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Vanguard Review

securely through Vanguard's website

1 Minute Review

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services combines the best of high-touch, high-tech, and low-cost funds to help you with your real-life investing needs.

Best For

  • Set-it-and-forget it investors
  • Saving on taxes
  • Complex financial planning for retirement

Pros

  • Low-cost investing available for Vanguard funds
  • It’s a great company for DIY investors
  • Vanguard still has many options for investors who would like to speak with an advisor

Cons

  • No active trading platform or tools
  • Other funds are more expensive to invest in; your best bet is to invest in Vanguard’s own funds
  • No advanced platform available

Vanguard, well known for its low expenses across the board, might well just be the immortal parent of low-cost investing. After all, Vanguard’s founder and retired chief executive, Jack Bogle, invented the index fund.

What Vanguard Offers

Straight from its website, Vanguard offers the following products and account types:

  • Investment products: Vanguard mutual funds, Vanguard ETFs, other mutual funds, stocks & other ETFs, CDs & bonds, cash options
  • Account types: IRAs (Roth & traditional), individual & joint accounts, 529 college savings plans
  • Annuities: SEPs, i401(k)s & SIMPLEs and Vanguard 403(b) Services
  • Rollovers & transfers: 401(k) rollovers and account transfers

Vanguard also offers a slew of investor education options, including the following resources, which offer comprehensive education for any type of investor:

  • Partner with an advisor
  • Investing goals: College, emergency fund, other savings goals
  • Retirement planning: For ages 20-49, ages 50-64, and ages 65+
  • Investor education: Getting started investing, choosing investments, trading online, understanding taxes, and managing your portfolio
  • Other resources: Calculators & tools, tax-filing information, forms, beneficiaries, and inheritances

Vanguard also offers news you can use to make concrete investing decisions, and its blog also offers views and opinions from Vanguard leaders.

A sampling of Vanguard's website and its products. Source: Vanguard.com
A sampling of Vanguard’s website and its products. Source: Vanguard.com

Vanguard’s focus is on retirement in a big way (do you know someone whose company uses Vanguard for retirement? It’s very possible you do!) Vanguard’s focus on clients’ retirement never wanes. 

A look at Vanguard's options for retirement investing. Source: Vanguard.com
A look at Vanguard’s options for retirement investing. Source: Vanguard.com

Vanguard Commissions and Fees

Vanguard states that the average Vanguard mutual fund and ETF (exchange-traded fund) expense ratio is 82% less than the industry average. The company calls it the “Vanguard Effect” and claims that these lowered fees and commissions drive down costs across the financial industry.

Unfortunately, Vanguard has a complicated commission and fee structure. Below, you can see a brief snapshot. For a more detailed review of all funds, check out Vanguard’s website.

Investments Commissions and Premiums
Stocks and ETFs
  • First 25 trades online: $7; subsequent trades: $20 for amounts less than $50,000; phone trades $25
  • $7 for online trades $50,000-$500,000 in Voyager Services Vanguard products; phone trades $25
  • $2 for online trades in amounts between $500,000 and $1 million for Voyager Select Services Vanguard products; phone trades $20
Vanguard ETFs
  • Free
Options
  • Standard and Voyager Services: $7 + $1 per options contract
  • Voyager Select, Flagship and Flagship Select Services: $2 + $1 per options contract
Mutual funds
  • Vanguard mutual funds are free
  • All others: Standard $35; Voyager and Voyager Select $20; Flagship $8
US Treasury securities
  • Free
US government securities, corporate bonds, and CDs
  • New issues are free
  • Standard and Voyager $2 per $1,000. Voyager Select, Flagship, and Flagship Select $1 per $1,000
Mortgage-backed securities
  • $50 per transaction
Municipal bonds
  • If a fee concession isn’t available, $50 commission
  • Standard and Voyager $2 per $1,000. Voyager Select, Flagship, and Flagship Select $1 per $1,000
Unit investment trusts
  • $35 per transaction for selling

Vanguard Platform and Tools

A bit clunky in some ways, Vanguard’s website can be a little tougher to navigate than some of its competitors.

Nevertheless, it gives a comprehensive overview of all of its tools, and its order options are simple. You can really study most aspects in depth prior to making any moves, with well thought-out examples included:

Vanguard's trading examples. Source: Vanguard.com
Vanguard’s trading examples. Source: Vanguard.com

If you’re looking for an advanced platform, however, don’t look into using Vanguard. The company simply doesn’t offer anything close to an advanced platform.

Vanguard does, however, offer mobile trading apps through iPhone, iPad, Android or Kindle so you can smoothly invest whenever and wherever you want.

Vanguard Customer Service

Vanguard’s customer service isn’t available 24 hours a day, seven days a week like most of its competitors. Vanguard offers customer service hours from Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST. There is also an international number you can call as well if you live outside the United States.

Wrapped up in the customer service options are Vanguard’s personal advisory services, in which a Vanguard advisor can help you with financial planning and ongoing investment advice. Vanguard puts a major stake in personalized relationships with clients, according to its website: “We want to learn what’s important to you so we can create a customized goals-based financial plan. And your plan is just the beginning of an ongoing relationship. Think of us as your investing partner—we’ll be here to help whenever you have questions.”

Vanguard & Its Ease of Use

While several of the pages seem to be overly wordy, Vanguard still offers a solid smattering of information on its website, easy enough for a brand new investor to find non-threatening and non-intimidating. Its careful dedication to “teaching moments” offer new investors the chance to educate themselves directly on the website.

Also, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s easy to put in orders on the site as well. Uncomplicating the site are complicated trading platforms, because, as it’s mentioned, Vanguard doesn’t offer those at all.

Final Thoughts on Vanguard

Vanguard is a big name in the financial world, with a staggering $5.1 trillion in assets under management. Since it’s the largest provider of mutual funds and the second-largest provider of ETFs in the world, it’s no wonder people flock to it.

Regrettably, with its old-school website, lack of trading technology and lack of customer service, it’s easy to see that there are a few drawbacks.

However, make no mistake about it: Vanguard’s name still reigns as one of the best, and here’s a last-minute snapshot that explains exactly why:

Vanguard's performance vs the industry average. Source: Vanguard.com
Vanguard’s performance vs the industry average. Source: Vanguard.com