This article is composed by Bogleheads® forum member digarei.
Thanks to everyone who attended today’s event. We expected a large group but didn’t realize that 26 of us meeting together would fog up the windows! Special thanks to those who drove an hour (or two, or three) to participate.
What is a Boglehead?
David B gave an excellent presentation on the research behind Safe Withdrawal Rates and a number of people spoke about what it means to be a Boglehead, Jack Bogle’s legacy and what it means for investors.
History will favor the ideals, principles and tenacity of John Bogle. His dogged pursuit of corporate honesty and accountability, and his insistence that the (average) retail investor be accorded a fair return on their money alone made this flawed human being exceptional and significant. He was certainly a paradox, capable of exhibiting an ego of prodigious dimension and at the same time impressing those he met with his humility and self-effacement. Both attributes seemed genuine. We will not only miss the intelligence and candor evidenced in his writing and speaking but also his amiable personality and generosity.
An observation in the form of a question:
Will we still be calling ourselves “Bogleheads” five years from now?— or will this designation fall into disuse over time?
In 1971, Richard Nixon either said or didn’t say, “We are all Keynesians now.”¹ Nearly 50 years later, this identification is still very much in use, frequently cited by both conservative and liberal economists (though perhaps with different meaning or context). Will investors of the future affirm, “We are all Bogleheads now?”
Most of those present felt the appellation would survive but not everyone agreed with the first definition proposed: ‘To be a Boglehead is to be frugal.’ The majority felt this to be a sound statement, albeit incomplete. A few of us protested: not all Bogleheads are frugal. We did agree that Bogleheads are strongly predisposed to living beneath their means. Does being a Boglehead imply discipleship? The coordinator thought that this carries things too far.
Respect and admiration, personal regard, adherence to the many financial management principles John Bogle promulgated but did not invent (e.g. delayed gratification; diversify across broad market funds/ETFs; a share of your portfolio should be in fixed income; contribute often to retirement accounts; keep costs low; ignore market gyrations, financial pundits & popular fads), adopt a philosophy that prioritizes human beings over financial gain, practice equity (fairness)… and so on. These are all fine attributes or good advice. Even so, we’re not obligated to become a follower or zealot on the path to investing perfection.² There are no sacred texts in investing.³
What do Bogleheads practice? Many of us invest in index mutual funds—but not everyone. Buy and hold? Uh, huh. Low cost investing? We came close to reaching consensus on this one; it’s important to manage cost.
After the meeting was adjourned, a sizable contingent met for lunch/beer at Centro Cocina Mexicana on 27th & J Street.
Links to the meeting audio, presentation slides and SWR spreadsheet were e-mailed to members on Febtuary 10.
¹ Economist Milton Friedman likely coined this. Nixon adopted it as conventional wisdom.
² Jack was confident that US investors need not invest in international equities, that US businesses would continue to perform into the future. So far, at least in recent years, he’s been right. Some day, this advice may not be as relevant. ‘Bogleheads’ seek to understand investing and, like Jack, always entertain the possibility that they could be mistaken.
³‘No sacred texts’ but there are some darn good quotes, many authored or adapted by John Bogle.