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John Bogle Is Wrong About ETFs

Both have vastly outperformed the stock market since. The Energy Select SPDR is up about 45% since then, compared with just 20% or so for the S&P 500 index. (I should add that the Energy Select SPDR and other oil ETFs did even better than my do-it-yourself fund. So much for stock selection. My takeaway was, if you just want to bet on a sector, bet on the sector.)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Bogle's approach. It's better than most. If you don't really understand investing, or you don't have time to do all the homework, putting some money away in an index fund can be a great idea.

But if you are the kind of person who wants to manage your own investments, ETFs can be terrific. They often make better bets than buying individual stocks, with all the extra risk that entails.

What Bogle really seems to object to is people managing their own investments. He points out that many -- most, really -- do it poorly. That's true. But he then concludes no one should do it all. That doesn't follow.

In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, Brett Arends doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Arends takes a critical look inside mutual funds and the personal finance industry in a twice-weekly column that ranges from investment advice for the general reader to the industry's latest scoop. Prior to joining TheStreet.com in 2006, he worked for more than two years at the Boston Herald, where he revived the paper's well-known 'On State Street' finance column and was part of a team that won two SABEW awards in 2005. He had previously written for the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers in London, the magazine Private Eye, and for Global Agenda, the official magazine of the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland. Arends has also written a book on sports 'futures' betting.
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