The Long View
The Long View
May 1, 2019
William Bernstein: If You've Won the Game, Stop Playing
Play • 55 min

Our guest this week is noted author and advisor, William Bernstein. Bill’s background and entree to finance is unique—a neurologist by training, Bill self-taught himself the principles of investing and asset allocation, eventually parlaying that knowledge into a successful financial advisory practice and a series of influential, critically acclaimed books such as "The Intelligent Asset Allocator." In this conversation, we explore Bill’s background and how it shaped his development and thinking as an investor and how he applies those lessons in working with clients who are trying to meet goals like a comfortable, secure retirement.

  • “I had to figure out how to save and invest on my own”: Bill’s crash course into investing and constructing a portfolio (1:29)
  •   “I had to figure out how to save and invest on my own”: Bill’s crash course into investing and constructing a portfolio (1:29)
    

• “I had to figure out how to save and invest on my own”: Bill’s crash course into investing and constructing a portfolio (1:29)
• Separating the wheat from the chaff: How Bill decides what investing research matters and what doesn’t (4:30)
• Top of the list: Books that profoundly influenced Bill’s investment philosophy and approach (5:45)
• “The overwhelming science of investing does not speak well of active management”: Bill on why empirical data ought to settle most questions (and why active-share doesn’t hold up to scrutiny) (7:02)
• “You approach it with extreme caution”: Bill explains why investors should be skeptical of most factors they encounter in the “factor zoo”, save a few (9:27)
• A question that’s giving Bill pause: Is value too crowded a trade? (10:33)
• Is low-volatility the most attractive factor from a behavioral standpoint? Bill worries it’s gotten too expensive. (12:02)
• Fingers (and toes) crossed: Bill thinks value is cheap enough to stick with (12:55)
• “Really, not very much”: Bill on how his approach to asset allocation has evolved over time (13:43)
• “The riskiness of stocks is not an intrinsic characteristic of stocks; it’s more a characteristic of the investor”: Why stocks’ volatility doesn’t fluster younger investors, but freaks out older investors (14:38)
• On how we tend to overrate our risk tolerance: “The difference between being able to see (losses) in a spreadsheet and actually manage (through losses) in real time is the difference between crashing an airplane in a flight simulator and in the real world” (15:38)
• “If you’ve won the game, stop playing”: How to shake older investors out of their complacency with equity risk and recency bias (16:53)
• “The very best physicians are consumed by self-doubt”: How a high ratio of “rumination-to-celebration” can help investors constructively reckon with shortcomings in their approach and improve (19:26)
• Getting it wrong and therefore right: Bill explains how advisors can use their own fallibility and uncertainty to fortify their relationship with clients (versus scaring them to death) (21:12)
• An argument with Jack Bogle: How a debate with the Vanguard founder about foreign-stock investing became an object lesson in how reality intrudes on theory (and how that informs Bill’s approach to managing clients) (22:56)
• “You don’t appreciate it until bad things happen”: On whether the rally in riskier bonds has changed Bill’s tune on limiting fixed-income investments to short-term, high-grade fare (24:25)
• “Investment is a process that transfers wealth to people that have a strategy and can execute it from those who don’t and can’t” (26:22)
• “A reasonable hypothesis, but it got tested” (and failed): Bill on the argument for active bond investing (27:02)
• Earthquakes and execrable returns: Why the best investing and economic gains have been realized in English-speaking countries. (Hint: It’s the law.) (27:48)
• Emerging-markets stocks: Why they’re only a bargain when they’re cheap relative to their own history and developed markets (and still might not be inexpensive even in that case) (30:23)
• Potential hazards: “The US markets are significantly overvalued relative to the rest of the world” (31:36)
• “You’d have your head handed to you”: On the impermanence of investment measures, why it’s dangerous to extrapolate, and the implications for investors (32:54)
• “When I think about my tombstone, ‘investment adviser’ is not one of the things I want to see up there” (34:00)
• “We’re extremely choosy in who we take on. So we have a very enjoyable practice as a result of that” (35:49)
• On retirement preparedness: “A slow-moving and fairly impressive disaster” (37:13)
• “I don’t think the system needs nudges. I think the system needs dynamite”: Steps to radically redefine the retirement system (39:20)
• “It would be nice if we had a system where people didn’t have to save quite so much, because that’s an unattainable goal for probably 80% of the population” (40:41)
• The skunk-in-the-suburb analogy: We’re evolved to avoid the snake or the tiger, not to plan for retirement fifty years into the future (41:24)
• What to do for investors who aren’t interested in finance or good with numbers: Limit investor autonomy, provide a generous match, offer a low-cost menu, default them into a target-date fund (43:03)
• “One of the most important people in my life”: Remembering Jack Bogle (44:32)
• “Something that everyone knows isn’t worth knowing”: Bill on the under-appreciated importance of corporate governance to security returns (46:46)
• How Bill navigates ESG with his clients: He discourages them from pursuing it (49:25)
• Principled but “bending”: How humility should make room for other ideas or priorities within a portfolio or plan (51:05)

• William Bernstein bio (CFA Institute) https://blogs.cfainstitute.org/investor/author/williamjbernstein/
• William Bernstein’s “Efficient Frontier” website http://www.efficientfrontier.com/
• Mean-variance optimization: Explainer https://www.effisols.com/basics/MVO.htm
• William Bernstein’s reading list http://www.efficientfrontier.com/reading.htm
• Fama and French research papers https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=1455
• “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” by Burton G. Malkiel https://www.amazon.com/Random-Walk-Down-Wall-Street/dp/0393081435/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324493412&sr=1-1
• “Bogle on Mutual Funds” by Jack Bogle https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/111908833X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4
• “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham https://www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Investor-Definitive-Investing-Practical/dp/0060555661/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324493602&sr=1-1
• “The Theory of Interest” by Irving Fisher https://www.amazon.com/Theory-Interest-Illustrated-Irving-Fisher-ebook/dp/B00CR32KGK

• “The Arithmetic of Active Management” by William F. Sharpe
https://web.stanford.edu/~wfsharpe/art/active/active.htm
• Active Share website https://activeshare.nd.edu/
• “Presidential Address: Discount Rates” by John H. Cochrane https://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/john.cochrane/research/papers/discount_rates_jf.pdf
• Value (aka “book-to-market”) factor http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/ken.french/Data_Library/det_form_btm.html
• Momentum factor http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/ken.french/Data_Library/det_mom_factor.html
• Profitability factor http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/ken.french/Data_Library/tw_5_ports_beme_op.html
• “Your Complete Guide to Factor-based Investing” by Andrew L. Berkin and Larry E. Swedroe
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N7FCW2D/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
• Factor performance http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/ken.french/data_library.html#Research
• Berkshire Hathaway 2018 shareholder letter http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2018ltr.pdf
• “Betting Against Beta” by Andrea Frazzini and Lasse Heje Pedersen http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~lpederse/papers/BettingAgainstBeta.pdf
• “Betting Against Beta” factor vs. value factor performance (10 years ended Feb. 2019) https://www.portfoliovisualizer.com/factor-statistics?s=y&factorDataSet=-1&marketArea=0&__checkbox_ffmkt=true&__checkbox_ffsmb=true&__checkbox_ffsmb5=true&ffhml=true&__checkbox_ffhml=true&__checkbox_ffmom=true&__checkbox_ffrmw=true&__checkbox_ffcma=true&__checkbox_ffstrev=true&__checkbox_ffltrev=true&__checkbox_aqrmkt=true&__checkbox_aqrsmb=true&__checkbox_aqrhml=true&__checkbox_aqrhmldev=true&__checkbox_aqrmom=true&__checkbox_aqrqmj=true&aqrbab=true&__checkbox_aqrbab=true&__checkbox_trm=true&__checkbox_cdt=true&startDate=03%2F01%2F2009&endDate=03%2F31%2F2019
• “The Intelligent Asset Allocator” by William J. Bernstein https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0071385290/ref=s9_simz_gw_s0_p14_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1NNWXTETT62HJ8QM9ZM6&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846
• “Availability” heuristic https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/resources/mini-encyclopedia-of-be/availability-heuristic/
• Dunning-Kruger effect https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10626367
• “Why Jack Bogle Doesn’t Own Non-U.S. Stocks” with Christine Benz and Jack Bogle (Oct. 22, 2018) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P54trh0Rre8
• “Will Active Stock Funds Save Your Bacon in a Downturn?” by Jeffrey Ptak https://www.morningstar.com/articles/852864/will-active-stock-funds-save-your-bacon-in-a-downt.html
• “Global Stock Markets in the Twentieth Century” by Philippe Jorion and William N. Goetzmann, Journal of Finance https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/0022-1082.00133
• “Legal Determinants of External Finance” by Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silane, Andrei Shleifer, Robert W. Vishny, NBER Working Paper https://www.nber.org/papers/w5879
• Online Data Robert Shiller http://www.econ.yale.edu/~shiller/data.htm
• S&P 500 Shiller PE Ratio https://www.multpl.com/shiller-pe
• S&P 500 Price/earnings ratio https://www.multpl.com/s-p-500-pe-ratio
• S&P 500 Price/book ratio https://www.multpl.com/s-p-500-price-to-book
• National Retirement Risk Index, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College https://crr.bc.edu/special-projects/national-retirement-risk-index/
• “National Retirement Risk Index Shows Modest Improvements in 2016” by Alicia H. Munnell, Wenliang Hou, Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College https://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/IB_18-1.pdf
• “In Memoriam”, William J. Bernstein, Efficient Frontier http://efficientfrontier.com/ef/0adhoc/RIP-JCB.html
• David Yermack, Albert Fingerhut Professor of Finance and Business Transformation, NYU Sterm, Publications https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/index.cfm?fuseaction=profile.publications&personid=20547

Bogleheads On Investing Podcast
Bogleheads On Investing Podcast
bogleheads
Episode 031: Jamie Catherwood, host Rick Ferri
Jamie Catherwood is a financial historian and the publisher of the website Investor Amnesia. He received a history degree from King’s College London in 2017 before joining O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, a quantitative investment firm based out of Stamford, Connecticut. Jamie quickly built his reputation as an expert on the history of money and finance after starting a popular weekly blog that links current market activity and investor behavior to similar events and investor behaviors throughout the centuries. Jamie shared numerous interesting anecdotes in this podcast and draws clear parallels to the current environment This podcast is hosted by Rick Ferri, CFA, a long-time Boglehead and investment adviser. The Bogleheads are a group of like-minded individual investors who follow the general investment and business beliefs of John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group. It is a conflict-free community where individual investors reach out and provide education, assistance, and relevant information to other investors of all experience levels at no cost. The organization supports a free website at Bogleheads.org, and the wiki site is Bogleheads® wiki. Since 2000, the Bogleheads' have held national conferences in major cities around the country. There are also many Local Chapters in the US and even a few Foreign Chapters that meet regularly. New Chapters are being added on a regular basis. All Bogleheads activities are coordinated by volunteers who contribute their time and talent. This podcast is supported by the John C. Bogle Center for Financial Literacy, a non-profit organization approved by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity on February 6, 2012. Your tax-deductible donation to the Bogle Center is appreciated.
57 min
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Money For the Rest of Us
J. David Stein
What Is Tail Risk and Are You Taking Too Much Of It?
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Paul Merriman
The Ultimate Buy and Hold Strategy: 2021 Update
Paul Merriman discusses the 2021 updated Ultimate Buy and Hold Strategy, designed to show why the 10 equity asset classes should be part of a diversified portfolio. This new study uses an expanded base of returns so that all 10 equity asset classes are reflected in the 1970 to 2020 period. While the expansion of returns makes the returns more dependable, the results are virtually the same as with the previously limited data base. Every year since 2012, The Merriman Financial Education Foundation updates this UB&H Strategy as among its most important work. The 2021 study makes reference to two tables that listeners will want to review. They are the Worldwide Equity Portfolio Tables 50% US/50% Int’l and the Worldwide Equity Portfolio Tables 70% US/30% Int’l. This podcast is part of the educational offerings from The Merriman Financial Education Foundation, a registered 501(c)3.  If you found value in this podcast, here are five ways to support the podcast and our foundation: 1)     Leave a podcast review on your player of choice. 2)    Sign up for our biweekly newsletter at PaulMerriman.com 3)    Use our M1 Finance affiliate link to set up a brokerage account and use our portfolio suggestions. If you fund your account with a minimum of $1,000, our foundation will receive a one-time fee at no cost to you, which helps support our financial education projects.. 4)    Buy our latest book, We’re Talking Millions! 12 Simple Ways To Supercharge Your Retirement available at Amazon and other online outlets. 5)  Consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Foundation to support our mission to provide financial education to investors.  Thank you!
46 min
WashingtonWise Investor
WashingtonWise Investor
Charles Schwab
Global Issues May Loom Large for Investors
While it feels like domestic priorities have been in the spotlight for months, global concerns can’t be dismissed. Jeff Kleintop, Schwab’s chief global investment strategist, joins host Mike Townsend to discuss international activity with implications for U.S. markets. From U.S.-China relations to the outlook for President Biden’s relationship with allies across Europe to prospects for emerging markets in 2021, Jeff helps shine a light on where the potential opportunities are for investors. Mike also shares his thoughts on the progress and timing of the latest economic stimulus bill, Washington’s new focus on the recent retail trading frenzy led by GameStop, Janet Yellen’s comments on tax increases in the administration’s next big bill, and the growing chatter about a possible delay in the April 15 tax deadline. _WashingtonWise Investor_ is an original podcast from Charles Schwab. For more on the series, visit Schwab.com/WashingtonWise. If you enjoy the show, please leave a ★★★★★ rating or review on Apple Podcasts. Important Disclosures Investors should consider carefully information contained in the prospectus or, if available, the summary prospectus, including investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Please read it carefully before investing. The policy analysis provided by the Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., does not constitute and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any political party. The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision. All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is no guarantee of future results and the opinions presented cannot be viewed as an indicator of future performance. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. Indexes are unmanaged, do not incur management fees, costs and expenses and cannot be invested in directly. For more information on indexes please see www.schwab.com/indexdefinitions. All corporate names are for illustrative purposes only and are not a recommendation, offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. International investments involve additional risks, which include differences in financial accounting standards, currency fluctuations, geopolitical risk, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. (0221-186S)
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Seeking Alpha
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34 min
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