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Schwab vs. Fidelity vs. Vanguard
Old 10-02-2011, 09:49 PM   #1
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Schwab vs. Fidelity vs. Vanguard

I read a few older threads on this issue but I think these firms have changed quite a bit over the last few years. The majority of my experience has been with Vanguard and Fidelity. Clearly the advantage with Vanguard remains with their low Exp ratios on their funds. But Fidelity seems to offer a much more robust website and a more use friendly platform for trading. Also I hate that's it's such a pain to find the cost basis with Vanguard (compared to Fidelity). Can someone tell me how Schwab compares in terms of ease of use, trading, website, statements, internet bill pay, and anything else I might be forgetting? Thanks!
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Old 10-02-2011, 10:02 PM   #2
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I like Schwab better than Fido, but they are pretty close. The one place Fido is clearly ahead of Schwab is in the trading of individual bonds.
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Old 10-02-2011, 10:20 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by CFPMatt View Post
Clearly the advantage with Vanguard remains with their low Exp ratios on their funds. But Fidelity seems to offer a much more robust website and a more use friendly platform for trading. Also I hate that's it's such a pain to find the cost basis with Vanguard (compared to Fidelity).
Sorry I can't answer your Schwab question, but I really agree with you regarding Fido's website and tax reporting. I have an account with both and I will probably move one into the other once I have decided which I like better.

I really wish Vanguard would spend the money to update their website. I can't imagine that the cost would even be noticable when spread out over all investors.

What makes you want to look to Schwab over Fidelity?
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Old 10-02-2011, 10:27 PM   #4
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Sorry I can't answer your Schwab question, but I really agree with you regarding Fido's website and tax reporting. I have an account with both and I will probably move one into the other once I have decided which I like better.

I really wish Vanguard would spend the money to update their website. I can't imagine that the cost would even be noticable when spread out over all investors.

What makes you want to look to Schwab over Fidelity?
I need to help my parents with some inheritance money and I'm trying to keep an open mind. Right now I'm very comfortable with Fido but if Schwab has some advantages I'd love to know about them. I wish I could view some kind of online demo from Schwab but I don't think they have one.
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Old 10-03-2011, 05:26 AM   #5
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I really like Schwab. The web site is very user friendly and I like how they report status of trades. I use Vanguard directly for the bulk of my non active investments. I use something close to one of the Lazy Traders portfolios at Vanguard. I use Schwab for my actively managed stock and option trading. If Vanguard would update their web site, I might change as the trades are a little less. But it is so much easier at Schwab and showing things like cost basis and trade status are better. Also if you use online banking for savings and checking and bill payment and ATM cards, Schwab really does well with those. Their ATM card works all over the world in almost every ATM with zero fees. I am sure there are some, but I have never found one where it doesn't work.

One thing I don't like about about Schwab is their local office. Going there to do anything in person, which is very seldom needed, but when it is, they are less then average.
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Old 10-03-2011, 07:59 AM   #6
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I'm not particularly fond of Vanguard. In addition to they're not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, they burnt me with their now defunct Global Asset Allocation Fund, Fund #115 (symbl:VHAAX). I purchased that fund in August 1999 for $11.37. In April 2001 they discontinued the fund and paid me $9.90 per share.
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Old 10-03-2011, 08:22 AM   #7
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I'm not particularly fond of Vanguard. In addition to they're not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, they burnt me with their now defunct Global Asset Allocation Fund, Fund #115 (symbl:VHAAX). I purchased that fund in August 1999 for $11.37. In April 2001 they discontinued fund and paid me $9.90 per share.
I suppose that is another data point in favor of indexing. It is painful that the lesson came from Vanguard, though.
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Old 10-03-2011, 08:31 AM   #8
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DW/me started with VG back in '82 when we opened our respective IRA's. Both of us have been with FIDO a bit later, through our respective 401(k) plans (different employers).

Upon retirement in early 2007, I thought I would combine assets and choose one over the other. That was based upon early discussions on the BH board (which is VG centric - as it should be).

The funny thing is that based upon our investments (both then and now), both VG & FIDO had offerings that we wanted to keep. Sure, we could have had the same funds managed by the other company, but why?

For example, we've been heavily invested with VG Health Care (VGHCX) over many years and even though we gave up our Admiral holdings (VGHAX) due to "overexposure" to the sector, we still like the fund. And at +4.49% YTD in today's market, we still continue to hold.

FIDO's web presence, along with its tools far surpasses VG's. I guess it's the old thing of you get what you (and other investors) pay for. BTW, we have no problem with paying a bit extra for superior service.

And as far as looking at our top six joint investment returns (YTD - as an example a/o Friday's close), three are VG - three are FIDO (includes expenses).

As for us? We'll keep the best of both, while retaining both companies.

BTW, since I'm retired and do get a good portion of my income from my investment accounts (no pension, pre-SS), it's easy just to select one for my retirement income distribution - e.g. withdrawals to checking and pay taxes. In my case, it's FIDO.

Rather than use both companies (which I could do, but I'm just comfortable with FIDO's way of handling these transactions) when I draw from my deferred tax MM accounts, I just use one.

Every six months or so, I request a transfer of the contents of my VG MM account to be transferred to my FIDO MM account (both tax deferred). No need to withdraw/pay taxes from multiple accounts.

Just my $.02 on the subject...
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Old 10-03-2011, 08:54 AM   #9
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It may come down to preferences and the specific instruments you plan to trade (funds, individual stocks, bonds, and so on). IMO you really can't go too wrong choosing any of the three.
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Old 10-03-2011, 12:55 PM   #10
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I agree that you can't go wrong with any of the three. I manage money at all of them - taxable/Roth at VG, employer plan at FD, and family assets at Schwab. I remain at VG for a while because that Roth was established back when they were first offered (1998), and a separate Roth I have at FD has not yet been in existence for 5 yrs. Once the FD Roth is 5 yrs old, I will be moving all my personal money to FD as I want the simplicity that consolidating at one firm provides. I do favor FD's website but think the other two are just fine for most purposes.
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Old 10-03-2011, 03:17 PM   #11
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We have accounts at both VG and Fido and probably will continue to do so for the some reasons others have shared. Besides Fido's superior web interface and tools, they also stand out in the quality of reps who you deal with. For us the real test of a relationship is when something goes "bump". Fido has consistently proven to be willing to do what it takes to fix the problem. The common experience with VG is to read their "policy" and cite their "rules" and repeat often whenever you ask for more details or what to look at other options. At VG I have only gotten relief from their issues and "black and white" behavior when I have bumped the issue up a couple of levels.
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Old 10-03-2011, 08:22 PM   #12
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We have accounts at both VG and Fido and probably will continue to do so for the some reasons others have shared. Besides Fido's superior web interface and tools, ...
Nwsteve
I'm curious. A few others have mentioned Fido's superior web space. I have both Vngrd and Fido, I only go to the web occasionally (actually more often on Fido - but just to check my rewards card activity). I can't say I've noticed a clear good/bad/better between the two in my casual usage.

What distinguishes Fido (aimed towards anyone with an opinion on it, not just nwsteve)?

-ERD50
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Old 10-04-2011, 07:04 AM   #13
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My 401k used to be at Fido, now at Wells Fargo. Liked Fido better, but it's been a few years. Taxable is a Schwab, and I really like them. Website is easy, customer care is great. I don't talk with someone in India on the very rare occasion that I need to call them. I'll be here for a while unless things change.

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Old 10-04-2011, 07:55 AM   #14
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I'm curious. A few others have mentioned Fido's superior web space. I have both Vngrd and Fido, I only go to the web occasionally (actually more often on Fido - but just to check my rewards card activity). I can't say I've noticed a clear good/bad/better between the two in my casual usage.

What distinguishes Fido (aimed towards anyone with an opinion on it, not just nwsteve)?

-ERD50
It's not only the web, but also the tools available.

As an example, FIDO has three retirement calculators (myPlan Snapshot, Retirement Quick Check, and Retirement Income Planner). They also have a "supplemental" tool (myPlan Monitor) which is used with the output from the Retirement Income Planner (aka RIP), which is stored (no separate data input required).

RIP, which is the best (IMHO) since it meets my anal nature to document and provide the best "guesstimate" based upon not only my specific holdings (not only FIDO, but also VG) and the possible results, much better than other "free" tools such as VG's Financial Engines or such as FIRECalc (sorry).

As the base input for existing data, RIP uses the underlying software from Yodlee to not only obtain current account information (regardless of investment company), but it also interfaces with Morningstar to do an analysis of what the contents of each holding is, regardless of the fund/stock "advertised use".

The other side of RIP is the expense module, which most folks hate (since it requires a bit of detail work, but once done is kept unless you want to make changes). It's a bit like FIRECalc in that you can state revenue/expense streams by start/stop date, but you can also modify the entries (over 50 possible data points) to change over time. An example of this for us is the anticipated reduction in travel expenses (our current largest expense) as we age.

The output report (at least for us) is 35 pages and does a decent job of taking our data/artifacts and presenting it in an understandable manner. The RIP software also allows analysis of "what if" conditions and how possible changes to income (such as delaying SS) or alternative income sources (such as a SPIA) could affect your plan.

BTW, it's the tool that we used to actually change our SS and consider an SPIA to replace a bit of our holdings at retirement (and 4.5 years later, has shown to be correct).

Unlike VG's Financial Engines, it allows you to override age (plan end date) rather than use standard tables and also change inflation rates (it presents you with the current rate if you wish to use). It also adds different inflation rates to different categories (such as health care/medical expenses) rather than just do an across-the-board inflation to every expense item (remember, there are 50+, if you wish to really get detailed). In addition, you can override the standard 90% CI and take it to 95% (1/20 failure) if you wish, to make your plan even more conserative.

Just one opinion on web tools, as offered by FIDO, from one (more than satisfied), and I won't even get into the on-line availability of investment account results (by month) vs. VG's more limited history.

BTW, I/DW also are VG customers. Luckily FIDO does a better job by porting that info into RIP, than when I port our FIDO holdings to VG's FE product, which BTW, does not really work for anybody in retirement. VG stated that they were working on a version to be used by retirees, but after many years has yet to deliver.
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Old 10-04-2011, 08:01 AM   #15
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The common experience with VG is to read their "policy" and cite their "rules" and repeat often whenever you ask for more details or what to look at other options. At VG I have only gotten relief from their issues and "black and white" behavior when I have bumped the issue up a couple of levels.
Nwsteve
I've used their customer service twice and have had completely opposite experience. Either that is because I go directly to Voyager service rep or I do a better job of explaining the problem so I don't get the blow back.
I don't notice that much difference in usability between VG and FIDO (special portal for my company 401K) web sites. VG just updated their buying process, and their smart phone app is fine.
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Old 10-04-2011, 08:05 AM   #16
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I have been with Schwab for over a decade, investing only in individual stocks. I like minimally intrusive financial relationships, and Schwab has provided this. The few times I have needed assistance (401K to IRA rollover, setting up and explaining the mechanics of 72t withdrawals, adjusting PODs, etc) they were very helpful, the rest of the time they leave me alone. I have no complaints about their website or reporting.
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Old 10-04-2011, 11:24 AM   #17
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I've used their customer service twice and have had completely opposite experience. Either that is because I go directly to Voyager service rep or I do a better job of explaining the problem so I don't get the blow back.
How about random variability?
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Old 10-04-2011, 12:30 PM   #18
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I have been with Schwab for over a decade, investing only in individual stocks. I like minimally intrusive financial relationships, and Schwab has provided this. The few times I have needed assistance (401K to IRA rollover, setting up and explaining the mechanics of 72t withdrawals, adjusting PODs, etc) they were very helpful, the rest of the time they leave me alone. I have no complaints about their website or reporting.
This describes my personal experiences with them and my satisfaction very well. Minimally intrusive is key.

On the work side, I work daily with their institutional service teams and find them responsive and proactive. Our firm works almost exclusively with SMAs held at Schwab and I would be loath for us to move from them.
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Old 10-04-2011, 12:36 PM   #19
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I'm curious. A few others have mentioned Fido's superior web space. I have both Vngrd and Fido, I only go to the web occasionally (actually more often on Fido - but just to check my rewards card activity). I can't say I've noticed a clear good/bad/better between the two in my casual usage.

What distinguishes Fido (aimed towards anyone with an opinion on it, not just nwsteve)?

-ERD50
ERD50
Rescueme's summary does an excellent job capturing the benefits of Fido's retirement tools.
Other tools, I find in Fido but have not found the equivalent in VG include research information on any fund or stock, I wish and the abiity to directly compare up to 5 different funds/stocks. Their research also includes no cost access to a variety of independent analysis reports such as Ned Davis, S&P, Columbine Capital, Zacks, Thomas Reuters to name a few.
Fido also has a feature that allows me to compare ETFs that displays selected variables side by side. It will also suggest comparable ETF's without me having to find independently.
The Fido site also provides a portfolio analysis tool which quickly allows you to see your asset allocation and then drill down by account for fund rankings and
I also find their web interface more intuitive for me in terms of navigating between accounts and seeing specific information across accounts. For example, if I want to see recent history activity accross our 6 accounts, I can go to the history tab and tab my through each account without backing up to each account first.
The Fido relationship also comes with a Visa debit card which we travel with since I can access ATM's anywhere without cost as well a reduced (2%) foreign exchange fee. They do have a CC but we have avoided since their Visa is issued by a BA affiliate.
Like others I also appreciate Fido's superior tax reporting details and access to statements much more quickly than I seem to be able to get from Vanguard.
Now in all fairness, I spend much more time at Fido which has 75% of our assets so am more familiar with how their site works. Some of the features may be in VG but I just have not been able to find or use easily which may be a user issue. We are Private Client at Fido but only Select at VG. We were Flagship at VG for several years and never experienced any particular benefit over what we now have as Select. I started to move assets to bring us back to Flagship but had an negative experience with a Select Rep when I wanted to reinvest idle cash from dividends. Wrote a "love" note to VP of CS and got a call from senior VG rep who acknowledged listening to the call and found it very unhelpful. She even went so far as to admit, VG had a focus to improve "listening" skills with their front line staff.
As Private Client with Fido, I have had only 3 reps in 15 years and each has been a worthwhile resource without any pressure to make any trades or portfolio shifts. The current rep does occasionally raise the subject of an immediate annuity but only in the context of the Retirement Income Planner results and the appropriateness of having non discretionary expenditures covered by predictable income sources.
Probably a bunch more but the above will give you some perspective.
Nwsteve
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Old 10-04-2011, 01:48 PM   #20
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ERD50
Rescueme's summary does an excellent job capturing the benefits of Fido's retirement tools. ....
Nwsteve
Yes, thanks go to Rescueme, yourself and others who shared their experiences. Very helpful.

I think it does come down to the fact that I just don't use those tools much. I look at the accounts, set up some bank transfer capabilities, and not much else. I haven't even done a serious, detailed review of any of the other retirement calculators outside of FIRECALC. My gut tells me that the differences are going to be within any margin of 'error' (not really error, but the odds that the future will resemble the past, tax consequences, and other circumstances).

But the comments piqued my curiosity - so I'll take a look at some of those options. Thanks again.


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