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Six months into ER
Old 02-15-2006, 08:07 AM   #1
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Six months into ER

After listening in for about six months I ER'd in August of 2005.* I believe that I have harvested a lot of good information and have been exposed to some interesting viewpoints.* I actually bought my first box of dryer sheets last week.

I know that many of us aprove of using Vangard funds to carry our portfolios.* What are your opinons about the Vanguard Voyager Personal Financial Planning Service?* Have any of you taken advantage of their complimentary offer?

I'll keep listening and try to make only constructive posts.
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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-16-2006, 08:35 AM   #2
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Re: Six months into ER

After listening in for six months, I can only ask..

How're your ears doing? :P

I've been happy with Vanguard, but have not used and am not familiar with the service. Maybe others here have, although most on this forum are stubbornly fiercely independent, and prefer to "manage" their own portfolios. Nords has a list of books on investing and such somewhere on the forum... Maybe he'll chime in.

In the meantime, welcome!
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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-16-2006, 09:21 AM   #3
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Re: Six months into ER

I took advantage of their complementary Personal Financial Planning Service when I moved a bunch of assets into Vanguard last year. I figured, hey, it's free, why not take advantage of it?

They started by sending me a questionaire, about 15 pages if I recall, about what we owned, what we spent, our concerns and goals, etc. It was a fair amount of work to fill this out, but they did a good job asking the right questions.

We were assigned a CFP (certified financial planner) and we scheduled an hour-long telephone call to go over my answers. I was pretty happy with this experience, he took the time to understand the situation we're in and what our goals are.

He prepared a large-ish report and we scheduled one or two follow-up calls to discuss it. At this point I was glad the service was free, and not $1000 or $1500 or whatever they normally charge.

Good things:
  • The report contained a cash flow analysis, "time path testing", and sensitivity testing for our retirement scenario. The time path testing used actual market returns from 1960 to 2004, giving 45 simulations (assuming you retired in each of those years). The data looped from 2004 to 1960. I'd prefer they use data back to the 1920's, but...
  • I felt they were appropriately conservative with the withdrawal rate in retirement.
  • The CFP probably did a better job of estimated post-retirement income taxes than I did.

Disappointments:
  • Most of the text in the report was computer-generated and probably the same as any other report.
  • The service was focused on retirement planning and didn't offer much in the way of tax advice, how much insurance we should carry, etc. Maybe that's normal, I've always been a maverick and never paid for advice before...
  • The biggest disappointment was the limited data set for time path testing. I've chosen a fairly diverse portfolio which starts with a 70/30 stock/bond split and is subdivided into specific categories (e.g. within stocks, there's international and domestic, then within domestic there's large/mid/small-cap, and within each of those there's growth and value - altogether there's about 15 categories in the portfolio). The CFP agreed that the 70/30 split was appropriate for us and recommended changes in the subcategories. Unfortunately, their data set for time path testing is based only on the 70/30 split of stocks and bonds, using the average return for "stocks" and "bonds" as a whole. I was hoping we could run the time path testing once with my allocation, and once with the CFP's recommended allocation, and see how they differed for that time period. Plus, given that the data set only used overall averages for stocks and bonds, I can't think of a good reason why it doesn't go back earlier than 1960...

Because there weren't any hard numbers to back up the CFP's advice (specifically, to reduce my admittedly large exposure to international and emerging markets stocks, eliminate my international bond exposure, and increase domestic large-caps) I made a few minor tweaks to the allocation but ignored most of the advice.

Overall, it was worth my time just for the reassurance of having a planner look at our situation and confirm that our retirement plan is feasible... but I'd feel very disappointed if I'd spent more than $100-200 for it.
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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-16-2006, 11:37 AM   #4
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Re: Six months into ER

I took their free analysis. Wasn't worth much to me. I guess you get what you pay for. My biggest complaints were: 1) I couldn't convince their analyst that since I had a large COLA'd pension that I treat as if it were a large bond allocation, I didn't need any bond funds. He kept urging me to allocate 25% to Vanguard bond funds. 2) He recommended moving funds from T.R. Price funds to very similar Vanguard funds. I saw nothing to be gained by that.

The only upside was that I followed the recommendation to increase international exposure just in time to benefit from last year's run up in those funds.

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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-16-2006, 12:23 PM   #5
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Re: Six months into ER

Welcome to the board, NS!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Non sequitur
What are your opinons about the Vanguard Voyager Personal Financial Planning Service?
The other comments about Vanguard's planning service are some of the most charitable I've read on the subject. The Vanguard Diehards were a lot less complimentary and didn't seem to think much of it. You could post your question again there, and if you're planning to stay with Vanguard then that board is a wealth of info on how to invest with them.

We do manage our own retirement portfolio, and it's based on reading books like "Four Pillars". Bernstein's Efficient Frontier website has a lot of good articles and the Diehards have a great reading list.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Non sequitur
I'll keep listening and try to make only constructive posts.
On this board, that would be most unusual-- maybe even unprecedented!
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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-17-2006, 05:32 AM   #6
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Re: Six months into ER

Wow SC, you really put thought and effort into your reply!* Thanks for that.* You told me exactly what i wanted to know.* It seems like the $1,500 service is worth it if you get it for FREE.* Thanks again.
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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-17-2006, 06:45 AM   #7
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Re: Six months into ER

Hmmm - perhaps a Vanguard Planner would be worth a test drive:

Rolling my own (12 yrs retired age 62 going on 63, now single) -

75% - Vanguard Target Retirement 2015 (trad IRA)
15% - Vanguard Brokerage(former DRIP dividend stocks)
5% - Vanguard Prime MM with checkbook( two years expenses.
5% - Vanguard Lifestrategy moderate(quasi 60/40) so far in Roth mini conversion - to be used 22.1 years from now - in case I don't croak on time.

Have 2-3 month's expenses in local bank for debit card and autodeduct stuff.

A Vanguard Planner recommendation/plan might be - very interesting.

heh heh heh heh
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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-17-2006, 07:01 AM   #8
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Re: Six months into ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by unclemick2
Hmmm - perhaps a Vanguard Planner would be worth a test drive:

Rolling my own (12 yrs retired age 62 going on 63, now single) -

75% - Vanguard Target Retirement 2015 (trad IRA)
15% - Vanguard Brokerage(former DRIP dividend stocks)
* 5% - Vanguard Prime MM with checkbook( two years expenses.
* 5% - Vanguard Lifestrategy moderate(quasi 60/40) so far in Roth mini conversion - to be used 22.1 years from now - in case I don't croak on time.

Have 2-3 month's expenses in local bank for debit card and autodeduct stuff.

A Vanguard Planner recommendation/plan might be - very interesting.

heh heh heh heh
Yeah, it would be interesting to see if he/she would recommend a non-vanguard fund. Of course we know the answer to that. Fidelity would recommend Fidelity funds, Trowe Price would recommend their funds. Hmmmmmmm............doesn't sound much different than any other CFP with a financial stake in their recommendations. But considering the fact that Vanguard has such low cost funds, hard to go wrong with a free review.*
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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-17-2006, 09:03 AM   #9
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Re: Six months into ER

You're welcome, Non sequiter, glad you found it helpful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Non sequitur
It seems like the $1,500 service is worth it if you get it for FREE.
Yep, that's my take on it. Good luck, maybe let us know what kind of experience you have with it...

SC
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Re: Six months into ER
Old 02-17-2006, 12:09 PM   #10
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Re: Six months into ER

My husband went through the free planning and it was pretty much as described above. One thing, no annuities or VUL suggested!

The planner used the non-Vanguard funds my husband has in his 401k as part of the analysis. When we asked about a couple non-Vanguard funds as possible future purchases (I did this as a test), the planner said "Those are very good funds, too".
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