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on November 3, 2010
This book covers a lot of ground, with 35 chapters addressing seven main themes over a total of 586 pages. If you are already very familiar with John Bogle (who has written many books and delivered countless speeches addressing investment topics over a very long career in investments), then there is precious little in this book that you don't already know. However, if you are an investor who isn't quite that familiar with Bogle, then you may find this anthology of his major essays and speeches over the last decade to be a very helpful introduction to important investment-related topics of today.

Without divulging too much detail about the book, here's a relatively short guide to Bogle's topics. The seven parts of the book address:

1. Investment illusions. For example, as Bogle makes clear mutual funds taken as a whole simply cannot earn the markets' returns--because mutual funds have their own expenses. Indeed, Bogle's simple formula--net returns to investors = gross returns on assets minus the costs of operating the financial system--is pretty obvious, but one that investors tend to forget. Another illusion cited by Bogle is that mutual fund investors actually earn the returns of their funds. That is, if the XYZ mutual fund earns an average annual return of 8% over a 10-year period, chances are that XYZ's shareholders didn't achieve that 8% annual return, due to the well-documented tendency of investors to add to their investments when they feel optimistic (and markets are high) and reduce their investments when they feel pessimistic (and markets are low). Simply put, buying high and selling low reduces one's return.

2. The failure of capitalism. Bogle is actually a champion of capitalism, not some anti-capitalist critic. However, Bogle maintains that self interest and free markets alone won't necessarily guide an economy effectively. Rather, he says, there is a need for a broad fiduciary standard applicable to market participants, so that corporate managers, brokers, etc. put the interests of their shareholders and clients before themselves. (Some would argue that sufficient fiduciary standards already exist, but Bogle doesn't buy that argument.)

3. What's wrong with "mutual" funds? For starters, Bogle observes that "mutual" typically refers to an entity that's owned by its participants. In that case, only the Vanguard Group of mutual funds, Bogle maintains, is truly "mutual." Surprise, surprise--Bogle helped found the Vanguard Group.

4. What's right with indexing? Traditional indexing has taken a lot of flack in recent years, so Bogle (who helped start the indexing movement) fights back. He says the intellectual theory of indexing is not dependent on the notion of "efficient" markets, but rather on the concepts of low cost, diversification and tax efficiency. I admire Bogle as an honest and passionate advocate for investors, but I should note that not everyone will agree about the importance of the efficiency argument to the concept of indexing.

5. Entrepreneurship and innovation. I am taking more of your time than I planned, so I'll become briefer. In this part of the book, expect yet more of Bogle's characteristic idealism concerning the determinants of innovation.

6. Idealism and the new generation. Here we go again. More of Bogle's passionate arguments.

7. Heroes and mentors. We all owe a lot to those who have inspired and guided us, and here Bogle describes four men who were influential to him: Walter Morgan, Paul Samuelson, Peter Bernstein and Bernard Lown.

In conclusion, if you are an investor who is concerned about the economic and investing environment in which you participant, and if you are not already familiar with John Bogle's thoughtful commentaries on a host of relevant topics, then this book would be well worth your careful consideration.
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on June 16, 2015
The author makes a very compelling argument for a potential investor to seek out mutual funds with the lowest possible cost. He also defends his position with backdated data. He demonstrates that the mutual fund with he started, Vanguard, has been a superior performer and a low cost leader in the industry for the past several years. But after reading half of his book I found that he simply repeated his arguments over and over again. It was almost as if he was saying to his historical detractors: "Ha! I told you it would work!" "Look at me now!" Sadly, after being interested in his argument at the beginning of the book, I found myself skimming the latter half to get to the end. Hey, but on the bright side, I bought me some Vanguard Mutual Funds and they are doing well.
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on December 2, 2010
Reading the works of John Bogle has changed my life. After spending a lifetime investing with various companies and working with at least three different financial advisors with only marginal success, I finally encountered my first Bogle book some dozen years ago. I began reading Bogle then and have continued through these past dozen years continuing with his latest title Don't Count On It. In each of his works he speaks to the layman in a clear, well documented style with occasional references to figures from history or literature. None of his writing is dry economics text. His major emphasis on "costs matter" are eye opening to investors trying the accumulate a nestegg for retirement. He shows in great detail the impact of various fees and transaction costs charged by actively managed mutual funds. Intermediation costs ultimately detract from whatever the market is able to deliver, and investors realize only the sum available after these various fees are imposed. Bogle discourages frequent trading because of the costs involved and counsels investors to diversify in low cost stock and bond funds and then "stand still" with an eye toward investing for the long term in order to accumulate the market's returns for retirement. Young and old alike with learn from the wisdom of John Bogle. He is the founder of index giant Vanguard, and yet he has no equity position in the company. Don't Count On It is a summation of this great man's philosophy and sage investment adivce.
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on June 23, 2014
i would recommend this book and mr bogle's other books to anyone that is even thinking of investing in any market. it is well worthwhile if you just understand what you are paying for and not getting. if you do not mind being a sucker then ignore this and all other books. thank you mr john bogle. you are my hero !
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on November 21, 2010
Bogle maintains his reputation as the brightest investor in history. He breaks down investing into its simplist form with insights that it seems the entire industry either ignores or intentially obfuscates in order to take more money from investors. Why anyone would be invested in anything other than index funds after they really understand the facts is beyond me.
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on February 19, 2011
I have only glanced thru this book - I bought two others that I have started and can hardly wait to get into this with a cup of Starbucks coffee. ha - I invested money in the market and have lost a great deal of it so wish I or my brokers would have read this book l2 years ago. I would have a lot more money today.
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on July 8, 2017
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on September 8, 2011
Good book, except for the repetition. John Bogle has given an amazing number of speeches telling about the same history.

I thought one of the most telling points here was Bogle's observation that the word "risk" has been re-defined by the financial industry to mean "the chance of losing a customer" instead of "the chance that a customer will lose his money." In spite of observations like that, he encourages his readers to learn how the financial system works and to continue to invest in index funds of stocks and bonds. In the process, he defends this conclusion admirably with facts and data. All in all, an unblinking, sober assessment of the financial system in the U.S.A.

Note figures and tables don't show up well on Kindle (they're too small to be easily read). It's almost a wash whether it's worth it for the ease and convenience of reading on a small, portable electronic device, or you'd be better off hauling around dead trees and scanning figures and tables without a magnifying glass.
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on October 7, 2015
A brilliant compilation of the best writings, and speeches from one of the pillars of Wall Street. Too bad there aren't more "pillars", and fewer self-serving, greedy people we've come to expect from "the street."
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on September 12, 2015
Amongst many, if not the best book written by JBogle!
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