10 Things Vanguard Won’t Tell You

by Dan Wiener | May 1, 2012 11:15 am

For success, you must create a shield to protect your retirement, your family and your future. You must also have a plan and stick to it. I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late!

To be totally safe, you must first avoid vulnerable Vanguard funds. Secondly, you must be sure you are in only the best Vanguard funds. Lastly, you need to know what Vanguard isn’t telling you.

1. “You’ll have to work an extra 3.5 years to pay for this service.” Choosing an annuity to fund your retirement looks smart, but it’ll cost you. Vanguard’s annuities, once all fees and returns are taken into account, can put you so far behind the 8-ball, you could end up having to delay retirement.

2. “You won’t get the good perks unless you’ve got the big bucks.” High rollers are ushered past the velvet ropes at Vanguard. I don’t mind, as long as I can get in on the goodies too. I like to be able to renegotiate my fees, get into funds that are “closed” and get breaks on commissions.

3. “Don’t expect us to tell you when your fund is going off a cliff.” “A roomful of monkeys will type the complete works of Shakespeare,” as Warren Buffett has said, “before a board will criticize a fund’s performance.” Despite the obvious fact that the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSE:VTI[1]) was prime for a plunge, Vanguard kept it open and took in billions a month. Shareholders who bought at the wrong time went underwater.

4. “We make a lot of factual mistakes. You’d better check all account statements thoroughly.” There’s no way around it. Vanguard’s “back office” is a mess. Investors have shown me the most bizarre miscalculations. Check your statements carefully — and resolve questions with lightning speed.

5. “You’ll lose a lot more than you knew in this fund.” Even “low-risk” funds can fall so far that it can take years to recover.

6. “And the performance of this fund is wildly overstated.” Mutual funds not only drop their worst performances into the memory hole, but they get to put a shine on very particular periods of good performance. A whole lot of funds were breathing easier when 1987 was expunged from their 20-year records.

7. “Our fees will take a big bite out of your portfolio.” Over the course of a typical three years, $65 worth of gains could disappear in fees. That’s on a modest $10,000 investment. If you go into Vanguard’s portfolio management services, expect to pay big money in fees.

8. “Your account isn’t private.” Some Vanguard investors have had access to other Vanguard investors’ account information. Use the Account Access website very cautiously — and never put your tax information online.

9. “You’re not diversified at all.” The holdings of many funds at Vanguard are so close, you’re not as diversified as you should be.

10. “That fund is closed, but you can still get in.” Vanguard has a habit of closing its most successful funds “for your own good.” Well, if you like to decide for yourself what’s good for you, there’s a score of better — and more convenient — alternatives.

Endnotes:
  1. VTI: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=VTI

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