Saturday, July 7, 2007

Vanguard vs Scottrade

So I really want to move my Roth IRA over to Vanguard, since they are the Index Fund Kings. They have low-cost funds that cover the exact swaths of the market I want to be exposed to: The S&P 500, Mid Caps, Small Caps, REITs, International Stocks, and some kind of dividend component.

Right now I'm at Scottrade paying 0.50% in expenses for each fund, while the Vanguard funds typically have expense ratios of about 0.20%. In the long run (which is what I'm after), that difference turns out to be a lot of money.

BUT Vanguards index funds have minimums of $3,000 dollars a piece. I don't have that much money yet where I can allocate my portfolio according to my own specifications and still meet those minimums for each fund I want to own. So, for now, I'm stuck at Scottrade owning a Mid, Small, and S&P 500 fund, as well as an International fund. I also have one share of Warren Buffett's Berkshire (a B share), which will always stay and I'll never sell.

My problem, and maybe one of you has a good, well-developed answer, is the following: Am I better off paying double in expenses (0.50% is still relatively low) at Scottrade for a few more years until I have enough money in the account to buy the funds I want? OR am I better off buying a Vanguard Life Cycle fund (which includes most of what I want, though not at the precise allocation that I want) to get my money over there, enjoy the lower expense fees, and wait until that account gets to the point where I can buy all the funds I want?

I posed this question to Matt Krantz over at USA Today, and I'll post his answer when I get it. I've asked him stuff before and he's usually been good about answering so we'll see what he says.

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