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The 50-Year Battle for a Better Way to Invest

Mac McQuown recruited me to help create the very first indexed portfolio in 1971. I was 24 years old and living in San Francisco, where more people my age were following the Grateful Dead than the stock market. The think tank Mac set up felt like a start-up, although it was long before anyone used that term. We were excited by the opportunity to turn academic research into a new way of investing. Many people thought we would fail. Some even called what we were trying to do “un-American.”

But we didn’t worry about the attacks; we focused on how indexing could improve the lives of investors. The fund offerings available at the time were actively managed portfolios that tried to outguess the market and were expensive, lacked diversification, and performed poorly. So-called star managers sold investors on their ability to win against the market; they sold products as opposed to solutions. Problem was, there was no compelling evidence they could reliably beat the market. We were confident that indexing—a highly diversified, low-cost investment solution that relied not on a manager’s ability to pick winners but on the human ingenuity of hundreds or thousands of companies—would change lives for the better.

Fifty years later, $9.1 trillion is invested in index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).1 This represents 51% of the total $17.9 trillion in equity ETFs and mutual funds. Six of the original academic consultants Mac hired to work on that first index fund went on to win Nobel Prizes. I have worked with four of them at Dimensional.


Tags: stock market, investing, , market trends

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