Paying Them to Worry

Dennis Friedman

EVERY SO OFTEN, I see comments on social media about Vanguard Group’s Personal Advisor Services (PAS). One person posted that he’d talked to a growing number of people who quit PAS. There was no particular reason given for why they left. But I don’t doubt it. I’m a PAS client. I’ve often thought about terminating my relationship.

I’ve been with PAS since 2018. When I first joined, the PAS advisors made a few changes to my investment portfolio. They increased my stock asset allocation by about 12%. In my bond portfolio, they increased my exposure to corporate bonds by about 30%. Have I benefited from these changes? Yes. They added enough value to justify the 0.3% advisory fee.

I now ask myself: What value can they provide over the next three years? Why don’t I take over the management of the portfolio they created? All I have to do is rebalance it every so often. My expenses would be just 0.06% of assets, versus a total of 0.36% today. That would be quite a savings.

But life is not always that simple. If I was in the accumulation stage, I’d be managing my own money. But I’m not. I’ll be 71 this year. This is the time when my wife and I are planning to make significant withdrawals from our portfolio.

We’re planning to do a lot of traveling in the next three years. If COVID is under control, we’ll spend most of our time on the road. We also want to buy a new vehicle, plus do some more work on the house.

What do I want from my PAS advisor over the next three years? A withdrawal plan for these large expenditures. I would also like some emotional support, such as a periodic phone conversation reassuring me that these large withdrawals won’t jeopardize our financial security. I don’t want to be worrying about money—not while I’m trying to enjoy my retirement.

Three years from now, I want to relax in my hotel room, log on to my PAS account and still see that big green round circle that reads: “>99% likelihood of success.”

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