The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing

As an investor you can be well above average by settling for slightly less than the index returns.

Burton Malkiel, professor of economics, Princeton University and author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street: "Through the past thirty years more than two-thirds of professional portfolio managers have been outperformed by the unmanaged S&P 500 Index.

Here is the crux of the strategy: Instead of hiring an expert, or spending a lot of time trying to decide which stocks or actively managed funds are likely to be top performers, just invest in index funds and forget about it!

If you buy an S&P 500 index fund, your investment is highly diversified and its performance will match that of 500 leading U.S. corporations' stocks. Is it possible to lose all of your money? Yes, but the odds of that happening are slim and none. If 500 leading U.S. corporations all have their stock prices plummet to zero, the value of your investment portfolio will be the least of your problems. An economic collapse of that magnitude would make the Great Depression look like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

If you don't think those miniscule costs matter, consider this: Let's assume someone puts $10,000 in a mutual fund, leaves it there 20 years, and gets an average annual return of 10 percent. If the fund had an expense ratio of 1.5 percent, the fund is worth $49,725 at the end of 20 years. However if the fund had an expense ratio of 0.5 percent, it would be worth $60,858 at the end of 20 years. Just a 1 percent difference in expenses makes an 18 percent difference in returns when compounded over 20 years.

I helped put two children through Harvard—my broker’s children. —Michael LeBoeuf

Index funds outperform approximately 80 percent of all actively managed funds over long periods of time. They do so for one simple reason: rock-bottom costs. In a random market, we don't know what future returns will be. However, we do know that an investor who keeps his or her costs low will earn a higher return than one who does not. That's the indexer's edge.

Index investing is an investment strategy that Walter Mitty would love. It takes very little investment knowledge, no skill, practically no time or effort-and outperforms about 80 percent of all investors. It allows you to spend your time working, playing, or doing anything else while your nest egg compounds on autopilot. It's about as difficult as breathing and about as time consuming as going to a fast-food restaurant once a year.

Jason Zweig, senior writer and columnist at Money magazine and coauthor of the revised edition of Benjamin Graham's classic, The Intelligent Investor: "If you buy-and then hold-a total stock market index fund, it is mathematically certain that you will outperform the vast majority of all other investors in the long run. Graham praised index funds as the best choice for individual investors, as does Warren Buffett.

Paul Farrell, columnist for CBS Marketwatch and author of The Lazy Person's Guide to Investing: "So much attention is paid to which funds are at the head of the pack today that most people lose sight of the fact that, over longer time periods, index funds beat the vast majority of their actively managed peers.

Paul Samuelson, first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Science: "The most efficient way to diversify a stock portfolio is with a low fee index fund. Statistically, a broadly based stock index fund will outperform most actively managed equity portfolios.

There is a crucially important difference about playing the game of investing compared to virtually any other activity. Most of us have no chance of being as good as the average in any pursuit where others practice and hone skills for many, many hours. But we can be as good as the average investor in the stock market with no practice at all.
Jeremy Siegel, Professor of Finance, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Stocks for the Long Run

The shortest route to top quartile performance is to be in the bottom quartile of expenses. —Jack Bogle

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and investor of legendary repute: "Most investors, both institutional and individual, will find that the best way to own common stocks is through an index fund that charges minimal fees. Those following this path are sure to beat the net results (after fees and expenses) delivered by the great majority of investment professionals.

William Bernstein, Ph.D., M.D., author of The Four Pillars of Investing, frequent guest columnist for Morningstar and often quoted in The Wall Street Journal: "An index fund dooms you to mediocrity? Absolutely not: It virtually guarantees you superior performance.