Why Warren Buffett makes Vanguard founder Jack Bogle feel like ‘one of the lucky ones’

Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group.
Ken Cedeno | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Legendary investor Warren Buffett's close friendships with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger have served timeless lessons on the importance of relationships. According to a new essay from Vanguard founder Jack Bogle, he and Buffett recently shared a memorable moment in their decades-long friendship.

"Accolades are nice, and endorsements are, too, but human connections are what life is largely about," Bogle said in an essay published in the new book "The Warren Buffett Shareholder" by Lawrence Cunningham and Stephanie Cuba, out on April 20.

Ahead of Buffett's annual meeting on May 5 this year, Bogle shared a story about attending his very first Berkshire Hathaway meeting last year in an excerpt of the book, first published by the Omaha World-Herald.

Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group.
Ken Cedeno | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In December 2016, Bogle's friend Steve Galbraith, a prominent money manager and former Morgan Stanley executive, invited him to attend the Berkshire Hathaway meeting. Although he wasn't sure why he was being invited, Bogle accepted.

"Warren Buffett is among the world's richest men, which allows him to support a host of worthy philanthropic causes. But his greatest gift to society may well be his ability to explain simple investment principles in a homespun manner that investors can easily understand," Bogle wrote. "He is equally generous with his praise of those individuals who share his values. I'm one of the lucky ones."

On what Bogle now calls a notable "Red-Letter" day of his 67-year career, he "could hardly believe" the seemingly endless line that stretched around the CenturyLink Center, home to the Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings.

At the meeting, Buffett and Munger took their places onstage and shared a summary of the company's 2016 results. Still, "as Warren gave his opening remarks," Bogle said, "I couldn't help wondering why Steve had brought us to Omaha."

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Buffett soon answered his question: "Jack Bogle has done probably more for the American investor than any man in the country," he said, and asked Bogle to stand up from his seat.

Buffett went on to say that "many years ago, [Bogle] wasn't the only one talking about an index fund, but it wouldn't have happened without him."

"When Jack started, few people — and certainly not Wall Street — applauded him. And he was a subject of some derision," Buffett said, further explaining Bogle's prominent role in pioneering index fund investing.

As a result of developing the index fund, Buffett lauded Bogle for helping to put "tens, and tens, and tens, of billions" into the pockets of investors. "And those numbers are going to be in the hundreds and hundreds of billions over time," he added.

After Buffett wished Bogle a happy 88th birthday, Bogle felt moved.

"I confess to being deeply and emotionally touched by Warren Buffett's generous words," Bogle said, adding "I found huge satisfaction in being recognized for my contribution to the world of investing."

Later that evening, "excited by the spirit of the day," Bogle celebrated with a steakhouse dinner and libations. Lasting connections with other people, Bogle said, "is what makes life worth living."

"I treasure the friendship and mutual admiration that I've shared with Warren Buffett and Steve Galbraith, men of integrity, wisdom and class," Bogle said. "Reinforced as they were at the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting, those connections will last my lifetime."

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