By JEFF SOMMER, NY Times
At 83, John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, says he’s never seen a market as treacherous as this one. But he still sees buying and holding index funds as the best option.
He is still preaching the gospel of long-term, low-cost investing. “My ideas are very simple,” he says: “In investing, you get what you don’t pay for. Costs matter. So intelligent investors will use low-cost index funds to build a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, and they will stay the course. And they won’t be foolish enough to think that they can consistently outsmart the market.”
Still, because the market and the economy are deeply troubled, it’s time for action on many fronts, he says: “We’ve really got no choice. We’ve got to fix this system. All of us, as individuals, need to do it.”
That’s the message of his latest and 11th book, “The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation” (Wiley & Sons, $29.95). It offers a scathing critique of the financial services industry and updated guidance for investors. “A culture of short-term speculation has run rampant,” he writes, “superseding the culture of long-term investment that was dominant earlier in the post-World War II era.”
Too much money is aimed at short-term speculation — the seeking of quick profit with little concern for the future. The financial system has been wounded by a flood of so-called innovations that merely promote hyper-rapid trading, market timing and shortsighted corporate maneuvering. Individual investors are being shortchanged, he writes.
Corporate money is flooding into political campaigns. The American retirement system faces a train wreck. America’s fundamental values are threatened. Mr. Bogle remains a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist but says the system has “gotten out of balance,” threatening our entire society. “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else,” he says, quoting Winston Churchill. Now, he says, it’s time to try something else.
He advocates taxes to discourage short-term speculation. He wants limits on leverage, transparency for financial derivatives, stricter punishments for financial crimes and, perhaps most urgently, a unified fiduciary standard for all money managers: “A fiduciary standard means, basically, put the interests of the client first. No excuses. Period.”