Notes from The Little Book of Common Sense Investing (2007) by John C. Bogle:
* Successful investing is about owning businesses and reaping the huge rewards provided by the dividends and earnings growth of our nation’s—and, for that matter, the world’s—corporations. The higher the level of their investment activity, the greater the cost of financial intermediation and taxes, the less the net return that shareholders—as a group, the owners of our businesses—receive. The lower the costs that investors as a group incur, the higher the rewards that they reap. So to enjoy the winning returns generated by businesses over the long term, the intelligent investor will reduce to the bare-bones minimum the costs of financial intermediation.
* Our system of financial intermediation has created enormous fortunes for those who manage other people’s money. Their self-interest will not soon change. But as an investor, you must look after your self-interest. Only by facing the obvious realities of investing can an intelligent investor succeed.
* In the investment field, time doesn’t heal all wounds. It makes them worse. Where returns are concerned, time is your friend. But where costs are concerned, time is your enemy.
* With each passing year, the reality is increasingly clear: relative returns of mutual funds are random. Yes, there are rare cases where skill seems to be involved, but it would require decades to determine how much of a fund’s success can be attributed to luck, and how much attributed to skill.
* While I can’t assure you that traditional index investing is the best strategy ever devised, I can assure you that the number of strategies that are worse is infinite.
* I urge you not to be tempted by the siren song of paradigms that promise the accumulation of wealth that are far beyond the rewards of the traditional index fund. Don’t forget the prophetic warning of Carl von Clausewitz, military theorist and Prussian general of the early nineteenth century: “The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.”
* No matter what happens, stick to your program. Think long term. Patience and consistency are the most valuable assets for the intelligent investor.
* Whatever asset allocation strategy you decide is best for you, you absolutely must take into account the role of Social Security—a major source of income for most retirees—as you age. When determining their asset allocations, most investors need to take Social Security into consideration as a bond-like asset.
* The way to wealth, I repeat one final time, is not only to capitalize on the magic of long-term compounding of returns, but to avoid the tyranny of long-term compounding of costs. Avoid the high-cost, high-turnover, opportunistic marketing modalities that characterize today’s financial services system. While the interests of Wall Street’s businesses are well served by the aphorism “Don’t just stand there—do something!,” the interests of Main Street’s investors are well served by an approach that is its diametrical opposite: “Don’t do something—just stand there!”