The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns

Buying funds based purely on their past performance is one of the stupidest things an investor can do.

Contrarily, for those who invest and then drop out of the game and never pay a single unnecessary cost, the odds in favor of success are awesome. Why? Simply because they own businesses, and businesses as a group earn substantial returns on their capital and pay out dividends to their owners. Yes, many individual companies fail. Firms with flawed ideas and rigid strategies and weak managements ultimately fall victim to the creative destruction that is the hallmark of competitive capitalism, only to be succeeded by others.3 But in the aggregate, businesses grow with the long-term growth of our vibrant economy.

Don't look for the needle in the haystack. Just buy the haystack!

Experience conclusively shows that index-fund buyers are likely to obtain results exceeding those of the typical fund manager, whose large advisory fees and substantial portfolio turnover tend to reduce investment yields. Many people will find the guarantee of playing the stock-market game at par every round a very attractive one. The index fund is a sensible, serviceable method for obtaining the market’s rate of return with absolutely no effort and minimal expense.

Graham’s timeless lesson for the intelligent investor, as valid today as when he prescribed it in his first edition, is clear: “the real money in investment will have to be made—as most of it has been made in the past—not out of buying and selling but of owning and holding securities, receiving interest and dividends and increases in value.” His

Gunning for average is your best shot at finishing above average.

Hear David Swensen, widely respected chief investment officer of the Yale University Endowment Fund. “A minuscule 4 percent of funds produce market-beating after-tax results with a scant 0.6 percent (annual) margin of gain. The 96 percent of funds that fail to meet or beat the Vanguard 500 Index Fund lose by a wealth-destroying margin of 4.8 percent per annum.

I’m speaking here about the classic index fund, one that is broadly diversified, holding all (or almost all) of its share of the $15 trillion capitalization of the U.S. stock market, operating with minimal expenses and without advisory fees, with tiny portfolio turnover, and with high tax efficiency. The index fund simply owns corporate America, buying an interest in each stock in the stock market in proportion to its market capitalization and then holding it forever.

It is fair to say that, by Graham’s demanding standards, the overwhelming majority of today’s mutual funds, largely because of their high costs and speculative behavior, have failed to live up to their promise. As a result, a new type of fund—the index fund—is now gradually moving toward ascendancy. Why? Both because of what it does—providing the broadest possible diversification—and because of what it doesn’t do—neither assessing high costs nor engaging in high turnover. These

It is simply not worth paying anybody more than 1 percent to manage your money. Above $1 million, you should be paying no more than 0.75 percent, and above $5 million, no more than 0.5 percent. . . . Your adviser should use index/passive stock funds wherever possible. If

It will also tell you how easy it is to do just that: simply buy the entire stock market. Then, once you have bought your stocks, get out of the casino and stay out. Just hold the market portfolio forever. And that’s what the index fund does. This investment philosophy is not only simple and elegant. The arithmetic on which it is based is irrefutable. But it is not easy to follow its discipline. So

like sales margins or profits. In the short-term, stock prices

long streaks are extraordinary luck imposed on great skill.

Mutual fund investors, too, have inflated ideas of their own omniscience. They pick funds based on the recent performance superiority of fund managers, or even their long-term superiority, and hire advisers to help them do the same thing. But, the advisers do it with even less success (see Chapters 8, 9, and 10). Oblivious of the toll taken by costs, fund investors willingly pay heavy sales loads and incur excessive fund fees and expenses, and are unknowingly subjected to the substantial but hidden transaction costs incurred by funds as a result of their hyperactive portfolio turnover. Fund investors are confident that they can easily select superior fund managers. They are wrong.

the great British economist John Maynard Keynes, written 70 years ago: “It is dangerous . . . to apply to the future inductive arguments based on past experience, unless one can distinguish the broad reasons why past experience was what it was.

The greatest Enemies of the Equity investor are Expenses and Emotions.

The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.” Stick to the good plan.

The grim irony of investing, then, is that we investors as a group not only don't get what we pay for, we get precisely what we don't pay for. So if we pay for nothing, we get everything.

The message is clear: in the long run, stock returns depend almost entirely on the reality of the investment returns earned by our corporations. The perception of investors, reflected by the speculative returns, counts for little. It is economics that controls long-term equity returns; emotions, so dominant in the short-term, dissolve.

The simple fact is that selecting a mutual fund that will outpace the stock market over the long term is, using Cervantes’ wonderful observation, like “looking for a needle in the haystack.” So I offer you Bogle’s corollary: “Don’t look for the needle in the haystack. Just buy the haystack!

The true investor . . . will do better if he forgets about the stock market and pays attention to his dividend returns and to the operating results of his companies.

The two greatest enemies of the equity fund investor are expenses and emotions.

Time makes more converts than reason.

When there are multiple solutions to a problem, choose the simplest one.