Rick Ferri, a fee-only financial adviser, has been active in the Bogleheads community for many years and served as the president of the Bogle Center’s board of directors from late 2019 to late 2022, before handing the reins to Christine Benz of Morningstar. We talked to Rick recently about the Bogle Center’s mission and how it has evolved since Jack Bogle’s death in 2019 and among the challenges of the Covid pandemic.
The Bogle Center was established as a nonprofit in 2010 with Jack Bogle’s support. Its primary activity was organizing the annual Bogleheads conferences in Pennsylvania at which Jack Bogle was the star attraction. How did plans for the Center and the conferences change after Jack died in January 2019?
Planning for the October 2019 conference was already underway when Jack died. That conference went ahead and was reshaped largely as a memorial to Jack. Going forward, the Bogle Center board had to figure out how we could best contribute to maintaining—and expanding—Jack’s legacy.
We expanded the board and, starting with the 2020 conference, we decided to bring in a larger number and variety of speakers. We also planned to have separate tracks of programming for people in or near retirement and those in the accumulation phase. We wanted to make sure the conference would be valuable for people earlier in their lives, not just for those who had already established sizable nest eggs.
And then Covid happened. What did that mean for the Center and the conferences?
We had to put everything on hold. We canceled the 2020 conference, and we started doing online video interviews for a while as a partial replacement. In 2021, a lot of people were still hesitant about travel and large gatherings, so we decided to hold off on the in-person conference for yet another year. Finally, in October 2022, we were able to bring Bogleheads from 38 states and two foreign countries together in person once again.
What are the key ways in which the 2022 Bogleheads Conference was different from the last several in-person gatherings?
After meeting for several years near Vanguard’s Pennsylvania headquarters, to make it easier for Jack to participate, we have returned to the earlier practice of rotating the annual conferences to cities around the country. For the 2022 conference near Chicago, we had about 400 attendees, significantly more than we could accommodate at the small hotel we had used for several years in Pennsylvania. And we were particularly happy that more than half were first-time attendees.
As we had first started planning back in 2019, the 2022 conference had an expanded agenda with a total of 28 speakers from a wide variety of organizations and perspectives, as well as separate tracks for accumulators and those in or near retirement. We heard a lot of positive comments from both first-time attendees and people who had been to prior Bogleheads conferences.
Besides hosting an in-person conference again, what do you see as the major accomplishments of the Bogle Center over the past three years?
One fundamental step the board took after Jack’s death was enunciating the Center’s guiding principles, the basis for all our other efforts:
To expand John C. Bogle's legacy by promoting the principles of successful investing and financial well-being through education and community.
Create a world of well-informed, capable, and empowered investors.
Consistent with that, we have made a lot more Bogleheads content available to people across multiple channels, including our new Boglecenter.net website, our YouTube channel and our invigorated presence on Facebook and Twitter. The website can serve as a portal to all that content, including videos of all the 2022 conference sessions and, of course, links to the Bogleheads forum and wiki.
We are connecting to Bogleheads chapters around the country and the world, to hopefully help them or make connections so that chapters can assist each other. We established national online chapters.
We have also done a lot behind the scenes to strengthen our infrastructure as a nonprofit organization, including adopting new accounting software and establishing a more efficient banking relationship.
I give a lot of credit to all the board members and everybody else who was involved, all the volunteers. This is a real community.
What would you say to someone who is brand new to the Bogleheads world, maybe just starting to read the forum?
Whatever brought you here, we are glad you are here. We hope you take the time to learn, so that you can be a better investor and have greater financial well-being. The community aspect of the Bogleheads is so important. We hope you will stay in the community and that you will also help others.