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Vanguard is an investment platform with 30 million investors worldwide. It has over 75 funds to choose from, pooling money from lots of investors and using it to buy hundreds of different shares and bonds. There are two ways to invest with Vanguard: choosing a ready-made portfolio and building your own portfolio (think ready made meal vs cooking it up yourself). In February 2020, Vanguard launched a self-invested personal pension (SIPP) in the UK, heralding this as a low-cost option.
With Vanguard you can choose from:
A stocks and shares ISA is typically a good place to start if you’re new to investing as there are tax benefits that you don’t get with general investment. All investments up to £20,000 in the 2019/2020 tax year are tax-free.
The junior ISA (JISA) allows you to invest in your children’s future. You can invest £100 per month or transfer an existing junior ISA over to Vanguard.
The general account is a good option if you’ve used up your ISA allowance for the year or have ISAs elsewhere within the current tax year. There isn’t a limit to how much you can invest but, of course, your profits are taxable.
Vanguard’s SIPP allows you to save for retirement. You can choose to invest £100 per month, start with a £500 lump sum or transfer pensions that you already have with other providers. The account fee is 0.15% a year, capped at £375.
With Vanguard, you have a choice between ready-made portfolios and building your own portfolios.
As the name suggests, ready-made portfolios are already made. They’ve already been assembled, ready for you to pop them in the microwave… I mean, start investing. Ready-made portfolios get you access to thousands of bonds and shares and help you spread your money across several different investments to manage risk. There are two different types of ready-made portfolios: the LifeStrategy fund and the Target Retirement fund.
Vanguard LifeStrategy fund
This fund is for those that don’t fancy the faff that comes with building and managing portfolios. Those new to investing tend to go with these funds until they learn more about building portfolios as they’ve already been made up for you.
With the LifeStrategy fund, your investments are spread out so if some go up, some go down and some stay the same then they generally balance out (or hopefully are worth more!). This is how Vanguard reduces risk, but there’s no guarantee that it will make a profit.
If you decide to go with the LifeStrategy fund then you simply pick the one that best fits your investment goals and attitude to risk.
Each of the five funds has a different ratio of shares and bonds. As shares tend to have a higher risk and a higher potential return and bonds have the opposite, Vanguard measures the risk of its portfolios by the percentage of shares (sometimes called equities) that you’ll be investing in.
|Risk||Lower risk||Low/medium risk||Medium risk||Medium/high risk||Higher risk|
|Timescale||3 to 5 years||3 to 5 years||5+ years||5+ years||10+ years|
Vanguard Target Retirement funds
Vanguard’s ready made retirement portfolios are quite unique. As with most pre-made portfolios, it consists of thousands of individual bonds and shares in one package, which spreads the risk out.
Vanguard creates a balance between risk and stability, taking steps to preserve your savings with its retirement funds. This is done by reducing your investments in shares and increasing your investments in bonds as you get closer to retirement.
All you need to do is choose the fund that matches the year (or around the year) that you plan to retire. This means that your investments are always changing, depending on how close you are to retirement. For example, if you plan to retire in 2060 then you choose the 2060 fund which is 80% shares and 20% bonds. As you get closer to retirement your shares will decrease and your bonds will increase to add more stability to the money you have saved up.
How do I choose which fund to go with?
Instead of picking a random one, consider the following:
Not everyone wants a ready-made portfolio. Some people like to do it themselves. If that takes your fancy then this is an option available with Vanguard. You have a choice between five types of funds to build your portfolio from, with over 75 funds in total.
The funds are well presented on the website, showing you the ongoing charge (the cost of the fund), asset allocation (ratio of shares to bonds) and risk (marked from 1 to 10, helpfully colour coded).
You can look at graphs that tell you about the past performance of each fund – although this isn’t a reliable indicator of future results and they’re a little more complicated than is arguably necessary.
One of our favourite things about Vanguard is the choice between a detailed view and an overview in this section. The detailed view has a lot of information which can be overwhelming for new investors, so the default view as an overview helps you to see the more important information, while keen investors can take a peek into the details if they want to.
The detailed view gives information on the market value, the latest changes and details of past performance, alongside all of the information offered in the summary.
The website is set out like a menu, just tick the boxes of the funds you want to invest in and check out.
The five types of fund are:
|Fund name||Asset allocation||Risk|
|Global balanced fund||65% equity
|DAX UCITIS ETF||100% equity||6|
|Euro STOXX 50 UCITS ETF||100% equity||6|
|FTSE Developed Europe ex UK UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|FTSE Developed Europe ex-U.K Equity Index Fund||100% equity||5|
|FTSE Developed Europe UCITS ETF||100% equity||6|
|FSRI European Stock Fund||100% equity||5|
|ESG Developed World All Cap Equity Index Fund||100% equity||5|
|ESG Developed World All Cap Equity Index Fund (UK)||100% equity||5|
|FTSE All-World High Dividend Yield UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|FTSE All-World UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|FTSE Developed World ex-U.K. Equity Index Fund||100% equity||5|
|FTSE Developed World UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|FTSE Global All Cap Index Fund||100% equity||5|
|Global Equity Fund||100% equity||5|
|Global Equity Income Fund||100% equity||5|
|Global Liquidity Factor UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|Global Minimum Volatility UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|Global Momentum Factor UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|Global Small-Cap Index Fund||100% equity||5|
|Global Value Factor UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|Active U.K. Equity Fund||100% equity||5|
|FTSE 100 Index Unit Trust||100% equity||5|
|FTSE 100 UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|FTSE 250 UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|FTSE U.K. All Share Index Unit Trust||100% equity||5|
|FTSE U.K. Equity Income Index Fund||100% equity||5|
|FTSE Japan UCITS ETF||100% equity||6|
|Japan Stock Index Fund||100% equity||6|
|FTSE Developed Asia Pacific ex Japan UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|Pacific ex-JapanStock Index Fund||100% equity||6|
|FTSE North America UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|S&P 500 UCITS ETF||100% equity||5|
|U.S. Equity Index Fund||100% equity||5|
|Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund||100% equity||6|
|ESG Emerging Markets All Cap Index Fund||100% equity||6|
|FTSE Emerging Markets UCITS ETF||100% equity||6|
|Global Emerging Markets Fund||100% equity||6|
|EUR Corporate Bond UCITS ETF||100% bonds||3|
|EUR Eurozone Government Bond UCITS ETF||100% bonds||3|
|Euro Governemnt Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||3|
|Euro Investment Grade Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||3|
|Global Aggregate Bond UCITS ETF||100% bonds||3|
|Global Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||3|
|Global Corporate Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||3|
|Global Credit Bond Fund||100% bonds||3|
|Global Short-Term Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||2|
|Global Short-Term Corporate Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||2|
|U.K. Gilt UCITS ETF||100% bonds||4|
|U.K. Government Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||4|
|U.K. Inflation-Linked Gilt Index Fund||100% bonds||5|
|U.K. Investment Grade Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||3|
|U.K. Long Duration Gilt Index Fund||100% bonds||5|
|U.K. Short-Term Investment Grade Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||2|
|Japan Government Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||3|
|U.S. Government Bond Index Fund||100% bonds||3|
|U.S. Investment Grade Credit Index Fund||100% bonds||3|
|USD Corporate 1-3 Year Bond UCITS ETF||100% bonds||2|
|USD Corporate Bond UCITS ETF||100% bonds||3|
|USD Treasury Bons UCITS ETF||100% bonds||3|
|Emerging Markets Bond Fund||100% bonds||4|
|USD Emerging Markets Government Bond UCITS ETF||100% bonds||3|
|Fee name||Invest up to £250,000||Invest over £250,000|
|Account fee||0.15% per year capped at £375||No charge|
|Transferring out, switching funds, withdrawing money and closing your account||No charge||No charge|
Fund management costs
|Fee name||Life Strategy and Target Retirement Funds||Individual funds|
|Ongoing costs||Between 0.22% and 0.24%||Between 0.06% and 0.78%|
|Fund transaction costs||Between 0.02% and 0.06%||Between -0.05% and 1.63%|
|Fund entry charge, fund exit charge and performance fees||No charge||No charge|
|Fee name||Fee amount|
|One-off costs||Between 0.02% and 0.23%|
|Quote and deal service||£7.50 per trade|
There are additional costs and charges detailed on the Vanguard website, including a breakdown of costs for each individual fund.
Vanguard is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Your investments are covered up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). You are covered if Vanguard were to go bust (but not if you lose your money because your investments don’t go to plan).
Vanguard customers found it quick and easy to set up their account with Vanguard and find that its prices are reasonable. Those who needed to contact its customer service found its staff to be helpful and informative.
Vanguard seems like it was designed with both inexperienced and experienced investors in mind. It has options that would suit both parties, allowing beginners to invest based on their approach to risk and experienced investors to create their own portfolio.
Its main downside is that you can only invest in Vanguard funds. With many other investment platforms, you are able to buy Vanguard funds as well as others. This isn’t a major downfall if you only intend to do so, but if you want to invest in others, there are options available that still allow you to invest in Vanguard funds.
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