John Bogle is an investment industry icon, extremely accomplished in life, a capable writer with wisdom and heart, and most importantly an author with a message that is strong, clear and right. Similar to one of his earlier tomes' titles, this is a "Little Book of Common Sense . . ." guide to ". . . Money, Business and Life."
This book should be read by all investors, but will likely be read predominantly by those who already agree with what Mr. Bogle has to say. Too many, it seems, are too distracted reading 'get rich quick' guides to investing or real estate, aiming for their fifteen minutes of fame, or leveraging to accumulate more, visible assets, and not enough are reading the likes of John Bogle.
The titles of the first three chapters give a good idea of the book's central message: "Too Much Cost, Not Enough Value", "Too Much Speculation, Not Enough Investment", and "Too Much Complexity, Not Enough Simplicity." "Enough" offers a far more focussed and far more workable solution to our economic (and lifestyle) woes than do most economists, retired CEOs or other market pundits writing today. It offers an overview of how we got into our present economic mess, and a prescription that each of us can take to get out; one that is intuitive, workable, and supported by facts and common sense.
The author freely draws from his personal and professional life to emphasize points, and he quotes liberally from literature: Shakespeare, Elliot (TS, not George), and Frost (Robert, not Jack) among many others. Mr. Bogle references many academics and economists, but in an easy and unpretentious way: Schumpeter, Taleb, Minsky, Keynes, Adam Smith, Ben Graham, and Peter Bernstein. Quotations and references abound in the book, though some may find his liberal quotations from scripture detracts or distracts from the central message. In the context of how Mr. Bogle lives his life and sets his moral compass, the biblical references are central to his message and do not come across as 'preachy'. A warning, those who don't enjoy reading italics should avoid this book.
With a clear central message, Mr. Bogle's scope nonetheless covers a wide range of topics. Investors will recoil in horror at his insightful explanations of how the investment industry looks after itself at the expense of its clients - Mr. Bogle's former company, Vanguard, is a very notable exception to this, both in its products (the first and lowest cost index mutual funds) and in its organisation (a non-profit co-op). Workers in organisations both large and small will enjoy and learn from his workplace wisdom, and those in leadership positions will benefit from his reflections on both his successes and his mistakes. Through the book's narrative, all readers will be reminded of the keys to investing successfully, how a company should be valued, why CEO compensation (both amount and structure) is flawed, why shareholders have no real say as owners, and all the while be goaded to ask with respect to their own lives, "How much is enough?"
We are fortunate to have Jack Bogle as a role model, and doubly fortunate to have him share his experiences and thoughts with us.
Well-known mutual fund pioneer John Bogle (founder of Vanguard and the index fund) uses Enough to explain how the financial markets got into the current mess, to prescribe the need to reinstate character and stewardship into those who lead, and to suggest that piling up more money, toys, and baubles causes more harm than good.
I particularly liked the sections where Mr. Bogle explained that making the financial markets more complicated and expensive simply makes the average American less wealthy. His analysis and descriptions are right on.
My next favorite section was in describing the kind of leader that Benjamin Franklin was in innovating as an inventory, social entrepreneur, statesman, and businessman. Those who don't know about Franklin will find this information to be very inspiring.
I also applaud his clear emphasis on the idea that money doesn't count compared to character and doing the right thing.
The book has a few weaknesses that might bother a few readers. There's perhaps a little too much emphasis on what Vanguard has done over the years, making the book seem almost like an infomercial after a while. Although he points out to what needs to change, the prescriptions for change are pretty modest. As long as many people can never have enough, they will be lured into dangerous, expensive investment vehicles and actions that "cut corners" that shouldn't be cut. He doesn't really address the question of how much people should be saved from themselves by banishing certain practices (such as charging fees for funds of funds or the current structure of how hedge fund managers are paid).
In my own research on stock options, I've identified highly ethical, intelligent management teams that were distracted by as little as the chance to make an extra two million dollars a person over several years. As a result, I doubt if many of the problems he's concerned about can be solved by anything less than much stronger regulation than has ever existed in corporate America.
If the alternative is for people to reform themselves, we may have along wait before ethical, effective behavior improves. Since most people learn good behavior in the home, which of the unethical, money-obsessed leaders are going to raise the children who will develop and behave according to good character in being stewards of other peoples' interests?