the mutual fund industry, investors will see that return dramatically reduced. This is why costs matter. The index mutual fund is the least expensive way to get the market's return into your pocket. Unfortunately, many 401 (k) retirement plans do not include some of the key U.S. and international indexes recommended by Bogle.
Bogle's view of the flood of ETFs (exchange traded funds) that slice and dice markets into specialized sectors is that they have only increased risk with the illusion that they have diversified it away. They are a "wolf-in-sheep's clothing". That they can be so actively traded (long and short) defeats the underlying idea of owning the market for its long-term gains. Ultimately ETFs fail to offer the "quintessential" promise of a total stock market index fund to "earn [a] fair share of the stock market's returns". He sarcastically suggests they carry warning labels. Industry insiders will sit-up at Bogle's swipe at noted Wharton professor, Jeremy J. Siegel (author of the widely admired, STOCKS FOR THE LONG RUN). Recently Siegel has helped promote a family of ETF securities that shift the composition of the underlying indexes from a traditional capitalization weighted model to one that emphasizes dividends. For Bogle, these are siren songs based on data mined ideas that my or may not work in the future.