The Marketplace Money Prize goes to …

Marketplace Staff Oct 16, 2009
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The Marketplace Money Prize goes to …

Marketplace Staff Oct 16, 2009
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TEXT OF COMMMENTARY

TESS VIGELAND: This week the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to two Americans. Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson will split the $1.4 million prize. I’d try to explain what they won for, really, but, um, we just don’t have time.

Instead, Economics Editor Chris Farrell wants to hand out his own award: The Marketplace Money Prize in Personal Finance.


Chris Farrell: I nominate and choose John “Jack” Bogle.

Bogle founded the mutual fund giant Vanguard in 1974. A year later, he made market history by creating the first Standard & Poor’s 500 equity index fund for individual investors. The low-cost index fund movement he pioneered revolutionized investing for ordinary folks — and for the better. He’s also written a number of books that wisely lay out the basics of investing and managing money.

That’s enough of a reason for recognizing Bogle. But at 80 years old, the financier with an ailing, transplanted heart isn’t resting on his laurels — far from it. He’s on a full-throated crusade to rescue America’s busted retirement savings system. He says “greedy financiers” have taken the public “to the cleaners.”

Rebellion against price-gouging financiers runs deep in his family. His great-grandfather, the life insurance executive Philander Banister Armstrong, railed against widespread swindles in the insurance business in the early 20th century. He established a low-cost life insurance company — it must run in the Bogle genes. He wrote a scathing expose called “A License to Steal: Life Insurance, the Swindle of Swindles.”

His great-grandson has updated the outrage more than a century later. The target is Wall Street and mutual funds and the high fees they charge to manage our money. Bogle thinks we’re all getting a raw deal and he wants to stop it. He’s lobbying for an independent Federal Retirement Board. Its mandate would be to simplify investment choices, slash fees and protect savers from unnecessary risks. It’s a quixotic venture, but I say, “Go Jack!”

And, if you succeed in this latest venture, how about being the first chairman?

Oh, one other thing. We don’t have 10 million krona or $1.4 million to give with our prize like the Nobel committee. Fact is, I just checked and we don’t have any swag to give. No Marketplace Money t-shirts. No Marketplace Money mugs. Just the prize and our thanks.

Vigeland: Our economics editor Chris Farrell, who invites Mr. Bogle to join him for the award presentations in Minnesota. Hey, it’s not Oslo, but the weather’s the same.

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