On January 16, John Clifton Bogle died at his home in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, at age 89. Jack Bogle was not only the founder and chief executive of the Vanguard Group, but also a philanthropist and public figure that global investors looked to for wisdom. Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A  ), paid tribute to Bogle. Buffett stated that Bogle did more for American investors than anyone else he has known. He added: "He converted, in a 30-year period, a lot of people to the right religion of investing." Buffett, among other legendary investors, have praised Vanguard and Jack Bogle's legacy.

Bogle was born in 1929 in New Jersey. During the Great Depression, his parents lost their money, sold their home, and got divorced. Bogle loved math growing up and attended Blair Academy. He then attended Princeton University, where he studied the mutual fund industry and wrote a thesis on investment companies. After graduating from Princeton, he worked at the Wellington Fund, one of the oldest surviving mutual funds. In 1970 Bogle was promoted to chairman of Wellington, but later he made a bad merger decision and was fired. After realizing that most mutual funds underperform the market, Bogle founded the Vanguard Group in 1974 and changed the history of finance.

Mutual funds hire managers, try to beat the market, and charge investors a high fee. Bogle's Vanguard idea was to simply track the market and charge a low fee. In creating the first index fund, Bogle democratized the world of investing for average people to access. Even the structure of Vanguard is unique and helps investors. As a mutual company, Vanguard is owned not by shareholders but customers, meaning their interests are aligned. Today Vanguard has $5.1 trillion assets under management, and index funds dominate the investing world. Bogle died with a net worth around $80 million, far less than his Wall Street peers. He passed on the savings to individual investors across the globe.

Today most individuals can open an account at Vanguard, Fidelity, Charles Schwab (SCHW  ), or another online brokerage and invest directly in low-cost, no-nonsense index funds that track markets from global and US equities and bonds to real estate and commodities. Millions of "Bogleheads" worldwide follow his philosophy of simple, cheap, passive investing. Bogle left us some wise financial advice: Endure volatility, beware expensive experts, minimize costs, control emotions, and own broad markets. Bogle will be remembered fondly for his transformative legacy-the empowerment of people to invest cheaply and retire comfortably.

The author does not hold any positions in any of the securities above.