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The secret history of index funds.

Hello, friends. It is I, J.D. Roth, back for another week of Apex Money duties.

My life has been crazy lately, and not just because of the coronavirus. Okay, crazy probably isn’t the right word. My life has been, well, focused.

I’m nearing the end of a major project. For the past few weeks, I’ve been working all day, every day. I get up, drink my coffee, then traipse down the hill to my writing shed. (Because of Oregon’s stay-at-home order, I can’t drive to my office.) I write all day, then come up the hill for dinner. I already missed last Tuesday’s deadline for the project, but I think I’ll get things wrapped up this morning. I hope so.

Our first two stories today at Apex were research material for my project. These aren’t new articles but they’re worth reading nonetheless.

The secret history of index funds. [Investment News] — For years now, I’ve heard that Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, was the creator of index funds. Turns out, that’s false. (Or mostly false, anyhow.) This short article reveals the true origins of the average investor’s best friend. Index funds were first proposed in a 1960 academic paper. Jack Bogle, writing under a pseudonym, then wrote a rebuttal arguing against index funds! Fifteen years later, Bogle created the first index fund for individual investors (but not the first index fund). Fascinating.

When should we retire? [American Heritage] — And in this 1983 (!!!) article, William Graebner explores the history of retirement. Graebner, who wrote a book on this subject, explores how our perceptions of retirement have changed with time. Only 100 years ago, retirement had a negative connotation. It was seen as undesirable. But social progress made retirement mandatory. And, eventually, retirement came to be viewed in a positive light.

I don’t want to make everything here about my project, so here are two articles related to current events.

How one grocery chain planned for the coronavirus pandemic. [Texas Monthly] — “This isn’t the first time H-E-B has done a good job of managing a disaster—it played an important role in helping the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Harvey in the immediate aftermath of the storm—which led us to ask: How did a regional supermarket chain develop systems that allow it to stay ahead of a crisis as big as this one? We spoke with nearly a dozen employees, executives, and customers to better understand—in their words—how H-E-B has taken on its unique role in shaping its business around the needs of Texans in the midst of trying circumstances.”

I became a disciplined investor over 40 years. The virus broke me in 40 days. [The New York Times] — “I’ve owned stocks for nearly 40 years. I’ve lived through, survived and even prospered through four crashes. So I should be prepared. Yet, looking back at the last few weeks, I recognize that I’ve violated most of my time-tested rules. Whipsawed between optimism and despair as the bad news mounted and my daily life was upended, I’ve let emotions influence my decisions. I’m doing it again this morning.”

Lastly, here’s a (very) short video profiling an off-grid homemade island: “Floating off the coast of Vancouver Island, a 45-minute boat ride to the nearest town, is a sustainable island fortress complete with a dance floor, art gallery and garden. For artists Catherine King and Wayne Adams, this is home: a labor of love 24 years in the making.”

Adams calls this a “tree fort in the ocean”. I like it.

Okay, that’s all, folks. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the best in personal finance. Right now, though, it’s time for me to traipse down the hill to my writing shed so that I can finish my project!