My Son Likes You, But He’s an Idiot

Question


Barefoot,

My university-educated adult son read your book. It seems to have inspired him, maybe a little too much. I have had to sit down and set him straight on what you got wrong in your book, namely your blind faith in, as you call it, ‘low-cost index funds’. This is terrible advice! It is not hard to find professional fund managers who consistently outperform the indexes, and you are doing a disservice to your readers by not highlighting that. As I explained to my son, you are committing them to a lifetime of mediocrity!

David

Scott's Answer


Hi David,

Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your email ‒ I’ve been saving this one up.

See, ratings agency Standard and Poor’s have a scoreboard that tracks how professional fund managers in Australia perform against a basic index tracker fund, and this week they released the results for 2018.

(Drum roll.)

Last year 87% of actively managed Aussie share funds failed to beat a simple, ultra-low-cost index fund.

It’s kind of staggering when you think about it.

In what other industry do professionals offer so little value to their customers? (Okay, well apart from politics.)

After all, aren’t they highly intelligent people with (often) masters degrees and decades of experience? Who work 12 hours a day poring over companies’ financial reports? And yet consistently get trounced by a computer that simply buys every stock in an index? And why am I ending each sentence with a question mark?

Like you, I have a son, though he’s only three, so we listen to a lot of Wiggles.

Our favourite song?

The Wonder of Wiggle Town: “The kittens hide, the mice all hunt … the spoons are sharp, the knives are blunt … it’s back to front.”

Now I don’t want to get all Wiggly on you Dave, but the Singing Skivvies’ song has similarities with the stock market: what you call mediocrity ‒ investing in a low-cost index fund ‒ is, ironically, the surest way to win on the stock market.

Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga!

Scott