Bogle on Brexit and other Threats to Global Markets

We have more borrowing, more leverage, more government debt relative to GDP than we have ever had with no attempt to get it down, says Vanguard founder Jack Bogle

Morningstar News Team 20 June, 2016 | 10:00AM


Scott Cooley: So, if you think about things going on around the world, the possibility of the U.K. leaving the European Union, the slowdown in China, the U.S. Presidential election doesn't make democracy look very good, there are probably lots of reasons for concern. As an investor how should you cope with that?

John C. Bogle: Well, you can only control what you can control. I think whatever your view of the world is, you have to invest. You can't put the money in the mattress and in this day and age of low interest rates, you can't put it in the money market fund or a bank CD, so invest, you must. Now, you might want to invest regularly. For people that are investing regularly, I would say for god's sake don't stop investing now. I know the market is not doing much this year, just about where it started a little bit down, but not much and bond yields are still very low, actually lower than they were at the beginning of the year, but you have to put your money to work. The alternative is – I mean, the only way to guarantee you will have nothing at retirement is to invest nothing along the way. So, you have to take your chances.

Now, this is a risky world. You are right. And nobody knows how the implications of all those risks are. You identified some of them. The British exit, if it happens, is going to be extremely disruptive. Now, particularly if it leads to a Scottish exit from the United Kingdom, which I guess will be in effect almost gone at that point, I guess Northern Ireland will be all its left and Wales – sorry about that – so, the world is a very risky place. And the possibility of – you didn't mention financial leverage. We have more borrowing, more leverage, more government debt relative to GDP than we have ever had with no attempt to get it down and to compound that further usually the traditional way of doing – trying to bring these things to bear is not only fiscal policy, which we view as much as we can.

I mean, monetary policy, which we view as much as we can, you really can't get interest rates much lower than they are today and negative in a lot of countries and even I don't know how to figure that one out very well. I don't think anybody does. But monetary policy has always been thought of as the twin of the fiscal policy and that means we need to take more action to do something about the government deficit. But here in the U.S. and I think around the world taking these kind of actions is politically – well, around the world it's probably difficult.

In the U.S., it seems to be impossible and we lost the ability to govern ourselves. It sure looks that way, but there is an old statement if I can mention that here that back in the 1770s there was some contest going on for the Prime Ministership of Scotland and someone said Adam Smith, his election will ruin the nation and Adam Smith said, there is a lot of ruin in the nation. Now, I don't know if we're not pushing it here in the United States whether you got that much ruin over our present list of presidential candidates. I will leave it to wiser heads and I think in a setting like this, particularly it's probably a good idea to stay away from politics.

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