Whether engaging exchange-traded funds, index or mutual funds, fund investors are usually looking for longer-term strategies. And luckily, some of the best Vanguard funds are suitable for conservative and cost-conscious investors planning for the long haul.
One of the primary reasons Vanguard is a behemoth in the ETF and index fund world is low costs, which help investors keep more of what they earn. As the issuer points out, its average mutual funds costs 82% less than the industry standard.
“For example, the average expense ratio across the entire fund industry (excluding Vanguard) was 0.57% in 2019, which equates to $57 for every $10,000 invested,” Vanguard states on its website. “Compare that with Vanguard, where the average for all of our mutual funds and ETFs was 0.10%, or just $10.”
Plus, some of the best Vanguard funds address equities while others fill fixed-income voids in investors’ portfolios. Some touch international markets while others feature exposure to smaller companies. And some Vanguard funds emphasize equity income while others focus on virtuous investing.
Here are some of the best Vanguard funds for long-term investors:
- Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund Admiral Shares (MUTF:VIMAX)
- Vanguard Total International Bond ETF (NASDAQ:BNDX)
- Vanguard Long-Term Investment-Grade Fund Investor Shares (MUTF:VWESX)
- Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF (NASDAQ:VIGI)
- Vanguard Tax-Managed Small-Cap Admiral Shares (MUTF:VTMSX)
- Vanguard Mega Cap Growth ETF (NYSEARCA:MGK)
- Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (NYSEARCA:VYM)
Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund Admiral Shares (VIMAX)
Expense ratio: 0.05% per year, or $5 on a $10,000 investment
The Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund Admiral Shares does carry a $3,000 minimum investment. But this is seriously one of the best Vanguard funds. Beyond costs, VIMAX fills the important mid-capitalization gap that so many investors have in their portfolios.
Too often, investors don’t think beyond large-cap stocks.
VIMAX “seeks to track an index of medium-sized companies, whose stocks tend to be more volatile than those of larger companies. This potential volatility is one of the fund’s key risks,” according to Vanguard.
That said, mid-cap stocks are historically less volatile than small-cap stocks and deliver better growth prospects than larger companies. VIMAX also trims some of the volatility, because the average market value of its 340 holdings is $15.9 billion. That’s actually well into large-cap territory.
Financial services and technology stocks combine for almost 38% of the Vanguard fund’s roster, while industrial and consumer cyclical names combine for almost 28%.
Vanguard Total International Bond ETF (BNDX)
Expense ratio: 0.08% per year
Investors are searching for lower-risk assets that generate income, and the Vanguard Total International Bond ETF is an ideal Vanguard fund to consider. One of the overlooked perks of BNDX is that it features a currency-hedging mechanism designed to profit from the dollar’s strength. That’s a particularly beneficial trait at a time when the greenback is one of the world’s strongest currencies.
There’s something else to consider with BNDX: It yields 3.3%, which is more than double the yield on the ICE U.S. Treasury 20+ Year Bond Index. That’s saying something because BNDX’s duration is just 8.4 years while the ICE U.S. Treasury 20+ Year Bond Index has a duration of almost 19 years. That means BNDX offers investors a higher yield with lower interest rate risk than long-term U.S. government debt.
Even with the lower rate risk and higher yield, BNDX doesn’t present investors with much in the way of credit risk as about 73% of its 6,331 holdings are rated AAA, AA or A.
BNDX features exposure to dozens of countries, all but 4.7% of which are developed markets. Japanese and French bonds combine for almost 32% of the fund’s weight.
Vanguard Long-Term Investment-Grade Fund Investor Shares (VWESX)
Expense ratio: 0.22% per year
The Vanguard Long-Term Investment-Grade Fund Investor Shares is a potentially controversial choice at a time of stress in the U.S. corporate debt market, even the investment-grade space. However, the Federal Reserve is backstopping this asset class through recent, substantial purchases of related ETFs.
While the Fed effect on corporate debt funds will be short term in nature, there’s another reason to consider VWESX — low interest rates. That’s the case because VWESX has an average duration of 14.5 years. The longer a bond’s duration, the more sensitive it is to changes in interest rates.
“One of the fund’s risks is that increases in interest rates may reduce the price of the bonds in the portfolio, which would reduce the fund’s share price,” the issuer’s website states. “Changes in interest rates have a bigger impact on bonds with longer-term maturities.”
VWESX holds just over 1,000 bonds. More importantly, nearly all of the fund’s components carry A ratings of some form, giving it a sturdier credit profile than many competing index funds in this category.
Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIGI)
Expense ratio: 0.2% per year
The Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF is a reliable idea for investors seeking income and international diversification. International equities often sport higher yields than domestic benchmarks, but dividends in this asset class can be bumpy.
VIGI smooths that out by only including companies with dividend increase streaks of at least seven years.
Dividend investors are usually playing the long game and payout growth is essential to better long-term outcomes. Emphasizing dividend increase streaks can be seen as a prosaic methodology, but it’s also one that’s sound. That’s particularly true when it comes to reducing some of the volatility associated with international equities.
VIGI, which tracks the Nasdaq International Dividend Achievers Select Index, holds 406 stocks, giving it one of the deeper benches among international dividend ETFs. But that comes by way of the fund mixing developed and emerging markets, the latter of which accounts for over 22% of VIGI’s weight.
The fund devotes over 24% of its geographic exposure to Switzerland and France.
Vanguard Tax-Managed Small-Cap Admiral Shares (VTMSX)
Expense ratio: 0.09% per year
The Vanguard Tax-Managed Small-Cap Admiral Shares has an obvious strike against it — its $10,000 minimum investment. However, this remains one of the best Vanguard funds for investors looking to guard against hefty tax implications.
What makes VTMSX interesting here is that small-cap stocks are making a habit of lagging their large-cap counterparts. That condition usually doesn’t persist for years on end, meaning VTMSX is an idea for long-term investors that can tolerate the volatility that comes with smaller stocks.
“One of the fund’s risks is its focus on small-cap companies, which can be a volatile segment of the market,” notes Vanguard. “Investors in higher tax brackets who have an investment time horizon of five years or longer and a high tolerance for risk may wish to consider this fund complementary to a well-balanced portfolio.”
VTMSX holds 583 stocks, nearly half of which hail from the industrial, financial services and technology sectors.
Vanguard Mega Cap Growth ETF (MGK)
Expense ratio: 0.07% per year
The Vanguard Mega Cap Growth ETF is one of the best Vanguard funds for investors seeking broad-based exposure to some of the most popular behemoth growth stocks. That list includes Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and more.
Remember that large-cap growth was one of the leading factor combinations during the recently deceased bull market, but that doesn’t mean MGK can’t lead again.
There are few indications that value is poised to make a near-term comeback. And MGK’s holdings have been outperforming the broader market. This means the stars could be aligning for this ETF to be a winner again sometime soon.
MGK is somewhat focused with just 112 holdings, and there is the potential for sector risk because, like so many cap-weighted growth funds, this Vanguard offering is heavily allocated to technology and consumer discretionary names. Those sectors combine for 64% of the fund’s weight.
On the other hand, that may be a good thing in this environment. Apple, Microsoft and their Big Tech friends have strong balance sheets. Plus, MGK is one of the cheapest funds in this category.
Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM)
Expense ratio: 0.06% per year
Home to nearly $35 billion in assets under management, the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF is one of the largest and most venerable names among domestic dividend ETFs.
What makes this one of the best Vanguard funds in the current environment is its combination of an above-average yield (3.1%) and quality stocks.
The latter point is crucial. Although high dividend strategies are alluring, many come with risks investors often overlook — namely increased possibility of negative payout action. Pivotal to reducing that risk is lower exposure to sectors with poor dividend reputations.
These days, that means energy, real estate and, to a lesser extent, utilities. VYM has no real estate exposure while utilities and energy names combine for 16.6% of the fund’s roster.
Importantly, VYM has quality leanings as consumer staples, healthcare and technology — all sectors with strong dividend growth prospects — combine for about 40% of the fund’s weight. VYM’s 10.6% technology weight is well above the category average.
Home to almost 400 stocks, VYM is also one of the least expensive dividend ETFs of any variety.
Todd Shriber has been an InvestorPlace contributor since 2014. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.