Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Review 2021 – Low-Cost, Personal Service

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Vanguard Personal Advisor ServicesAs investment technology becomes more easily available, even big-name investment companies are looking for ways to get into the robo advisor space. The goal is to offer personalized investment management at a lower cost to customers. That's where Vanguard is looking to expand with its Personal Advisor Services platform.
Commissions & Fees - 8.5
Customer Service - 7.5
Ease of Use - 7
Tools & Resources - 6.5
Investment Options - 9.5
Asset Allocation - 8

8

Vanguard Personal Advisor Service offers a mix of robo investing advice and real, live human professionals. However, it's doesn't come cheap, with a required minimum deposit of $50,000. It also lacks tax-loss harvesting, which some more sophisticated investors may want.

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Advertiser Disclosure – This content was reviewed and approved by Vanguard.  Opinions expressed are the authors alone. (Investor Junkie ratings for banks, brokers, robo-advisors and credit cards are weighted averages of the five or more categories we consider, depending on the product, which include fees, transparency, ease of use, variety of available options and rates. Factors we consider include advisory fees, user-experience, customer service and mobile technology. The ratings are from poor (one to four out of 10), satisfactory (five to seven out of 10) to excellent (eight and up).

What Is Vanguard Personal Advisor Services?

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is an investment management service offered by Vanguard Advisers, Inc. The Personal Advisor Service offers a full suite of investment management and advice. This includes asset allocation, tax-efficient investing, and personal investment coaching during scary times in the market.

Vanguard has approximately $6.2 trillion in global assets under management (as of 1.31.2020). It is the largest mutual fund manager in the world and the second-largest provider of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Their mutual funds and ETFs are known in the financial services industry as having some of the lowest management fees and expenses.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services brings these low-cost investment choices to clients who want a personally managed investment portfolio.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Features

Minimum Investment$50,000
Fees0.30%/year
Accounts
  • Taxable
  • Joint
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Rollover IRA
  • SEP IRA
  • SIMPLE IRA
  • 401(k)
  • Solo 401(k)
  • Trusts
  • Limited Partnerships
  • Partnerships
  • Coverdell
  • 529
  • Custodial
  • Non-Profit
  • 401(k) Guidance
401(k) Assistance
Tax Loss Harvesting
Portfolio Rebalancing
Automatic Deposits
Weekly, Biweekly, Monthly and Bimonthly
AdviceHuman Assisted
Smart Beta
Socially Responsible
Fractional Shares
Customer ServicePhone M-F 8A-8P ET; Email M-F

How Does Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Work?

For new clients, a Vanguard advisor will develop a financial plan that includes life goals, review of current investments and determination of future income needs. The financial plan will be customized to the client's unique financial situation.

After developing an initial plan, the advisor puts the plan into action by building a portfolio with a mix of low-cost diversified mutual fund and ETF investments based on the client's individual goals.

Using Vanguard's online interface or mobile app, the client can view all portfolio holdings and investment performance and keep track of goals.

A Vanguard advisor reviews quarterly and rebalances the client's portfolio if needed, to keep the portfolio on course to meet investment goals and objectives. Vanguard portfolio management software does most of the grunt work of tracking asset allocation and keeping the portfolio on track.

Vanguard advisors select funds based on the individual investment objectives of the client and Vanguard advisors tend to recommend low-cost Vanguard multual funds and ETF's.

For clients transferring in non-Vanguard funds with significant capital gains, Vanguard's advisors may keep those non-Vanguard funds in the portfolio to avoid taxation on the gains.

Progress reports are sent out quarterly. However, clients can contact their advisor any time they would like and as often as they would like. Advisors are available by phone, email and videoconference from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Eastern Time.

  • Brokerage Trading Services — Vanguard utilizes Vanguard Brokerage Services for all trades and transactions.
  • Brokerage Accounts covered by SIPC insurance — accounts at Vanguard are covered up to $500,000 and by excess coverage from Lloyd's of London up to $50,000,000 per account.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Screenshots

    Pricing

    Vanguard Personal Advisor Services has an annual fee based on the amount of assets being managed. The fee is a flat 0.30% of all assets under management. That amounts to $150 per year on a $50,000 managed account or $1,500 per year on a half million dollar portfolio.  The fees become less pricey the higher up the investment ladder you go:

    • 0.30% on the first $5 million in assets
    • 0.25% on the assets between $5 million and $10 million
    • 0.10% on the assets between $10 million and $25 million
    • 0.05% on the assets above $25 million

    *Please note, the fee is billed quarterly to you account

    In addition to the 0.30% management fee, you'll pay expenses for the underlying funds.  Vanguard's funds have an asset-weighted average expense ratio of 0.10% as of December 2019. Vanguard advisors use only Vanguard mutual funds and ETFs, which do not incur brokerage commissions at Vanguard.

    Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Pros & Cons

    Pros



    Personal Advice
    —Unlike some robo advisors, you actually get a live person managing your account and in charge of your investments.

    Low Fees
    —At 0.30%, Vanguard's annual management fee is much lower than a traditional financial advisor.

    Access to Vanguard Funds
    —Vanguard offers some of the lowest expense funds in the mutual fund and ETF universe, and all Personal Advisor Services clients get access to the very low-fee Admiral class mutual funds with no per-fund minimums.









    Cons



    High Minimum Deposit
    —Beginning investors will have to look at other robo advisors since the minimum is $50,000.

    Not the Cheapest Robo Advisor
    —Firms like WiseBanyan and Wealthfront are cheaper, especially at higher deposit amounts.

    No Tax-Loss Harvesting
    —Unlike some of the other robo advisors, they lack this functionality. However, they do allocate efficiently between taxable and tax-deferred accounts within the service.

    No In-Person Meetings
    —You'll have to deal with your advisor by phone, email or video chat since Vanguard doesn't have national or regional physical offices.








    Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Competitors & Alternatives

    HighlightsPersonal CapitalBettermentVanguard Personal Advisor Services
    Rating9.5/109/108/10
    Minimum to Open Account$100,000$0$50,000
    401(k) Assistance
    Two-Factor Auth.
    AdviceAutomatedHuman AssistedHuman Assisted
    Socially Responsible Investing

    Summary

    Vanguard is my favorite investment company, so I might be a little biased in this review. I trust them with over a half million of my own dollars. It's nearly impossible to beat their low investment fees in their mutual fund and ETF lineup.

    Vanguard Personal Advisor Services builds on the Vanguard reputation of delivering low-fee investment products by offering a full-service investment management relationship for a bargain of 0.30% in annual fees. Given the low cost of the underlying Vanguard funds in their recommended portfolios, the full-service Personal Advisor Services total management fees will come in around 0.50% or less.

    That's an amazingly low total fee that compares favorably against most actively managed mutual funds that don't come with a personal advisor or investment management services.

    Would I recommend this service to others? Yes! If you need hand-holding with your investments, Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is a compelling new entry in the money management field. The fees are straightforward and advisors don't have vested interests in up-selling you on expensive and unnecessary financial products just to make a few more bucks on commissions.

    Because of this, I give Vanguard Personal Advisor Services 8 out of 10 stars. The missing stars come down to the fact that you are still paying a 0.30% fee for advice each year (other robo advisors are somewhat cheaper) and the lack of tax-loss harvesting. For professional money management, a 0.30% annual fee is still very competitive, the Vanguard name is trusted, and the service offering looks solid, hence the 8-star rating.

    Disclaimer: I own many Vanguard mutual funds and ETFs, some of which are mentioned in this article.

    Vanguard Disclosure - Vanguard Personal Advisor Services are provided by Vanguard Advisers, Inc., a registered investment advisor, or by Vanguard National Trust Company, a federally chartered, limited purpose trust company.

    The services provided to clients who elect to receive ongoing advice will vary based upon the amount of assets in a portfolio. Please review the Form CRS and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Brochure for important details about the service, including its asset based service levels and fee breakpoints.

    VAI is a subsidiary of VGI and an affiliate of VMC. Neither VAI nor its affiliates guarantee profits or protection from losses.

    Justin McCurry

    At age 33 Justin retired from a career in civil engineering to spend more time with his family and pursue his other interests and hobbies. Justin founded RootofGood.com where he shares advice on reaching financial independence and enjoying the early retired life. After graduating NC State University with degrees in Civil Engineering and Spanish, Justin earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the School of Law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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    23 Comments

    1. Although vanguard PAS claims they are fiduciaries , they still get bonuses and promotions for convincing clients to sign up with the service . I spoke with 2 reps and was surprised that they sometimes downplayed and criticized vanguard managed funds as expensive and more expensive than index or etfs. Yes that may be the case, however sometimes there is a place , value and reason for having a vanguard managed fund. Some vanguard managed funds have historically done better than the corresponding Index. I agree the recommended index etf funds are cookie cutter and not customized as the pas service is advertised. The rep also ignored my questionnaire response which was conservative and instead gave me a moderately aggressive allocation at 60/40 when it should have been 50/50. Also, the rep omitted asking me expenses and mistakenly put my income as expenses. After my first conversation with him, he said he got promoted and would turn me over to another advisor . They gave me a tax effeciency strategy for my rollover ira in just the tot bond index fund etf for tax effeciency . I do not understand why I have to limit my rollover ira to just one bond fund to prevent growth in order to be tax efficient on rmds. If that’s the case, I can just put a rollover in a bank to keep earnings low and be taxed as ordinary income

    2. What I love about Vanguard is that they are owned by the funds themselves. There is no shareholder to please and therefore they act in your best interest. I wish they had banking services to make them a great all-in-one option.

    3. An update on this. Betterment’s offer is now basically the same as Vanguard’s on an all in basis. Frankly, Vanguard’s offer is extremely vanilla and in some cases I believe can hurt an investor. Telling an investor to sell a Vanguard fund with a huge capital gain because it is NOT a core fund doesn’t seem to be the correct way to go about managing money. Further, the fact that they have no tax loss harvesting is actually incredible in this day and age. Yes, the funds are solid. Yes, Vanguard has been the leader in low cost investing and deserves all the credit in the world. However, they should not be managing money since they don’t seem to always put the individual client first. An investor can get what Vanguard offers in regards to cost elsewhere with Vanguard ETFs and a slew of services that Vanguard will not offer. So, you can still be a Vanguard investor, which is a great thing. This advisory service though is straight out of 1998.

      1. I should also include Wealthfront in the discussion. While there are differences between them and Betterment, both services are light years ahead of Vanguard’s offer at this time. Perhaps Vanguard will become more client centric in their advisory approach over time.

    4. Most of my net worth is tied up in Vanguard – I would say more than 70%. My 3 top holdings are the Vanguard Stock Market Index Fund, the Vanguard International Stock Index Fund and the Vanguard Capital Opportunity Fund. I am well aware that costs matter and provide a sustainable advantage.

      In regards to the advisory offering, it is essentially the same as the on-going advisory option for people who invest more than a $1m. These people for a fee get a human being as an advisor and get a level of service that is quite high.

      However, the investment methodology is very strict. This offer is fine for the core of a portfolio but provides zero added diversification from other asset classes. This could be especially problematic given there is quite a bit of risk in stocks and bonds now. The last 2 bear markets saw bonds save the day for investors. The next one may not provide that safety valve since rates are so low. It is not correct to say that advisors can use any Vanguard fund. Even in the high net worth segment with an ongoing asset manager, that is not the case. The core funds are highly recommended and a client needs to jump through many hoops to include a fund not on the list. Some funds like the REIT Index or Gold and Precious Medals are not allowed at all. The advisor will never recommend funds that are not on the core list. The client has to make a case. It is even more restrictive with the robo service.

      As for tax planning, this is an area of confusion. What the robo services like Wealthfront offer is individual portfolios for HNW clients (at least a million dollars) where they can tax loss harvest at the individual stock level. Obviously, this can be a huge benefit to clients in certain markets.

      What is disappointing about the Vanguard offer whether with a person or a robo service is that they won’t even do tax loss harvesting for the client at a fund level. Frankly, I believe that is a breech as a fiduciary but that is my opinion only. The current bull market has made that point moot – for now.

      I highly believe that everyone should have some Vanguard investments. I think, all in, after the cost of investments is included, Vanguard’s robo offer will be the least expensive. However, I would not be able to recommend this service due to the lack of true diversification with the investments offered, the lack of flexibility within the Vanguard family of funds and completely disregarding the potential for tax loss harvesting. Yes, I understand asset location very well. That is NOT the issue. Asset location and tax loss harvesting are 2 different topics.

      I would give this offer (I did get a recommendation from the robo service – they recommended that I see all of my Cap Opp investment – no way) a 4.5 out of 10. There are better alternatives that will include Vanguard ETF’s for funds in their offer and are still cost effective.

      1. I need to amend something I type about Wealthfront. After reading the review of that service on this site, it is clear that their tax loss harvesting service has been greatly enhanced and is available to individuals who make much less of a commitment than before. Also, their intelligent div reinvesting caught my eye. A fantastic innovation. I am actually considering a small account with them so that if I ever decide I do not want to focus on my investments any longer, I will have a home to go to.

      2. One more clarification that I need to make – Vanguard is NOT the lowest cost offer anymore in this space. Wealthfront seems to have an all in offer that is similar to Vanguard’s in regards to total cost (expense ratio and advisory fee) while offering more, much more than Vanguard.

    5. Hello, newbie question here. I work for a midsize company and have generally been underwhelmed with my employer’s 401k plan (the available investments, their performance and the service of the investment professionals that manage it). I thought I had made up my mind about taking the portion of my current 401k that was rolled over to my current plan from a prior job and transferring that amount over to Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.

      As I don’t know that much about investing, I’ve historically preferred – and have been happy with – target date funds. Right or wrong, that’s been my take on “set it and forget it”. So I thought it would make sense for me to go with Vanguard Target Retirement 2040 (VFORX).

      My related questions are:
      1. Can I simply open a regular Vanguard online account and directly rollover money into VFORX?
      2. If I’m a simple, target date investor, what would the advantages be of signing up for Vanguard’s roboadvisor and incurring the additional .30% service fee?

    6. I have been using this Vanguard Personal Advisors Services since 2014 when it was introduced, so I hope I can give a different perspective. I was very happy about the service and management and developed a good relationship with the advisor. The majority of this service is a cookie-cutter approach, but having the right advisor adds the personalized service. Your account is built around mainly index funds. The portfolio eventually gets to a point its on cruise control unless you have a major change. And it hardly ever gets rebalanced, since the market has been more or less steady. The 0.3% fee is taken out quarterly, if its not specified they will take it out of your IRAs by default. 0.3% compared to other outside services seems reasonable, but after having this service and a portfolio based on index funds, you can essentially do the same thing on your own with a target date fund (doesn’t seem as elaborate, but this is what this service boils down to). Then my advisor got promoted within Vanguard. I was passed on to a new advisor who was less experienced. I had a recent email communication with him, and his response was lacking in detail and explanation. We had a chain of emails to try to solve an issue, which he could not rectify, until he got the previous advisor to call me to clarify the situation. From this experience, Vanguard will probably routinely promote their advisors to higher wealth clients, so as a result, you need to get reacquainted with another person, who will be handling your $$$. So I’m probably going to disenroll from this service. I feel confident I can do this on my own. So, if you’re financially literate, you can probably do it yourself using Vanguard free website tools but if you’re clueless on finances then this service is good place to start.

    7. just a note. I thought vanguard personal advisor was right for me….had my first online discussion with the rep this evening, and they will not include vanguard etf’s in a personal advisor account. sigh.

    8. I am looking to make a change from a large brokerage from whom I get little assistance and was leaning toward a fee-only firm for asset management. I read your article with interest and would consider going this route; however, I’d like to know what credentials I can expect the Vanguard advisor who manages my account to have if I were to proceed?

    9. I was wondering if it matters how much experience the Vanguard Advisor has. They are going to pair me up with someone who only has 2 years of experience. Since this is more or less a robo-advisor should I be concerned?

    10. hi, i am weighing a change having worked with an hourly advisor periodically for about 5-6 years now…(after working with 1%/year advisors) – I have a number of VG funds – everything is in Schwab accts., though. I wondered, if you work with a Vanguard advisor, can you specify that you prefer ‘managed’ vs indexed Vanguard funds in any given category? Or, do they exclusively use Index/Passive funds….

      In some sectors, i simply feel more comfortable with a managed fund and i wouldn’t want to commit to a VG PAS plan if it doesn’t allow for the investors own’ input.

      1. No, I don’t believe you get to choose between managed vs. passive funds. I believe VPAS uses all Vanguard indexed funds.

    11. No Tax-Loss Harvesting – Unlike some of the other robo-advisors they lack this functionality. Though they do allocate most efficiently between taxable and tax-deferred accounts within the service.

      Justin,

      Do you know of any firm that offer No Tax-Loss Harvesting with that kind of low fee and credibility of Vanguard?

    12. I had a phone call appointment with a Vanguard Investment Advisor about my current self-directed Vanguard retirement portfolio. I was told they do 10,000 simulations with the information a client gives them in a questionnaire you have to fill out before they finalize their assessment of your portfolio and their resulting investment advice. In the meantime, I went on the Vanguard website and completed an on-line form which gives you a suggested portfolio. The difference between the Advisor’s suggested portfolio (using the 10,000 simulations) and the easy on-line suggested portfolio was virtually identical. I guess I was kind of disappointed that the advisor service turned out to be kind of a cookie-cutter approach. I still might sign up though; the service offers rebalancing and advice when you need to sell shares.

      1. Why not just go with their retirement funds. Examples are their 2030, 2040 etc. that automatically rebalance and as you approach your retirement date also adjust your stock to bond ratio with lower cost?

    13. Hi Justin,
      Great review. With their reasonable minimum and low fee it’s hard not to want to give this service a try. With established accounts already at Fidelity is their any reason not to put 50 or 100K with Vanguard Personal Advisor and have them give advice as if it were my total portfolio?

      1. I’d probably pick Vanguard. You’ll end up with lower fees with them. Although Personal Capital could potentially be cheaper depending on your portfolio structure since they might not manage your entire portfolio (and therefore not charge a % fee on all assets). Worth a call to both probably. They also have different styles of money management, so it might come down to personal taste in what you’re looking for in an adviser.

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