Who Was John Bogle? Vanguard Founder, Father of Indexing

John Bogle was the founder of the Vanguard Group and a major proponent of index investing. Commonly referred to as "Jack," Bogle revolutionized the mutual fund world by creating index investing, which allows investors to buy mutual funds that track the broader market. He did this with the overall intent to make investing easier and at a low cost for the average investor.

He died on Jan. 16, 2019, at the age of 89.

Key Takeaways

  • John Bogle was an investor and founder of the Vanguard Group, one of the largest investment firms in the world.
  • Bogle created index investing, which allows investors to buy mutual funds that track the broader market.
  • Bogle introduced the Vanguard 500 fund, which tracks the returns of the S&P 500 and marked the first index fund marketed to retail investors.
  • One of Bogle's pioneering achievements was low-cost investing in mutual funds by creating no-load funds.
  • Index investing utilizes a passive investment strategy that requires a manager to only ensure that the fund's holdings match those of the benchmark index.
  • Common Sense on Mutual Funds: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor is a book Bogle wrote on investing that has since become a classic for investors worldwide.
John Bogle

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John Bogle on Starting World's First Index Fund

Early Life and Education

John Bogle was born on May 8, 1929, in Montclair, New Jersey. He attended Blair Academy which was paid for by his uncle, as his family had lost most of their wealth in the 1929 stock market crash. John Bogle attended Princeton University where he studied economics.

In his early career, he joined Wellington Management in 1951 and attempted to persuade them to change their strategy of focusing on one investment fund to many. He eventually became chairman of Wellington but was fired after a poorly made merger decision. He then founded his own mutual fund company, Vanguard Group, in 1974.

Notable Accomplishments


With Vanguard, Bogle employed a novel ownership structure in which the shareholders of mutual funds became part owners of the funds in which they invested. The funds themselves own the investment firm, making the fund investors indirect owners of the firm itself. This structure allows the firm to incorporate any profits into its operating structure, reducing investment costs for fund investors.

In 1976, Bogle introduced the Vanguard 500 fund, which tracks the returns of the S&P 500 and marked the first index fund marketed to retail investors. Bogle’s unique structure for Vanguard also made it a natural fit for the provision of no-load mutual funds, which do not charge a commission on investment purchases.

An index fund is an investment fund, such as an ETF or mutual fund with a portfolio that is constructed to match that of a specific market index.

When the Vanguard 500 fund was launched in its initial iteration, it raised only $11 million in its first underwriting in 1976. As of July 28, 2022, the fund manages more than $709 billion in assets.

Bogle retired as CEO and chair of Vanguard in 1999 and wrote Common Sense on Mutual Funds: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor the same year, which has since become a classic for investors worldwide.


John Bogle contributed significantly to the popularity of index investing, in which a fund maintains a mix of investments that track a major market index. Bogle’s philosophy that average investors would find it difficult or impossible to beat the market over time led him to prioritize ways to reduce expenses associated with investing in mutual funds. For example, Bogle focused on no-load funds featuring low turnover and simple investment strategies.

The philosophy behind passive investing generally rests upon the idea that the expenses associated with chasing high market returns cancel out most or all of the gains an investor would otherwise achieve with a passive strategy that relies upon funds with lower turnover, management fees, and expense ratios.

Passive investing stands in contrast to active investing, which requires managers to take a more hands-on role with the intent of outperforming the market.

Index funds fit this model nicely because they base their holdings on the securities listed on any given index. Investors who purchase shares in index funds gain the benefit of the diversity represented by all the securities on an index.

This protects against the risk that a given company will lower the performance of the overall fund. Index funds also more or less run themselves, as managers only need to ensure their holdings match those of the index they follow. This keeps fees lower for index funds than for funds with more active trading.

Finally, because index funds require fewer trades to maintain their portfolios than funds with more active management schemes, index funds tend to produce more tax-efficient returns than other types of funds.

What Was John Bogle's Net Worth?

At the time of his death in 2019, John Bogle's net worth was approximately $80 million. He earned the bulk of that money as the founder of the investment management company, Vanguard.

Who Invented Passive Investing?

John Bogle, the founder of the investment management firm, Vanguard, invented passive investing. By doing so, he created a new industry focused on this type of investing as opposed to the traditional method of investing, active investing. He is known as the "Father of Passive Investing."

What Is the Difference Between an ETF and an Index Fund?

An ETF can be bought and sold on an exchange like a stock at any point whereas an index fund can only be traded at the end of the day at the set price point. ETFs provide greater flexibility than index funds.

The Bottom Line

John Bogle is a titan in the history of investment management by starting the Vanguard Group, one of the largest investment management firms in the world. Through Vanguard he popularized passive investing, making it easier for average investors to invest their capital and generate returns with low risks.

Article Sources
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  1. Vanguard. "Vanguard Announces the Passing of Founder John C. Bogle."

  2. Vanguard. "500 Index Fund Admiral Shares."

  3. SuccessStory. "John Bogle Story."

  4. Bloomberg. "Jack Bogle Was a Punk."

  5. National Public Radio. "Jack Bogle, Father of Simple Investing, Dies at 89."

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