No individual has made a bigger positive impact on the savings of ordinary Americans than Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Group and pioneer of low-cost index funds. Bogle passed away on Wednesday at the age of 89, leaving behind a legacy of both improving the performance and lowering the cost of millions of retirement savings accounts nationwide.
Under Bogle’s watch Vanguard introduced the first index mutual fund in 1976, giving investors an ability to invest in the stock market broadly and at a low cost. Eventually called “the father of indexing,” Bogle positively reshaped the investment plans for generations of savers. Vanguard’s index fund assets now stand at a staggering $3.4 trillion. And investors have committed trillions more to similar low-cost strategies outside of Vanguard as indexing went mainstream.
Along the way Bogle received his fair share of criticism, mainly from the Wall Street establishment he was undercutting on behalf of savers. As Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett aptly put it in his 2016 letter to shareholders, “In his early years, Jack was frequently mocked by the investment-management industry. Today, however, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he helped millions of investors realize far better returns on their savings than they otherwise would have earned. He is a hero to them and to me.”
So great was his following, eventually Bogle’s advocates in the index fund revolution became known as “Bogleheads.” Surely, they will mourn the passing of a visionary in American finance, who dedicated his life to improving the fortunes of others over his own. As Buffett further said, “Jack has urged investors to invest in ultra-low-cost index funds. In his crusade, he amassed only a tiny percentage of the wealth that has typically flowed to managers who have promised their investors large rewards while delivering them nothing.”
But Bogle’s impact is yet to be felt for millions in America, many of whom may not even know his name.
Either for lack of savings, access, the allure of speculation, or just plain old bad advice, many retirement savers have yet join Bogle’s index fund revolution. Even though he passed on Wednesday, the innovation endures.
Now, it’s a plain fact that the best retirement savings plan for the average investor aims to capitalize on the market’s long-term returns at a low cost. For what’s likely to be millions of future converts, it’s never too late to become a ‘Boglehead.’
For more Forbes coverage: Here Is Jack Bogle’s Timeless Advice From Our Centennial Magazine Issue