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Any good experiences dealing with Vanguard Flagship Services
Old 02-13-2013, 07:56 AM   #1
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Any good experiences dealing with Vanguard Flagship Services

Hi
Was wondering if anyone has worked with a representative with Vanguard with their tiered investment services. I believe they are voyager, voyager select, or something like that and flagship. I'm in the process of consolidating my financial accounts and have moved most to Vanguard. They are in my wheelhouse with low cost and wide array of financial products. My mom beat the low cost part into me, i have only paid interest on a mortgage and a car when I was young everything else gets bought when I can pay for it.
Question is; does Vanguard provide helpful financial planning with these tiered services? I have used the brokerage service lately to sell a stock and that was quite a bit slower (settlement wise) and clumsier than say scottrade. I realize they are not apples to apples.
Just wondering how helpful have the services been and how knowledgeable have the financial planners been with these tiered service levels. I'm in the process of inputting data into a financial plan questionnaire and then will speak with a planner.
Thanks
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Old 02-13-2013, 10:43 AM   #2
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You get what you pay for (there's a tradeoff between services & expense ratios).

IME Vanguard provides decent basic portfolio analysis online (I like it better than the old paper versions) and through advisors. I did their comprehensive portfolio review when I moved my money to Vanguard just out of curiousity since it was free for us. They mailed me a paper copy, about 20-30 pages (it's around here somewhere), and then "my" advisor and an "expert" made an appointment and called to review it and then answer any questions I might have.

They're not as hands-on as the full service broker I started with 1987-1990, but then those commisions/fees were much, much higher. The folks I've dealt with at Vanguard have been as knowledgeable as anyone at Fidelity or Schwab that I dealt with. But I probably have a question for my advisor once a year if that, I'm comfortable handling my own portfolio/decisions.

But Vanguard doesn't pretend to provide a lot of handholding even for Flagship members, that's part of where the low(est) expense ratios come from - and why full service brokers/funds have higher expense ratios.
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Old 02-13-2013, 11:22 AM   #3
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We were Flagship for about five years and have since consolidated most assets at Fidelity where we in the equivalent class (Private Client). Main reason for our move to Fidelity was the inability of Vanguard rep to effective problem solve with the client in mind. Only solution was the Vanguard "prescribed" method, which unfortunately is usally so narrowly structured it does not apply to anything outside the norm. As Midpack commented, you get what you pay for.
Part of the test I use for choosing any vendor, is how well do they handle issues and out of norm situations. Most anybody can effectively deal with the vanilla stuff. Frankly, I prefer to pay a very small amount more and actually work with pros who can think for themselves and figure out how to fix things within their own system. Often these solutions are not visible in any way to the client.
Even though we were Flagship at the time, I had way too many experiences with the VG bureacracy to find the relationship offering much value added beyond low costs on their funds.
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Old 02-13-2013, 11:38 AM   #4
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When I first began investing (with Vanguard), I would have killed for the opportunities that Flagship members have for advice and portfolio planning.

Last year I finally reached Flagship status for the first time. But by now, I feel a lot more comfortable making these decisions on my own, so I have not taken advantage of these opportunities.
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:52 PM   #5
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Thanks. I feel pretty confident in manging my financial accounts but am always open to learning. Sometimes just getting reassured is good and sometimes getting pushed to as why I'm doing something is even better. Figured it wouldn't be as in-depth as a brokerage account due to the low cost model Vanguard is built on. I've had portfolio analysis done by Merrill Lynch but was never impressed . Thanks for the input.
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Old 02-13-2013, 05:42 PM   #6
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We were Flagship for about five years and have since consolidated most assets at Fidelity where we in the equivalent class (Private Client). Main reason for our move to Fidelity was the inability of Vanguard rep to effective problem solve with the client in mind. Only solution was the Vanguard "prescribed" method, which unfortunately is usally so narrowly structured it does not apply to anything outside the norm. As Midpack commented, you get what you pay for.
Part of the test I use for choosing any vendor, is how well do they handle issues and out of norm situations. Most anybody can effectively deal with the vanilla stuff. Frankly, I prefer to pay a very small amount more and actually work with pros who can think for themselves and figure out how to fix things within their own system. Often these solutions are not visible in any way to the client.
Even though we were Flagship at the time, I had way too many experiences with the VG bureacracy to find the relationship offering much value added beyond low costs on their funds.
Nwsteve
My experience has been just the opposite of yours. Vanguard has been great and over 25 years I've never had an issue with them. Last December I wanted to sell some shares and buy them back the same day to generate some gains for tax purposes, but the frequent trading restrictions would have prevented me from doing so. My Vanguard rep suggested that I could sell the fund and then buy the ETF version of the fund to accomplish what I wanted to do. I actually ended up doing it a different way than what he suggested that fit my situation better, but I spent about 30 minutes with him batting around different ways to do it - he even put me on hold for a bit to consult with a colleague about one idea we were considering.

Their FP process is ok - not very flexible for my taste and too one size fits all - but the planners are reasonably knowledgeable and we have done some easy workarounds how fixed their process is. For example, I have some special expenses (DS's college and DD wedding) that will occur in the next 5 years that I wanted to include in my plan but they can't easily accomodate such things with their archaic planning tools - but the easy workaround was just deducting those amounts from the beginning investments assets since they are reasonably near term.

Also check out their Financial Engines link.
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Old 02-13-2013, 05:54 PM   #7
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We have had very good experience with the flagship service. The representatives were not biased in that they did not prescribe primarily Vanguard solutions. My experience is to prepare by having your questions focused and objective. They are more focused on short familiar issues than in broader concepts.

The ones that we used really knew their stuff.
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Old 02-13-2013, 06:03 PM   #8
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Have been with Vanguard a long time and at various levels of VG status. Pretty comfortable handling my own investing, but they've always been helpful, and offer free CFP access, and a Financial review/plan at Flagship status. Have had infrequent contact with Flagship personal representative, but there if you need them. Like others, they have problem solved with me over the years, and they've offered up some creative workarounds to get me where I wanted to go.
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Old 02-14-2013, 05:30 PM   #9
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Thanks for the feedback.
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Old 02-14-2013, 06:08 PM   #10
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So does free CFP access get one any help with tax planning, sustained withdrawal rate calculation, insurance needs? I must write that I have never heard of anyone getting such service from Vanguard.
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Old 02-14-2013, 06:10 PM   #11
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So does free CFP access get one any help with tax planning, sustained withdrawal rate calculation, insurance needs? I must write that I have never heard of anyone getting such service from Vanguard.
I suspect there is a point in there somewhere.
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Old 02-14-2013, 09:27 PM   #12
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We have been Vanguard clients for more than 30 years now. We have Voyager status (not Flagship, not Voyager select). I just don't see any meaningful perks for Flagship. We get competent service with our Voyager status.

Indeed, it kind of reminds me of the old American Express commercials "Membership has its privileges" which was all fluff and no substance. When one looks at this stuff truly objectively, there is nothing behind Flagship status that is not offered elsewhere more freely.
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:33 PM   #13
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there is nothing behind Flagship status that is not offered elsewhere more freely.
I agree that flagship status is not all that, but the perks certainly aren't "free" elsewhere.
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Old 02-15-2013, 05:00 PM   #14
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I have been a Flagship guy for about 10 years or so and have spoken to my rep a couple of times, but not for a long time. I'm a DIY investor and don't need any assistance on a regular basis but it's nice to know that she is only a phone call away in case I can't locate what I'm looking for.
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Old 02-15-2013, 05:15 PM   #15
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We were with Vanguard for about 5 years (Voyager and Flagship) and only switched to Schwab to have access to DFA funds through our advisor at that time. As a mutual fund company I think Vanguard is truly second-to-none, and their unique ownership structure makes them extremely trustworthy as well as inherently low cost (whereas other firms are opportunistically so). What I mean by that is the mutual funds own the company - there is no corporate entity they have to make money for, they merely share admin. expenses.

On the downside Vanguard Brokerage Services are completely separate from the mutual fund side, and while competent I didn't find their offerings or services exceptional. Vanguard is so buy-and-hold by nature that even the brokerage side isn't very nimble when it comes to trading. Most important should you ever need or want to switch from Vanguard to another company it can be a complicated nightmare - or at least was for us - precisely because the brokerage and mutual fund sides have nothing to do with one another.

In short, I wouldn't hesitate to have my accounts there, but only if I was basically there for their mutual funds and unique structure. Better advice can be had lots of places, and ditto with more choice of funds and lower trading costs.
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Old 02-16-2013, 03:27 AM   #16
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I have only needed their services a couple of times so far. In the simple tasks that I handed them, their work was knowledgeable and flawless. I don't use their brokerages. I am there simply for their mutual funds. One Flagship perk that I like is lower costs.

I liked that the focus was entirely on giving me the best solution to my problem, without a sell for the flavor-of-the-month special that I always seemed to get from my previous big name mutual fund. Fiduciary duty is what other firms pretend to have, IMO.
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Old 02-16-2013, 03:57 AM   #17
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I agree that flagship status is not all that, but the perks certainly aren't "free" elsewhere.
One might be surprised at what is out there beyond Vanguard. Here are a couple of examples:

1. TDAmeritrade paid a $1,000 bonus to folks who moved assets to them. The amount of assets moved was a quarter of the amount needed for Flagship status at Vanguard. The assets remain invested in Vanguard products at low-expense ratios and with no commissions. One gets a walk-in office and a human which is useful to deal with things like transfers of shares to charity and other family members and indirect IRA rollovers. Also one gets a better brokerage than VBS. We are talking better service and lower costs than Vanguard here. (Note: bonuses are not as large nowadays, but many brokers pay bonuses.)

2. WellsTrade/PMA has no fees and Vanguard products. One gets without commissions (i.e. FREE!) Vanguard Signal class index funds, Vanguard Admiral class actively-managed funds, and Vanguard ETFs. Once again, one gets better statements, better interaction with checking accounts, and a better brokerage than VBS. And all free for about 5% of the assets one needs for Flagship status.

So Vanguard is nice, but it is not the only game in town even for Vanguard products. These other places will help keep Vanguard on its toes and continually improving.
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Old 02-16-2013, 07:07 AM   #18
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One might be surprised at what is out there beyond Vanguard. Here are a couple of examples:

1. TDAmeritrade paid a $1,000 bonus to folks who moved assets to them. The amount of assets moved was a quarter of the amount needed for Flagship status at Vanguard. The assets remain invested in Vanguard products at low-expense ratios and with no commissions. One gets a walk-in office and a human which is useful to deal with things like transfers of shares to charity and other family members and indirect IRA rollovers. Also one gets a better brokerage than VBS. We are talking better service and lower costs than Vanguard here. (Note: bonuses are not as large nowadays, but many brokers pay bonuses.)
Evidently these folks agree Vanguard vs TD Ameritrade 2013 | Compare TD Ameritrade vs Vanguard: Cons & Pros
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Old 02-16-2013, 08:20 AM   #19
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I guess if one is a trader then TD Ameritrade might be better. I'm an investor (not a trader) and Vanguard fills my needs nicely.
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Old 02-16-2013, 08:38 AM   #20
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The $1000 to transfer is a nice perk, but they are offering it because they believe (on average) they will suck more than 1k out of each transferee in the long term in one way or another. It might not happen for each individual account and it might take several years for them to recoup acquisition costs, but I think it will happen.

Re: better software. I agree with you there that other companies probably have better offerings.

Re: TD Ameritrade. If you go to the link and look at the numbers vanguard is actually cheaper than Ameritrade on an ongoing basis. Trades at ameritrade are $10 ($50 for mutual funds). Vanguard has a sliding scale, but if you have more than 50k, your trades could be anywhere from $7/$2/Free (for less than 50k first 25 trades are $7 and then goes up to $20). Vanguard mutual fund purchases are $35/$20/$8 for other fund company offerings. Vanguard only becomes more expensive if you have less than 50K (and you trade alot) which is not a high bar for people who plan to ER.
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