Jack Bogle and Bogleheads On Asset Allocation

Jack Bogle and Bogleheads On Asset Allocation

This writeup will not explain Asset Allocation, Risk vs Reward or many other related issues. It is just to serve, to me, as a reminder of the reasoning behind my personal Asset Allocation choices.

Many people over the years have asked Jack Bogle about his portfolio, hoping to divine the perfect investment mix. It’s an especially pressing question now in a volatile market, in which international events are whipsawing stocks.

The founder of Vanguard Group, the world’s largest mutual fund company, used to have a really basic portfolio that followed an asset allocation known as the 60-40 rule — 60 percent in a U.S. stock index fund and 40 percent in a U.S. bond index fund. He maintained that allocation for himself for years.

But he recently shifted his strategy by a hair: He’s now at 50/50, which makes his portfolio slightly more conservative.

“I just like the idea of having an anchor to the windward,” said Bogle, who is 86. “I’m not so much worried about having my estate grow.”


My personal Asset Allocation is currently around 21% Bonds / 10% Cash / 69% Stocks of which around 10% are International which brings us to this nice quote (below):

longinvest wrote:
Based on the above, here is the asset allocation approach that I recommend, regardless of age:

  • One should always have enough cash available to meet upcoming expenses.
  • One should have a reasonably sized emergency fund in cash.
  • The portfolio should be allocated as follows:
    1. It should only contain stocks and bonds through the use of total-market index ETFs or mutual funds.
    2. It should have no less than 25% and no more than 75% in bonds.
    3. It should have no less than 25% and no more than 75% in stocks divided as follows:
      1. It should have no less than 25% and no more than 75% of the stock allocation in the domestic stock market.
      2. It should have no less than 25% and no more than 75% of the stock allocation in international markets, without the use of currency hedging*.

Why 25% to 75%? There’s no deep theory behind these ratios. They are simply the ranges within which the allocation will have a noticeable impact on returns.

How much bonds, stocks, and international stocks, within these ranges? That’s up to each individual investor to choose according to his own perception of risks and potential rewards. The most important is to make a choice that the investor will be able to stick to regardless of how markets and inflation behave. That’s what we call staying the course.

As an example:

A 75% stocks / 25% bonds Three-Fund Portfolio with 25% of the stock allocation invested internationally would result in the following overall asset allocation:

  • Domestic stocks: 56% — (75% X 75%)
  • International stocks: 19% — (75% X 25%)
  • Bonds: 25%

As you can see, this is both within Bogle’s guidelines and the above guidelines.

I recommend that you decide for yourself about an appropriate allocation to international stocks within the above guidelines. There is simply no agreement among various Bogleheads authors (and members of this site) about how much should be invested internationally.

“When experts disagree, it is often because it does not make a foreseeable difference.” — Taylor Larimore, author of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing

So I want to take that recommendation and either drop International altogether or gradually work it up to 19-20% of holdings. I am leaning more towards the 20% at this point though would definitely want to get there slower than sooner.

On Bonds: I disagree with the seeming consensus of those who say one must/should hold International Bonds. Of course I have allowed a bit of International Bonds to creep into my mix and will limit it to a small percentage (4% like a large position size) of which I do not expect to impact my overall outcome significantly over time. I expect to glide, gradually, toward 50% bonds in my holdings. For a few reasons, mainly due to my liking how bonds have worked so far in my mix. Secondarily due to the general recommendations that they serve as stabilizers during market downs, though I do not really believe this, the only thing that would/could stabilize my holdings is having enough. If one does not have enough in a downturn to tie over all bets are off! That being said I am directing a 2% increase in bond holdings per year towards 50% Bonds (and Cash, Cash probably at 10% but may be lower) / 50% Stock. This does NOT include my Emergency Fund which has the following Allocation:

My Emergency Fund is current 2 years worth of expenses and is stored as follows:

Cash (Bank Savings Accounts (at least 2))- .5-1% yield – 20%
CDs (In a Ladder of sorts) – 5 year, various yields – 35%
Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VWSTX) – 10%
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VWITX) – 35%

So far I am quite happy with how my Emergency Fund has developed and worked out over the 5 years I have actually had one! I still firmly hold that the best recommendation to begin one’s financial quest is to begin with an adequate Emergency Fund and not to mingle it with the rest of one’s finances.

Now back a Asset Allocation, briefly, after all my experimenting and looking around here and there I believe the best way to invest would be to hold the following mix of funds according to ones preferred Asset Allocation:

Domestic Stocks – Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTI, VTSAX)
International Stocks – Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund (VXUS, VTIAX)
Domestic Bonds – Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (BND, VBTLX) / Vanguard Intermediate-Term Bond Index Fund (BIV, VBILX) – Each with 50% of the Bond Allocation, example if Bonds are 50% then 25% would be Total Bond and 25% would be Intermediate-Term Bond, this is not a requirement for success, Total Bond Index is just fine. A bit more on the Bond Split can be found here.

Jack Bogle – On Bond Split

Jack Bogle – On Bond Split

The following encloses what Jack Bogle says about why he prefers Intermediate Bond to Total Bond and why it might be a good idea to have both, in equal proportions, in the future, though for most it would be simpler to have one or the other. This mainly serves as a note to myself as to why I want 50/50 Total Bond / Intermediate Bond (BND / BIV) in my tax deferred and a similar split with Munipal Bond funds (VWAHX/VWITX/VWSTX) in my taxable. You can read for yourself what Jack Bogle actually says, the following was copied from his site:

Dear Jack:

I am in the process of reading your new book”The Little Book”and in your chapter on bond funds,you state that “the intermediate-term bond index fund is a truly superior performer”.

I owned that fund along with the Long Term Bond Index Fund.Then last year Vanguard developed a financial plan for me in which they recommended that I sell those two funds and purchase the Total Bond Market Index Fund.I did just that and now I am concerned that I made a mistake and should have at least kept the Intermediate fund. I realize you are comparing that fund to Muni Bonds and Gov’t Bonds but I am wondering how you feel about the Total Bond Market Index Fund vs.Intermediate. Would it make sense to hold both? I also own the European Index Fund and it has done very well and I am considering buying the Total International Stock Index Fund and also keeping the European Fund. Again,does it make sense to hold both? Does it ever make sense to hold a part of a total index fund and still hold the total fund.

As you can see I am confused so anything you can do to shed some light on all of this would REALLY be appreciated.

I look forward to hearing from you,
John D

Hi, John,

Thanks for asking about our bond funds. I like the (taxable) IT bond index fund because it provides more stability than the LT index fund, and more income than the ST index fund.  The Total Bond Market Index Fund is fine, but I vaguely wonder about a bond fund that has 35% of its portfolio in non-bonds (i.e., GNMA securities, with their risk of being prepaid early,  when interest rates tumble).

That said, TBMF happens to have a maturity profile that is intermediate-term on balance, and so differs from IT largely in its holdings of GMNAs and Treasurys. Their ten-year records are similar, based on the tabulation I’m sending separately (IT 6.49%, TBM 5.96%, which included a single year–2002–in which we sort of forgot to stick to index principles, costing 2.00%, or about 0.20% per year.  I’m assured by management that such an aberration will not recur.)

As it happens your previous 50LT/50IT strategy was a winning one, as the tabulation shows.  Of course we have no idea which of the above strategies will work best in the coming ten years, but it’s comforting to realize that the results of all six of those shown are almost certain to differ only in degree.

There’s no particular reason NOT to hold two overlapping index funds.  In your case, adding a similar investment in Total International to your present European would simply lower your European exposure from 100% to about 80% of your Intl holdings.  Not much difference, for Eur is about 60% of Intl.

I don’t know nearly enough about your assets and goals to advise you, but I hope this note helps clarify the issues.  Perhaps your Vanguard adviser can explain the reasoning behind your allocations, and discuss possible changes.

Jack Bogle

* * * * * * *

Jack Bogle – On Portfolio Rebalancing

Jack Bogle – On Portfolio Rebalancing

There are many discussions about what Jack Bogle says and how to rebalance ones portfolio. For me, the following sets the record straight about stance, attitude and the nuts and bolts of what to do. Jack seems to take a very relaxed view of it, and practices how he describes it as well, which is always important. When I visit forums such as Bogleheads I see a lot of frantic and detailed discussion about how and why and when to rebalance a portfolio extrapolated, supposedly, from what are JB’s “principles”. But, in my opinion, they don’t resemble closely how he describes it below, read for yourself, you can do a web search to find this quote online elsewhere as well:

Hi, Mr. M,

Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your thoughtful note.  Busy!

We’ve just done a study for the NYTimes on rebalancing, so the subject is fresh in my mind.  Fact: a 48%S&P 500, 16% small cap, 16% international, and 20% bond index, over the past 20 years, earned a 9.49% annual return without rebalancing and a 9.71% return if rebalanced annually.  That’s worth describing as “noise,” and suggests that formulaic rebalancing with precision is not necessary.

We also did an earlier study of all 25-year periods beginning in 1826 (!), using a 50/50 US stock/bond portfolio, and found that annual rebalancing won in 52% of the 179 periods.  Also, it seems to me, noise.  Interestingly, failing to rebalance never cost more than about 50 basis points, but when that failure added return, the gains were often in the 200-300 basis point range; i.e., doing nothing has lost small but it has won big.  (I’m asking my good right arm, Kevin, to send the detailed data to you.)

My personal conclusion.  Rebalancing is a personal choice, not a choice that statistics can validate.  There’s certainly nothing the matter with doing it (although I don’t do it myself), but also no reason to slavishly worry about small changes in the equity ratio.  Maybe, for example, if your 50% equity position grew to, say, 55% or 60%.

In candor, I should add that I see no circumstance under which rebalancing through an adviser charging 1% could possibly add value.

Use your own judgment, but perhaps these comments will help.


portfolio rebalancing