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Customer Review

132 of 141 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good, biased, don't read just this, June 5, 2001
This review is from: Common Sense on Mutual Funds: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor (Paperback)
I didn't find the book nearly as repetitive as some other reviewers did. Yes, Bogle continues to point out that cost matters and that you can't predict the winners in advance. But he HAS to keep repeating his point. If he didn't, opponents of indexing would (and do) say, "But cost doesn't matter as much in emerging markets because they are less efficient." So Bogle is forced to remake his point over and over and over again to show the superiority of indexing in every asset class.
Bogle has a few hidden gems in here that I haven't come across in my other reading. For instance, he points out that owning S&P 500 companies DOES give you international exposure since almost 25% of the those companies' revenues come from outside the United States. He also makes some very good points about the effectiveness of slice-and-dice efficient frontier asset allocation methodologies and how they tend to reflect the past more than the future.
On the other hand, I feel that his dismissal of international investing shows an underlying bias that isn't well founded. He points out that the EAFE failed to perform as well at the S&P 500 over the past 10 years. Yet that is a period he admits is extraordinarily favorable to US-based large-cap firms. Later he does admit that when measured from its inception in the 1960s the EAFE has almost the same returns as the S&P 500 but then dismisses the usefulness of this. Even though it provided the same returns if it has a low correlation to the S&P 500 it can be a good component in a portfolio. It is almost like he doesn't understand the entire point of risk-adjusted returns.
Another complaint is that I don't think the book is very suitable as an introduction for novices. It isn't that the material is difficult, I just don't feel it is structured very well. For instance, he starts using standard deviation to mean risk. It isn't until much later on that he mentions in passing the problems with using standard deviation as a proxy for risk. If you are a little bit familiar with investing then you'll know all of this already, but I think a novice might be left floundering or possibly mislead.
I couldn't help shake the feeling that a lot of his arguments weren't especially sound. Maybe it's because he doesn't present a lot of his data, but only his conclusions. Or maybe it's because it feels too much like he's reasoning towards a conclusion he arrived at long before the data was available. I feel that Berstein's Intelligent Asset Allocator offers a much more rigorous and sound (if slightly different) argument in favor of indexing than presented here.
Finally, I felt like the argument wasn't especially coherent. I knew what point he was trying to make but at times I just felt like the editor hadn't done a proper job of cleaning up the text. Swedroe's What Wall Street Doesn't Want You To Know has a much more coherent, straight forward structure while arguing in favor of indexing.
Despite all of that, I still think this book has a valuable place in the investor's education. If you can borrow a copy from a friend, or check it out from the library, you owe it to yourself to do so.
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