A Thanksgiving to Remember

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A Thanksgiving to Remember

A Bit of Bogleheads History

By Mel Lindauer

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’d like to dispense with the usual financial topics discussed in this column to share a bit of Bogleheads history with you. While Thanksgiving is always a great time of the year, some Thanksgivings are simply more memorable than others. Thanksgiving of 1999 was just such an occasion for our Boglehead “family”.

On that Thanksgiving Day, Taylor Larimore made a post on the Morningstar Vanguard Diehards forum, listing things he was thankful for. Taylor mentioned being thankful for his wife, Pat, for putting up with his frugal ways, his parents who taught him financial responsibility and all the folks who helped Taylor and his family during some rough times. And included in Taylor’s list was the following: “I thank John Bogle and Vanguard, first for their unsurpassed educational tools, second for providing an investment service that is unsurpassed.”

A few days later, Taylor made this exciting post on the forum, informing the Bogleheads that he had received the following letter from John Bogle:

Dear Taylor:

I am inspired, not only by your Conversation, but also by the many splendid responses to it, to write.

It must be fair to say that few, if any, human beings on the face of God's earth have as much to be thankful for as do I. A superb and loving family, good citizens all. A story-book career, built on common sense, incredible coincidence, good luck, and a stubborn determination. A career in which I've been able to serve others who share my investment philosophy and human values.

What more could a man ask? How about, just for openers, a second chance at life? Miraculous! [Mr. Bogle is a heart transplant recipient.]

The extra years I've been given, furthermore, have enabled me to see my ideas pass from the absurd to the dogma, recognized by academics, journalists, and most important of all, the human beings who are fortunate enough to have the resources to secure some semblance of financial independence.

And I'll live to see my early 1992 prediction--that "First Index Investment Trust" would be the largest mutual fund in the world by the turn of the century--come true, likely fully a year before the century turns (as you and I know) on December 31, 2000.

And despite the difficulties of the past three years here, I have a pretty good shot at leaving this orb, when the day comes, with my name and reputation intact. And that's terribly important to me.

This note can but hint at the Thanksgiving joy I feel on this Friday following what is the most American of all holidays.

Is there any way my (increasingly frequent) speeches can be accessed conveniently on the Bogleheads website? Would they like to have my agenda showing dates and locations of my Y2000 speeches (and one already for 2001)?

Would there be any interest in a Bogleheads conference for a day, at a convenient (non-resort, I think) location? Perhaps the spirit of Thanksgiving is overwhelming my good judgment!

Best always,

John Bogle

I responded to Jack’s generous offer:

“Count me in!,

Hello St. Jack:

It would be an honor to spend time with the patron Saint of our forum. And I'm sure that none of the members would have any objections to "brown bagging" it!

I have often thought of mentioning the possibility of a Vanguard Diehards get together, and am thrilled that you brought it up.

You set any agenda that's comfortable and convenient for you and then let us know. We'll be there with bells on!

Best regards,

Mel Lindauer”

Mr. Bogle (he likes to be called “Jack”) was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Miami Herald’s Making Money Seminar in March of 2000. Since Taylor and I both planned to attend, we decided to make a post on the forum, inviting any Bogleheads who also planned to attend the Seminar to be our guest for lunch. When we posted that invitation, Boglehead Roberto Perez responded: “You had floated the idea of meeting with "Saint Jack" sometime/somewhere. Would this be a suitable occasion for those living near Miami?”

Obviously that was a “duh” moment for both Taylor and I, and we immediately started trying to arrange a meeting with Jack at the Seminar. Taylor replied to Roberto: “Great idea! I will write a letter to Mr. Bogle. We'll also invite Mr. Phillips. [a reference to Don Phillips of Morningstar]”

Mr. Bogle saw Taylor’s forum post and replied via e-mail to Taylor. Here’s what he said:

"Don't bother to write. I read your Morningstar Conversation, and accept with pleasure your luncheon invitation. … Look forward to being with you all."
Jack”

After some behind-the-scenes work, I made this post on the forum on behalf of Taylor and myself:

Miami Dinner with Jack Bogle!

Hi Bogleheads:

Pat & Taylor suggested that we all come to their home for a Friday night "Florida Dinner". Mr. Bogle has accepted, and all Morningstar registered Boglehead Forum members attending the Seminar have been invited to join us.

Best wishes,

Mel & Taylor

Many of the forum members expressed sadness since they wouldn’t be able to attend on such short notice, so we let them know that they’d be with us in spirit. Here’s what we told them:

Taylor and I have decided to set an extra plate, in the "missing man/woman" tradition, and it will be representing you and all of the Diehards who wanted to come and just couldn't make it. So you will be with us in spirit!
Regards – Mel

After a beautiful dinner and evening with Jack Bogle at Taylor’s lovely condominium, Mr. Bogle used Taylor’s computer to make the following post on the forum:

Message from St. Jack in Miami

Hi, Bogleheads!

Greetings from Miami. Some of your best and brightest are assembled here to revel in the world's finest financial website, and all of the good you have given to so many investors.

King Taylor is leading us (as usual), and we have enjoyed a beautiful repast at his lovely home. Prince Mel is our co-host, and the charming Pat adds a level of lovely elegance.

For me, I am both delighted and humbled at the reception I have been given at this first face-to-face meeting of the Bogleheads. We'll all be together again tomorrow, celebrating our simple investment strategies and gentle human values.

May God bless you all, always.

Your patron saint,
Jack Bogle

P.S. No, I know I'm no saint!

The following evening, I summed up those two exciting days with this post on the forum:

Our Miami Meeting with St. Jack

Hi Everyone:

I've just returned to my hotel room after an very exciting two days with our patron Saint, Jack Bogle.

I really can't begin to tell you all what a great time we've had. Mr. Bogle (call me Jack) is one of the most gentle, unassuming and down-to-earth people that you would ever want to meet. He's everything I thought he would be and so much more. A true legend!

Taylor and I met Jack (there, I did it!) in the hotel lobby on Fri. where all of the other Diehards who were staying at the hotel also assembled. I drove Mr. Bogle (er, Jack) to Taylor's lovely condominium overlooking the bright lights of Miami. We were accompanied by Taylor and Olivia from Morningstar. Tim Dempsey, Claudia Redder, Gail & Michael Cox, Marianna & Jim Long and Jerry Green, who were also staying at the hotel all followed along in two other cars.

A number of the others who weren't staying at the Radisson had gotten to Taylor's on their own. Bea, a reporter from the Miami Herald (yes, there will be another story on the Bogleheads in next Sunday's business section!) was covering the affair and Frank Armstrong, whom many of you know, was also in attendance.

Pat, Taylor's lovely wife, outdid herself, and she was the most gracious host. We had cocktails as everyone chatted and got acquainted with each other for a while. Jack signed his books for those who brought them and got acquainted with everyone. We then had a magnificiant multi-course Florida dinner after which we all sat around and chatted with Jack for quite some time. We then proceeded to Taylor's den, where Jack personally typed the message that you see as Conversation #4980.

We then returned Jack to the hotel shortly after 10pm, as promised. In all, we had slightly more than four delightful hours with him, and it was something so very special for all of us in attendance - really a once-in-a-lifetime event!

And it was also very special to get to know the other Diehards, who, until now, had just been a name. We can now put faces with those names. Let me assure you, they are all really neat people!

On Sat. morning, Jack was the Keynote speaker, and his opening remarks before 3,000 or more attendees were about the great time he had the nite before at a dinner with the Bogleheads! He also introduced Taylor and I to Martha MacCullum of CNBC, who was the emcee for the program. She's even better looking in person!

In a later Q&A session, Jack also gave the Diehards a big plug, calling our forum the "the best investment site on the web", and again introduced Taylor and I, so I guess we'll be seeing a pickup in activity on the forum.

In a later speech by Don Phillips, CEO of Morningstar, his closing remarks were about a conversation he had earlier in the day with Mr. Bogle about the great time that Jack had had at dinner the nite before with the Bogleheads, and how he realized that Taylor's magnificant condo was the result of his founding of Vanguard! Pretty neat, huh?

I drove Jack to the airport this afternoon, accompanied by Taylor and Claudia.

I can't begin to tell you how very, very special these past two days have been for all of us. We're so very sorry that many of you who wanted to come were unable to make it, but we did have the extra plate set to represent all of you.

And tommorrow (Sunday), we're going sailboat racing in Biscayne Bay with Taylor. (Of course, you know the Diehards will win!)

I'm hoping that the other attendees will post their thoughts, either here are as a separate conversation, so that you can get the total flavor of the event from everyone's perspectives.

Lots of pictures were taken, so you should be able to share in this special event with us when they get posted on the site.

Best regards to all,

Mel

And finally, here’s the post I made the following day after the Regatta.

Diehards Sailing Crew wins Miami Regatta

Hello Everyone:

In what could only be described as a storybook ending to a fantastic Miami experience (dinner with Jack Bogle on Friday and the Money Show on Saturday, I'm extremely pleased to announce that Taylor and I, representing the Diehards, along with two other great crew mates, Barbara Maxcy and Kim Stromenger, won the sailing regatta in Biscayne Bay earlier today, as promised in [my earlier post].

Despite having a complete novice with only one previous sailing experience (me), and two crewmates who were relatively new to sailing (Barbara and Kim), Taylor shaped us into a crew that got the job done. We were racing against teams where most or all of the crews had much more total experience than we had.

Most of the credit obviously goes to Taylor's vast experience and teaching ability (after all, he was the American Sailing Association 1992 Instructor of the Year) and his tactical skills in racing. However, Barbara and Kim made great contributions, too. We all just did whatever Taylor told us to do, and it worked out great!

The regatta consisted of three separate races. We won the first race, came in second in the second race, and ran away from the field in the third race to win both that race and the overall regatta!

The victory earned us a trophy cup. While it's not the America's Cup (it's literally an inscribed cup), I'll treasure that trophy cup forever, since it will always remind me of my great Miami experience.

After the sailboat racing, Taylor and I spent some time alone discussing the events of the past few days, and what it took to make it happen.


If we'd have submitted a script for a movie about two guys who had never met inviting thousands of other people who they'd never met to be their guests for dinner, and then they'd also invite a true American hero (Jack Bogle) to join them, and he'd accept, and that all would have a great experience, and then we'd win the sailing regatta - well, you get the picture. They'd have laughed at us and said that it just wasn't realistic. But that's exactly what happened!

As if all of this wasn't enough, my drive back from Miami to Anna Maria Island, which was supposed to take about five hours, actually took a little under four hours, enabling me to arrive back at Anna Maria just in time to see a magnificent Florida gulf coast sunset. Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this! New friends. Memories to last a lifetime. That great warm, fuzzy feeling. Who says dreams don't come true? Not me. Just write the script and then go out and make it happen!

My heartfelt thanks to Jack Bogle, a true American hero, Taylor and Pat, and all of the Diehards who came to Miami. You've given me fond memories that will last a lifetime.

Best regards to all,

Mel

And, as they say “The rest is history!” That special Thanksgiving was the start of what has become an almost annual reunion with Jack Bogle and the Bogleheads. Subsequent get-togethers were held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Washington DC, San Diego and Dallas. And we recently held our ninth Bogleheads reunion/conference in Philadelphia in mid-October. Laura Dogu reported on that event in a previous column.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. May your Thanksgiving turn out to be as memorable as our 1999 Thanksgiving was!



Mel Lindauer, CFS, WMS is one of the founders of the Bogleheads community and co-author of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing along with Taylor Larimore and Michael LeBoeuf. He is also co-author of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning along with Taylor Larimore, Richard Ferri, and Laura Dogu. He and Laura Dogu share writing duties for the bi-weekly Forbes.com column "The Bogleheads' View".