Vanguard Personal Advisor is everything that you would expect in a digital asset manager, plus unlimited access to a financial advisor. The portfolios are built and managed via the robo-advisor using low-cost Vanguard funds, but you have the ability to discuss them with a financial advisor at any time, in addition to any other financial advice you may be seeking. While this option is costlier than a standalone digital asset advisor, it is still a very low-cost option for the value that a financial advisor brings to the financial planning process.
Pros & Cons
Unlimited access to a financial advisor, plus automatic portfolio rebalancing, included with advisory fee
More portfolio customization options than with Vanguard Digital Advisors
Tax-loss harvesting available
Initial account setup can be done easily online
$50,000 in assets required to enroll
Customer service is not available 24/7
|Fees?||Approximately 0.30% of portfolio balance|
|Goal Setting?||Retirement, college, buying a home, saving for vacation, etc.?|
|Available Assets?||Exchanged traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and private equity (for qualified investors)|
|Interest Paid on Cash Balances?||Varies with market, currently 5.28% to 5.29%|
|View Portfolio Before Funding?||Yes?|
|Customer Service?||Phone, email, or video chat?|
|Financial Advisor Available?||Yes, available daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET|
|Cash Management?||Sweep to money market fund?|
|Mobile App?||Android, iOS?|
Setting up a Vanguard Personal Advisor account is easy. You start by answering questions to ensure you are a fit for the program, including how much you are ready to invest and what you are looking to get from the advisor experience. Then you are given the option of booking an online meeting or phoning a representative. If you choose this option, a financial advisor contacts you to get to know you a bit more and further customize your portfolio. Once the plan is created, you will meet with a financial advisor again and go over it before deciding if the plan and Personal Advisor is right for you. The account setup process can be prolonged compared to other digital investment advisors, but it is in keeping with Vanguard’s purpose of melding the digital investment management services with the traditional financial advisor experience.?
Goal planning is easy with Vanguard Personal Advisor. When setting up your account, you will walk through what your financial goals are, as well as your time horizon, risk tolerance, and other important factors. Once a customized portfolio is put together based on your financial goals, you can also use Vanguard’s proprietary simulation tool to project how your portfolio may perform under certain market scenarios. If you choose retirement as a goal, for example, the platform will generate 10,000 scenarios with cash flows based on different models of investment returns, inflation rates, drawdowns, and so on, presenting the most statistically probable course.
In order to get an aggregate financial picture, Personal Advisor allows investors to link external investment accounts, bank accounts, credit cards, loan accounts, and more, so you can see your overall financial status in real time. This information also informs goal forecasting, although Vanguard notes that the performance accuracy on externally held investment accounts is difficult to accurately predict. These external accounts are only linked for goal projection purposes; they are not taken into consideration for portfolio rebalancing or tax-loss harvesting.
Vanguard Personal Advisor is fairly limited when it comes to account services. While it is easy to set up automatic deposits to your account from an external source, you do not have traditional banking options or the ability to make individual stock trades in this type of account. Borrowing on margin is not available through the digital investment accounts, although it is possible with the self-directed brokerage accounts.
Investors receive dividends from their cash based on the yields of the money market, and most money markets pay out dividends monthly. It is also worth noting that investors are not required to hold a cash balance, but if there is a cash balance in the account, no fees are charged on those assets.
The variety of investments investors can choose from is a step above what you typically have available with most robo-advisors. While you have the expected low-cost proprietary ETFs and mutual funds to choose from, Vanguard Personal Advisor is truly differentiating its product in the industry by offering private equity options and active equity funds to Vanguard Personal Advisor investors.
The three main portfolio types are:
- The all-index investment option, using low-cost Vanguard ETFs to broadly diversify across global stock and bond markets
- The active/index investment option using Vanguard ETFs and actively managed mutual funds to increase the chances of higher returns
- The ESG investment option that includes Vanguard ETFs that have passed through ESG screening and scoring
There is also the option to add private equity if an investor is qualified.
|Fixed Income?||Only through ETFs?|
|Socially Responsible or ESG Options?||Yes?|
|Active Equity Funds?||Yes|
Portfolio customization with the help of a financial advisor is a distinguishing factor of Vanguard Personal Advisor compared to other robo-advisors. Unlike other digital investment advisors, the customization is discussed with the financial advisor and then implemented, so it is not a fully digital process.
Beyond the three main portfolio types, the advisor can help you fine-tune allocations at deeper levels as well as introduce a tilt to your portfolio that overweights it one direction or another as long as it fits within your overall risk profile. You can also request reasonable restrictions as to what is in your account, but too many tweaks of this nature may end with your account not being eligible for Personal Advisor.
It is worth noting that Vanguard’s financial advisors are not paid based on commissions from portfolio transactions, so they are impartial when it comes to offering advice on particular customizations to your holdings.?
While investors do have unlimited access to a financial advisor, Vanguard Personal Advisor still functions like most robo-advisors when it comes to automatic rebalancing. Daily monitoring of an investor’s portfolio takes place to see if the overall mix of stocks and bonds has moved more than 5% from the target range. If it has, then a rebalance occurs to get the portfolio back in line with your financial goals. External accounts that may have been linked to the Vanguard Personal Advisor Platform are not taken into consideration when the rebalance occurs. The linking of external accounts to the Vanguard Personal Advisor account is only for goal planning purposes and investor convenience.
Vanguard Personal Advisor also has tax-loss harvesting for accounts that can benefit from swapping out a security at a loss while buying another security that fills the same portfolio need to lower the overall tax bill. This feature is for taxable accounts, but Vanguard's financial advisors can also help retirement savers with how to best organize their withdrawals, Roth IRA conversions, and social security timing to have the most after-tax money available in retirement.
|Key Portfolio Management Features|
|Automatic Rebalancing||Monitored daily, 5% threshold|
|Reporting Features?||Online dashboard and annual checkups?|
|External Account Syncing/Consolidation?||Yes, for goal planning purposes only; external accounts are not considered with regards to portfolio rebalancing?|
The user desktop experience is relatively straightforward. Investors will start out by walking through a series of questions relating to investing goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon to get the process started. Once they have talked with a financial advisor and opened their account, investors gain access to a desktop dashboard that has several account features, highlighted by topic tabs along the top of the dashboard.?
In addition to logging in to check current account balances, users can easily see if they are on track for reaching their goals. Vanguard utilizes a green/yellow/red schema to indicate if your investing goals are still on target: Green is good, yellow means your account is getting off track, and red means that you need to talk with your advisor to reassess and possibly reallocate your investments to get back on track. Vanguard also does an annual check-in to ensure investors who may not be accessing the personalized dashboard or reading quarterly emails are aware of their progress and comfortable with the current strategy.?
Vanguard offers a mobile app for investor convenience as well. Usability of the mobile app is aimed at providing investors with primarily account tracking and goal planning information. Vanguard Personal Advisor investors will also receive quarterly email updates and periodic calls from a financial advisor.?
While customer service is not available 24/7, Vanguard Personal Advisor offers a few standout account servicing options: setting up your portfolio with the help of a financial advisor and video chat. Many digital investment managers do not offer the additional layer of individualization that Vanguard Personal Advisor does by allowing clients to talk with a financial advisor to make sure the portfolio that is being set up is fully customized.
- Phone line available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET
- Meet with a financial advisor during account setup
- Website FAQs are very helpful for frequently asked questions
Vanguard takes several measures to make sure that your personal information is kept safe:?
- Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) validation
- Username and password protection
- Account activity alerts
- Security questions for user authentication
- "Time-out" feature to protect user information
- Masking digits to protect bank account information
- Vanguard is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC)
Vanguard has a library of tutorial videos to help investors learn how to add features or accomplish other tasks within their account dashboard. Vanguard also offers calculators and simulation tools for investors to help them with investment analysis, retirement planning, and educational savings. Additionally, Vanguard offers videos and articles on investing in general.?
Investors will also find some unique tools that are only available to Personal Advisor clients: a Medicare Match tool, Healthcare Estimator tool, and Social Security Strategy tool. These features would be of particular interest to investors who are nearing retirement age. The Medicare Match is a questionnaire that helps guide the investor in the process of picking a Medicare plan. The Healthcare Estimator can help investors calculate potential healthcare and long-term care expenses. Personal Advisor also offers a third party-operated Social Security strategy tool.?The key point here is that you can also access a human financial advisor to use these tools on your behalf or help you analyze the results, making Vanguard's robust education library and tools potentially more meaningful.
Commissions & Fees?
Vanguard Personal Advisor is a digital investment manager plus the advice of a financial advisor. Even with the additional feature of unlimited access to a financial advisor, the fees are still relatively low, but they change according to the investment strategy. Vanguard has a credit system that can bring the total cost of the funds down below the headline figure.
For users that choose a Total Market All-Index Investment setting, a credit of approximately 0.05% will result in a net advisory fee of 0.30%. For the ESG All-Index Investment setting, approximate net advisory fees of between 0.24% to 0.26% will be charged. Finally, customers using an Active/Index Investment setting with see fees within an approximate range of 0.26% to 35%.
There are expense ratios related to the funds within the portfolio, but those vary based on the investment and tend to be lower than the average ETF—the low-cost ETF is a market segment Vanguard has long owned.
Again, it is important to note the financial advisors are free to you and not paid on commission.
|Management Fees for $5,000 Account||NA|
|Management Fees for $25,000 Account||NA?|
|Management Fees for $100,000 Account||Approximately $300 per year|
|Expense Ratios?||Low, vary based on investment?|
Vanguard Personal Advisor is best for intermediate investors who have saved a nest egg and want some dedicated help to put a plan in place to reach their financial goals. Opening a Vanguard Personal Advisor account takes a minimum $50,000 investment, which likely puts it out of reach for newer investors. Vanguard also gets better as you accumulate more wealth. Investors with over $500,000 will have the option of Personal Advisor Select, with a dedicated financial advisor, and fees start going down once you have more than $5 million under management.
For a seasoned saver looking to refine their saving strategy and put a plan in place to reach their financial goals, Vanguard Personal Advisor is a digital investment solution that comes with human support. The automatic quarterly rebalancing allows investors to take a more laid-back approach and not have to worry about the portfolio staying in line with their financial goals. The higher account requirements also give you access to a level of customization and investment options not available through Vanguard Digital. More importantly, the unlimited access to a financial advisor gives you the ability to discuss changes in financial goals or life events that may affect your investing strategy and adjust it with human help whenever necessary.
How Does Vanguard Personal Advisor Work?
Vanguard Personal Advisor combines digital investment management technology with human coaching. While you can set up an account yourself, Personal Advisor clients can benefit by having an advisor guide them through the process and support them in ongoing financial decisions. With Vanguard Personal Advisor, a robo-advisor is managing your account and doing the day-to-day rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting. If, however, you do want to change something, you can do so with the help of a financial advisor.
Is Vanguard Personal Advisor Services FDIC Insured?
Vanguard's investment accounts are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) membership that provides protection of up to $500,000 as well as $250,000 for cash. Vanguard does have separate cash accounts that are FDIC insured, but these are outside the Personal Advisor Services.
Is Vanguard Personal Advisor Safe?
Vanguard is safe and up to industry standards in terms of insurance, security standards, and so on. In addition to the aforementioned SIPC insurance, Vanguard has encryption, SSL validation, two-factor authentication, time-outs, and data protection protocols. Vanguard also has a pledge to reimburse clients should there be an unauthorized online transaction via their platform.
How We Rate Companies
For the Investopedia 2023 Best?Robo-Advisors reviews, we revamped our comprehensive rating methodology to reflect the ever-changing landscape of digital wealth management companies and their increasingly competitive product offerings. As part of our commitment to score each platform on an apples-to-apples basis, we excluded Vanguard Personal Advisor, Empower, and J.P. Morgan Personal Advisors from our quantitative ranking model because their emphasis on human advisory services prevents them from being pure digital?robo-advisor platforms.
Offering a powerful mix of digital and human advisory services, Vanguard Personal Advisor, Empower, and J.P. Morgan Personal Advisors are three of the top hybrid wealth management companies in the industry. In order to rate these platforms, we used our subject matter expertise to develop a separate discretionary star rating system based on the following categories: account services, account setup, customer service, fees, goal planning, portfolio contents, portfolio management, security, education, and user experience.
Vanguard. "VMFXX: Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund."
Vanguard. "Advisor Client Relationship Summary (Form CRS)."
Vanguard. "Online Security: Our Promise to You."