Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Review 2022: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

For a reasonable cost, Vanguard Personal Advisor Services provides unlimited access to fiduciary advisors. It pairs Vanguard's solid fund lineup with technology to design customized financial plans.

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Our Take

4.3

NerdWallet rating 

Reviewed in: Oct. 2022

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2022

The bottom line:

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services provides a strong personalized financial offering with guidance from human advisors.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
Fees
0.30%
management fee
Account minimum
$50,000
Promotion
None
no promotion available at this time
Learn more

on Vanguard's website

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Paid non-client promotion

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Low advisor fee and lower account minimum for an online planning service.

  • Comprehensive advice with goals-based planning.

  • Unlimited access to financial advisors.

  • Solid investment selection with Vanguard’s suite of funds.

Cons

  • Must move outside assets over to Vanguard.

Compare to Other Advisors

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Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
Fidelity
Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro
Merrill Edge
TD Ameritrade
NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5
NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5
NerdWallet rating 

4.7

/5
NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5

Fees

0.30%

management fee

Fees

$0

per trade for online U.S. stocks and ETFs

Fees

$0.005

per share; as low as $0.0005 with volume discounts

Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account minimum

$50,000

Account minimum

$0

Account minimum

$0

Account minimum

$0

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

Get $150

when you open a new, eligible Fidelity account with $50 or more. Use code FIDELITY150. Limited time offer. Terms apply.

Promotion

Exclusive!

US resident opens a new IBKR Pro individual or joint account receives 0.25% rate reduction on margin loans. Tiers apply.

Promotion

Up to $600

when you invest in a new Merrill Edge® Self-Directed account.

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

AD

Paid non-client promotion

NerdWallet doesn’t invest its money with this provider, but they are our referral partner – so we get paid only if you click through and take a qualifying action (such as open an account with or provide your contact information to the provider). Most importantly, our reviews and ratings are objective and are never impacted by our partnerships. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here’s how we make money.

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Full Review

Where Vanguard PAS shines

Low account advisory fee: Vanguard is famous for using its size to reduce fees for investors, and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, one of the largest players in the hybrid robo-advisor/online planning space, continues that tradition: The advisor charges just 0.30% of assets under management (with a tiered-fee structure as balances increase), with a $50,000 account minimum.

Human and virtual assistance: Vanguard offers both virtual planning tools and guidance from human financial advisors. Most of these advisors are certified financial planners, and they're all fiduciaries. These advisors personalize a financial plan and provide ongoing portfolio monitoring for investors.

Investment selection: Customers can take advantage of Vanguard’s time tested funds.

Where Vanguard PAS falls short

Lack of flexibility: Clients must move money into a Vanguard account and exclusively use Vanguard’s suite of products/funds.

Vanguard PAS is best for

  • Access to financial advisors.

  • Comprehensive financial planning.

  • Larger account balances.

Vanguard PAS at a glance

Reviewed: Oct. 2022

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2022

Account minimum

$50,000

Account management, planning or subscription fee

Starts at 0.30% but tiered (drops at higher balances):

  • 0.30% on account balances less than $5 million.

  • 0.20% on account balances from $5 million to $10 million.

  • 0.10% on account balances from $10 million to $25 million.

  • 0.05% on account balances over $25 million.

Other account fees

None.

Setup or onboarding fee

None.

Advisor access and credentials

  • Unlimited appointments over phone, email or videoconference.

  • Most advisors are certified financial planners; all are fiduciaries and compensated with salary instead of commissions.

  • Investors with account balances of $50,000 to $500,000 get a team of advisors; investors with balances of $500,000 or more get a dedicated advisor.

Financial planning services

Can advise and create a custom portfolio for a variety of situations, such as saving for retirement, college or a family vacation home.

Services include: Social Security optimization, dynamic spending, tax efficiency, long-term care and medical costs, high-level guidance on estate planning, charitable giving, Roth conversions and trust services.

Investment expense ratios on portfolios

Average expense ratio is 0.06%.

Portfolio construction

Vanguard PAS creates customizable portfolios on a client-by-client basis. It uses low-cost Vanguard index funds and ETFs, which are diversified with tight tracking. Vanguard PAS also offers three ESG funds (scored on environmental, social and governance factors for sustainable investing).

Brokerage options

Clients must move money to Vanguard but can keep outside investments if there are embedded gains or other reasons to do so.

Accounts supported

  • Individual and joint brokerage accounts.

  • Roth, traditional, rollover, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs.

  • Trusts.

Tax strategy

  • Assets are allocated strategically among taxable and tax-advantaged accounts to optimize for taxes.

  • Customers have access to tax-loss harvesting

  • Tax-exempt municipal bonds used to reduce taxes for taxable accounts.

  • Minimum tax cost basis method minimizes tax impact by identifying select units or quantities (lots) of securities to sell based on ordering rules.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

Customer support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. Ability to schedule appointments with an advisor at any time.

» Want to check out other providers? Here are our top picks for best robo-advisors.

More details about Vanguard PAS's ratings

Account minimum: 4 out of 5 stars

When looking across the list of online planners NerdWallet reviews, Vanguard’s relatively lower minimum stands out compared with similar hybrid services such as Betterment Premium and Personal Capital.

Betterment requires a $100,000 minimum balance for its Premium service, which, like Vanguard, offers access to a team of financial advisors (though in Betterment's case, they're all CFPs). Personal Capital also has a $100,000 account minimum, clients get access to a dedicated financial advisor once account balances reach $500,000.

Vanguard also provides a dedicated advisor to clients with $500,000 or more. Clients with lower balances have access to a team of advisors.

Schwab's hybrid robo, Intelligent Portfolios Premium, requires a $25,000 minimum balance, in return for which it offers unlimited access to a team of certified financial planners.

Account advisory, planning or subscription fee: 5 out of 5 stars

Vanguard’s low fees are notable compared with similar hybrid services such as Betterment Premium, Personal Capital and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium.

The advisory fee at Vanguard starts at 0.30% for account balances less than $5 million, but it drops with higher balances. It’s 0.20% on account balances between $5 million to $10 million, 0.10% for balances between $10 million to $25 million, and 0.05% for balances over $25 million.

Betterment charges 0.40% for its Premium service and Personal Capital charges 0.89% for accounts up to $1 million.

Schwab's hybrid robo charges $30 a month, plus a $300 onboarding fee. Figuring out whether Schwab's Premium service or Vanguard's PAS is a better deal for you will require running the numbers on your account balance. If you invest $50,000, Schwab's $30-a-month fee works out to a 0.72% annual fee — far higher than Vanguard's 0.30%. But once you reach an account balance of $125,000, the Schwab fee translates to an annual fee of 0.29%.

Other account fees: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s common for investment accounts to incur other fees, such as closing costs, wire or other transfer fees. Vanguard PAS does not charge other account fees.

For the investor, the less you pay in fees, the better. This means you retain more money in your account to invest and grow for your future.

Setup or onboarding fee: 5 out of 5 stars

Some online financial planning platforms may charge for setting up an account or onboarding to their investment platform. Vanguard PAS does not charge any of these fees.

Advisor access and credentials: 3 out of 5 stars

Part of the value in hiring a financial advisor is that you have someone to turn to when life gets stormy, whether that means the markets are crashing, or you’re experiencing personal turbulence. An advisor will help adjust your plan, if needed, or be there to remind you that your plan is sound. Likewise, an advisor can help you plan and adjust for major milestones, such as marriage or the birth of a child.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services does that, offering an ongoing advisory relationship service with the level of access increasing based on net worth. Irrespective of your assets, you'll have unlimited access to advisors for free. You can schedule time to speak with an advisor by phone or videoconference, and advisors are also available for quick email questions.

Financial planning services: 5 out of 5 stars

Working with your Vanguard PAS advisor, you’ll discuss your goals, needs and dreams. Your advisor will personalize a financial plan to fit your situation, taking your feelings about risk, investing timeframe and other factors into consideration. After you give the go-ahead to implement your plan, PAS becomes your financial coach — helping to monitor your portfolio and make any necessary adjustments along the way.

Vanguard PAS offers a broad range of financial planning tools. Its proprietary financial simulation engine, Vanguard Capital Markets Model, runs 10,000 scenarios to determine the likelihood of meeting your financial goals. The Emergency Savings Estimator provides guidance on appropriate levels of cash or invested assets to protect against unexpected expenses. And Next Dollar Optimizer helps you prioritize competing objectives and deploy your savings effectively. Other tools include: Health Care Estimator, Medicare Match and Social Security Analyzer.

Investment expense ratios: 5 out of 5 stars

Funds used within your investment portfolio will have embedded fees or investment expense ratios. These fees go back to the fund manager to cover the advisory, administrative and custodial costs associated with managing the fund. Vanguard funds have low asset-weighted average investment expense ratios of 0.06%.

Portfolio construction: 4 out of 5 stars

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services builds portfolios on a client-by-client basis taking into account your goals, circumstances and preferences. Portfolio investment recommendations primarily use Vanguard exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. In many ways, that benefits investors. Vanguard funds are well-diversified, tightly track the underlying index, and carry some of the lowest expense ratios available. In fact, many competitor robo-advisors also use them as the base of their portfolios. However, it allows Vanguard to take a cut twice; once with the management fee and again with fund expense ratios.

PAS also enhanced the actively managed options in its investment lineup in November 2021. Three new active equity mutual funds launched: Vanguard Advice Select Dividend Growth Fund, Vanguard Advice Select Global Value Fund and Vanguard Advice Select International Growth Fund. For qualified investors, PAS is working to add private equity as well. Vanguard intends for its active investment lineup to emphasize its focus on having global scale, a low-cost philosophy, rigorous oversight and adherence to time-tested investment principles.

Brokerage options: 2 out of 5 stars

Some competing online financial planners allow clients more flexibility with the custodian of their assets. For Vanguard PAS, clients must open a Vanguard brokerage account and move assets over. However, clients can hold onto outside investments if there are embedded gains or other reasons to do so.

Accounts advised: 3 out of 5 stars

When it comes to managing your overall investment portfolio, many investors don’t just have one investment account. You may want to consolidate your accounts with one provider, in which case it’s important to consider what account types that provider can support.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services provides portfolio monitoring of brokerage and individual retirement accounts, as well as trusts. But the advisors will also take into account other aspects of a client’s portfolio, such as a 401(k), college savings plans or even accounts held at another firm, when developing a financial plan. It’s up to you to tell your advisor about those assets. While they won’t be advised directly by Vanguard advisors, the advice you get will be comprehensive.

Tax strategy: 4 out of 5 stars

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services offers tax minimization strategies, and rolled out tax-loss harvesting (offsetting capital gains from winning investments by selling securities at a loss) in August 2022.

Additionally, tax-exempt municipal bonds are often employed in taxable accounts.

Customer support options: 4 out of 5 stars

Vanguard PAS revamped its website recently, providing an updated look and enhancing its ease-of-use.

Beyond the website and its many tools (simulators, calculators, retirement-planning guides and educational materials), you can reach out to customer service 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time Monday to Friday.

Is Vanguard Personal Advisor Services right for you?

Access to a human advisor is a differentiator and especially valuable for investors with complex situations. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services combines personalized financial planning, virtual planning tools and an enduring fund lineup.

Despite the requirement to move assets onto its platform, Vanguard provides a compelling offering. And those willing and able to deposit large balances (over $500,000) can receive even more personalized advice.

How do we review financial advisors?

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks companies that provide financial planning services online or connect users to a financial advisor. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgments on which ones will best meet your needs. We adhere to strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

We collect data directly from providers through detailed questionnaires, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. The questionnaire answers, combined with demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across 14 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars).

For more details about the categories considered when rating brokers and our process, read our full methodology.


Disclosure: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services are provided by Vanguard Advisers, Inc., a registered investment advisor, or by Vanguard National Trust Company, a federally chartered, limited purpose trust company.

The services provided to clients who elect to receive ongoing advice will vary based upon the amount of assets in a portfolio. Please review the Form CRS and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Brochure for important details about the service, including its asset based service levels and fee breakpoints.

VAI is a subsidiary of VGI and an affiliate of VMC. Neither VAI nor its affiliates guarantee profits or protection from losses.

on Vanguard's website