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Bogle: Stick to the Straight and Narrow

The Vanguard founder and former chairman on the average investor's odds with private equity, hedge funds, and commodities, including gold.

Benz: There has been a lot of interest in alternatives, retail investors embracing alternative products. You have done some work looking specifically at college endowments, many of which have been quite heavy on alternatives. What have you found about their performance and what does that say about retail investors' ability to jockey among these investments?

Bogle: Well, it's a curious thing: A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk to endowment fund managers, some 300 or 400 strong down in Washington. And it happens that, for the common fund, 15 years ago, pretty much exactly, I had given some investment advice, how I would run an endowment fund, and that's all in their book along with other comments by Sir John Templeton and Michael Price and Barton Biggs, 10 or 12 of Peter Bernstein--all had ideas about how they would manage their college endowment funds. And I said, look, keep it simple: go 50% stocks, 50% bonds, both cases indexed, and that produced a return of about 7%. The average college endowment fund had a return of 7.2%.