I filled out the questionnaire for getting a Vanguard Financial Plan last week. I will document how it works so you can decide whether it’s worth doing.
The plan is free once per rolling 12 months if you have $500k or more in qualifying assets with Vanguard. It costs $250 if you have $50k or more.
After you make the request (call 800-547-3332 or send secure message in your account), you would receive a link to a questionnaire in your secure message box. You fill out the questionnaire online. You can save the unfinished work and resume as needed.
The Vanguard concierge rep told me currently they have two different questionnaires, one for the one-time financial plan and another for the new Personal Advisor Services that includes a plan, ongoing management, and continued access to the advisor for a 0.3% fee. They are working toward unifying the two questionnaires into one. This article is still about the current/old questionnaire for the one-time financial plan.
The questionnaire auto-populates your name and date of birth after you agree to let it access your Vanguard accounts. There is a checkbox to add a column for a spouse or partner. It asks for each person:
- salary and other income
- any planned employment income during retirement, and for how long
It also asks your marginal tax rate and your total tax loss carryover. It takes you through a risk tolerance quiz identical to this one on their website.
The questionnaire auto-populates your Vanguard accounts. For each outside account you add, it asks for:
- account type (401k, IRA, Roth, taxable, etc.)
- where it’s currently held
- for each holding, the symbol/name, the value, and the cost basis if it’s in a taxable account
- if it’s a 401k account, other available options in the plan
Note: By law Vanguard can’t give specific advice about a 401k plan if your plan has Vanguard funds as an option, whether you currently invest in them or not. If you want to get specific advice, don’t list Vanguard funds as available options. Replace them with similar funds from a different company, say Fidelity. This limit only applies to employer plans, not to IRA or taxable accounts.
The questionnaire asks for the employee and employer contributions to 401k plans and your contributions to IRAs and savings to taxable accounts.
It asks for your estimated Social Security benefits in today’s dollars, with a link to the quick calculator on Social Security’s website. The quick calculator only gives the early retirement benefit at age 62. You will have to calculate the benefit at age 67 or age 70 yourself. It also asks for any pension and other income during retirement.
Expenses In Retirement
You fill out your estimated annual expenses in retirement. It also asks whether you need to save for future college expenses.
There is a box at the end for free-form comments that don’t fit anywhere in the questionnaire.
What It Didn’t Ask
I think the questionnaire is quite thorough in some areas, not thorough enough in others. I noted what it didn’t ask that I thought would be useful for a financial plan:
- basic expenses versus nice-to-have expenses
- size of home equity and any plan for downsizing
- whether/when any mortgage will be paid off and thus reduce cash needs in retirement
- any irregular expenses such as replacing cars every X years
- insurance coverage (life, disability, long-term care)
After I submitted the questionnaire, the computer assigned my case to a specific advisor. I was able to see a calendar of her availability for reviewing my plan. I picked a day and time for my 45-minute appointment. I’m able to reschedule if necessary.
She will work on my plan and send me the draft before the appointment.
[Follow-up post: Vanguard Financial Plan Review: (2) The Plan]
[Photo credit: Flickr user SalFalko]
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