VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

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OneBreeze
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VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by OneBreeze » Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:11 pm

I own ~$70k VTIAX (International Stock Admiral Shares) and ~$30K VXUS (International Stock ETF). I saw that the cost of the ETF dropped from %0.11 to %0.09 so that it is now lower than the Admiral Shares (%0.11). Obviously this is a tiny decrease in cost, but I'm wondering if it would make sense to convert the $70k to VXUS. I read that converting from a Vanguard mutual fund to the equivalent ETF is a non-taxable event.

Does this matter enough to switch? Would converting result in other hidden costs (e.g. bid-ask spread) that would wipe out any potential savings?

Also I'd be interested to hear about why Vanguard would lower the cost of an ETF below that of the equivalent mutual fund.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by AlohaJoe » Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:24 pm

OneBreeze wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:11 pm
Also I'd be interested to hear about why Vanguard would lower the cost of an ETF below that of the equivalent mutual fund.
As has been repeatedly endlessly, Vanguard doesn't "set costs". The cost is what it is. That's how much it costs Vanguard to run things. Mutual funds cost more to run than ETFs, all things being equal.

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OneBreeze
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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by OneBreeze » Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:44 pm

Vanguard doesn't "set costs". The cost is what it is.
Really? There is no margin in a fund's cost?

On the Investment Commentary Podcast (Inside "Inside ETFs" about 4:45 in) Rich Powers said something about the cost of ETFs going below Admiral Shares because of the growth in ETFs even though they're only 20% of Vanguard's assets. Not sure exactly what he means by that. Perhaps it's the case that "Mutual funds cost more to run than ETFs" but if you looked at the cost of Vanguards ETFs vs Admiral funds before this drop you'd find no evidence there.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by pdavi21 » Wed Mar 20, 2019 11:05 pm

Yes..
"We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let's face it, is mostly the history of stupidity." -Stephen Hawking

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by AlohaJoe » Wed Mar 20, 2019 11:25 pm

OneBreeze wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:44 pm
Vanguard doesn't "set costs". The cost is what it is.
Really? There is no margin in a fund's cost?
Where would the margin go?

The fund is owned by the shareholders of the fund. So any margin would get returned to....you & me.

https://about.vanguard.com/what-sets-va ... p-matters/

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by rkhusky » Thu Mar 21, 2019 6:47 am

You should convert simply because 1 fund is simpler than 2 funds, everything else being equal (if there would not be substantial tax cost, converting from VXUS to VTIAX would be okay too).

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by Admiral » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:06 am

OneBreeze wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:11 pm
I own ~$70k VTIAX (International Stock Admiral Shares) and ~$30K VXUS (International Stock ETF). I saw that the cost of the ETF dropped from %0.11 to %0.09 so that it is now lower than the Admiral Shares (%0.11). Obviously this is a tiny decrease in cost, but I'm wondering if it would make sense to convert the $70k to VXUS. I read that converting from a Vanguard mutual fund to the equivalent ETF is a non-taxable event.

Does this matter enough to switch? Would converting result in other hidden costs (e.g. bid-ask spread) that would wipe out any potential savings?

Also I'd be interested to hear about why Vanguard would lower the cost of an ETF below that of the equivalent mutual fund.
You're paying $77 on the $70k. Converting saves $14 a year. I mean, money's money, and yes it's $140 over 10 years but I'm not sure I would bother.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by lostdog » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:14 am

In my opinion, index mutual funds are way more convenient and less of a headache. I pay the tiny extra bit more for convenience.
I don't invest looking in the rear view mirror and I know absolutely nothing about the future.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by samsoes » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:22 am

Let's back up a minute.

Why are you in both of these to begin with? They both track the same index. Does that reason to invest in two of the same index-tracking product still apply?
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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by stan1 » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:35 am

lostdog wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:14 am
In my opinion, index mutual funds are way more convenient and less of a headache. I pay the tiny extra bit more for convenience.
This way of looking at it makes sense. Maybe more people will come around to it with time.

For OP, since you already have the ETF shares I'd just go ahead and convert the mutual fund shares to ETF shares. Only reason I could possibly think of for keeping both would be if the mutual fund shares are in a taxable account from pre-2012 and you want to keep your uncovered and covered shares (tax basis reporting) separate as a personal preference. That may not be a logical reason but so far I have done it myself with VTSAX and VTI.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by bligh » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:45 am

stan1 wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:35 am
lostdog wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:14 am
In my opinion, index mutual funds are way more convenient and less of a headache. I pay the tiny extra bit more for convenience.
This way of looking at it makes sense. Maybe more people will come around to it with time.
This is the way I look at it. At some point I will convert to the ETF version, but for now I am willing to pay extra for the convenience. It is tempting to switch though, hard to turn down the free money on the existing balances.

Especially since I can buy the mutual funds with new money and then convert to ETF over time.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by nisiprius » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:13 am

OneBreeze wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:11 pm
I own ~$70k VTIAX (International Stock Admiral Shares) and ~$30K VXUS (International Stock ETF). I saw that the cost of the ETF dropped from %0.11 to %0.09 so that it is now lower than the Admiral Shares (%0.11). Obviously this is a tiny decrease in cost, but I'm wondering if it would make sense to convert the $70k to VXUS. I read that converting from a Vanguard mutual fund to the equivalent ETF is a non-taxable event.

Does this matter enough to switch? Would converting result in other hidden costs (e.g. bid-ask spread) that would wipe out any potential savings?

Also I'd be interested to hear about why Vanguard would lower the cost of an ETF below that of the equivalent mutual fund.
1) Do the math on the savings. $70,000 x 0.02% = $14 per year. Only you can answer whether that "matters enough to switch." On the one hand, it's easy to do and costs nothing but your time and your attention. On the other hand, there probably are dozens of nit-picking optimizations you could make in your financial life that would make more than a $14/year. Organizing your grocery coupons. Buying big refill bottles to refill the little pump bottles.

2) I honestly feel that part of "staying the course" is being satisfied with "good enough" and just not worrying about the small stuff. How can you worry about $14/year on the expenses and not worry even more about whether something else might not be better than VTIAX/VXUS. For example, if your algorithm is "always go with the lowest expense ratio, period," then how can you ignore FZILX, the Fidelity ZERO International Index Fund?

3) Hidden costs, bid-asked spread... basically nobody knows. It's a small random fluctuating number that gets added into the equation. It probably does not "wipe out the savings," it probably just adds some micro-risk into the equation. It tends to be spiky--even when there isn't anything as dramatic as a "flash crash." And how big it is depends on your personal savvy and transactional skill in placing the order. The ETF fans will assure you it is negligible, but they are likely to add a little footnote "as long as it isn't thinly traded, shouldn't be a problem with VXUS" or "not if you have a decent broker" or "not if you know what you're doing."

Back In The Day, when Vanguard index funds had like 0.3% expense ratios and typical mutual funds had like 1.3% expense ratios, it was very obvious that cost mattered. Even before Schwab and Fidelity began to undercut Vanguard on expenses I was saying that I didn't think it was important once you got down below, say, 0.20% territory. Remember that what matters is absolute difference, not ratio. The difference between 1.25% and 0.25% is 1%. The difference between 0.25% and 0.05% is only 0.2% and only matters a fifth as much.

As a general rule of thumb, I feel that if a) it is an index fund, and b) if Morningstar calls the fee level "low," it is, in fact, "a low-cost index fund" and, OK, good enough.

(And, yes, I know how to calculate the cumulative effect of an extra 0.02% compounded for thirty years).
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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by AnonJohn » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:55 am

nisiprius wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:13 am

...

2) I honestly feel that part of "staying the course" is being satisfied with "good enough" and just not worrying about the small stuff. How can you worry about $14/year on the expenses and not worry even more about whether something else might not be better than VTIAX/VXUS. For example, if your algorithm is "always go with the lowest expense ratio, period," then how can you ignore FZILX, the Fidelity ZERO International Index Fund?

3) Hidden costs, bid-asked spread... basically nobody knows. It's a small random fluctuating number that gets added into the equation. It probably does not "wipe out the savings," it probably just adds some micro-risk into the equation. It tends to be spiky--even when there isn't anything as dramatic as a "flash crash." And how big it is depends on your personal savvy and transactional skill in placing the order. The ETF fans will assure you it is negligible, but they are likely to add a little footnote "as long as it isn't thinly traded, shouldn't be a problem with VXUS" or "not if you have a decent broker" or ...
...
Nisiprius - thank you for nicely encapsulating both the things I didn't really know how to think about precisely (bid-ask, etc) and the things I did know (at some point don't worry about the small stuff). Reading it well put (and from someone of your stature on Bogleheads) helps me beat back my own neurotic compulsions on this question ...

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by goingup » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:58 am

I wouldn't like holding both share classes for simplicity's sake. If you like using ETFs, make the switch. The money savings at this point ($14 per year) is inconsequential though.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by ruralavalon » Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:06 am

OneBreeze wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:11 pm
I own ~$70k VTIAX (International Stock Admiral Shares) and ~$30K VXUS (International Stock ETF). I saw that the cost of the ETF dropped from %0.11 to %0.09 so that it is now lower than the Admiral Shares (%0.11). Obviously this is a tiny decrease in cost, but I'm wondering if it would make sense to convert the $70k to VXUS. I read that converting from a Vanguard mutual fund to the equivalent ETF is a non-taxable event.

Does this matter enough to switch? Would converting result in other hidden costs (e.g. bid-ask spread) that would wipe out any potential savings?

Also I'd be interested to hear about why Vanguard would lower the cost of an ETF below that of the equivalent mutual fund.
Why did you buy both in the first place?

nisiprius wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:13 am
1) Do the math on the savings. $70,000 x 0.02% = $14 per year. Only you can answer whether that "matters enough to switch."
. . . . .
+ 1.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by OneBreeze » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:26 pm

When I did this math I missed a zero on 17,000 * 0.0002 and came up with $140 instead of $14. So yeah not enough to worry about, but it still peaks my curiosity and I am the kind of person that reviews every expense on my credit card to look for anything I can cut. Going forward, I wonder if I should ever consider a mutual fund when there is a lower cost ETF alternative. I don't think I've ever converted a mutual fund to an ETF so that would be a new experience for me if I wanted the "simplicity" (fewer funds) that some pointed out.

A few posters asked why I have both funds. I first bought the ETF in 2014. Hard to remember but I imagine I didn't want to invest enough to get Admiral Shares and perhaps the ETF was cheaper at the time. More recently I started investing in the the mutual fund because I wanted the automatic investment features fund to help me gradually get some excess cash into the market. I'm out of that phase and happy with my cash/bonds/equity balance so I don't see that as an advantage of the mutual fund any more.

Thanks for the link, AlohaJoe. I learned something new about Vanguard.
lostdog wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:14 am
In my opinion, index mutual funds are way more convenient and less of a headache. I pay the tiny extra bit more for convenience.
lostdog and bligh, Could you say more what the convenience over an ETF is?

I should have stated in the original post: both funds are in a taxable brokerage account.
nisiprius wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:13 am
Hidden costs, bid-asked spread... basically nobody knows.
Agreed that this kind of transaction (converting Vanguard mutual fund to ETF) is a black box for investors. Something about the way Vanguard makes this a non-taxable conversion makes me think there is less at stake then a normal buy / sell transaction, but we'd probably need to find someone in the weeds at Vanguard to find out.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by drk » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:50 pm

There’s always so much FUD in threads concerning ETFs.

If you want to, go ahead and convert. You can continue to buy the mutual fund and convert on some regular schedule. It really doesn’t matter at all.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by samsoes » Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:55 pm

drk wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:50 pm
There’s always so much FUD in threads concerning ETFs.

If you want to, go ahead and convert. You can continue to buy the mutual fund and convert on some regular schedule. It really doesn’t matter at all.
What is FUD?
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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Fri Mar 22, 2019 2:07 pm

samsoes wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:55 pm
drk wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:50 pm
There’s always so much FUD in threads concerning ETFs.

If you want to, go ahead and convert. You can continue to buy the mutual fund and convert on some regular schedule. It really doesn’t matter at all.
What is FUD?
Fear, Uncertainty, Dread.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by pyld76 » Fri Mar 22, 2019 3:48 pm

So, with decisions like this, I look at it thusly:

If I spent 30 minutes having to deal with it every year? Not worth $14 bucks a year, because I value my at far more than $28/hr.

I had to start doing this, because I was an obsessive, almost compulsive, optimizer type for a long time. It's quasi-sacrilege around these parts to suggest that that amount of money isn't worth it, but in the longest of long terms it probably isn't if you are willing to value your time fairly.

I also think you'd likely lose the bid spread war trying to buy or sell and potentially have all that difference and then some evaporate.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by Dale_G » Fri Mar 22, 2019 4:55 pm

Odds are it is a loser to switch from VTIAX to VXUS unless you plan to hold for about 7 years.

When you convert from the mutual fund to the ETF Vanguard does it at the closing NAV, so no problem there. When it comes to selling however, there may be a gain or loss to NAV. As best I can eyeball it, the average discount of VXUS in 2018 was about 14 basis points = to about 7 years of expense ratio savings. The discount is beneficial to buyers and detrimental to sellers even though it is a penny or so per share.

Not a big deal if the object is to simplify, but maybe not much savings either.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by petulant » Fri Mar 22, 2019 5:02 pm

AlohaJoe wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:24 pm
OneBreeze wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:11 pm
Also I'd be interested to hear about why Vanguard would lower the cost of an ETF below that of the equivalent mutual fund.
As has been repeatedly endlessly, Vanguard doesn't "set costs". The cost is what it is. That's how much it costs Vanguard to run things. Mutual funds cost more to run than ETFs, all things being equal.
That may not be completely accurate. Many of these funds rely on common costs that must be allocated, and there may be a variety of "reasonable" allocation methods that nevertheless benefit ETF owners or mutual fund owners. It may be that they shifted an allocation recently as part of the broad admiral etc. overhaul (although unlikely).

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by nalor511 » Fri Mar 22, 2019 5:40 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 2:07 pm
samsoes wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:55 pm
drk wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:50 pm
There’s always so much FUD in threads concerning ETFs.

If you want to, go ahead and convert. You can continue to buy the mutual fund and convert on some regular schedule. It really doesn’t matter at all.
What is FUD?
Fear, Uncertainty, Dread.
I think it's actually Fear Uncertainty Doubt, the implication being that the FUD is unwarranted. In this particular case, ETFs are now less costly (minimally) than Mutual Funds, and more complicated (minimally) than Mutual Funds. It's quantifiable, so no need for any FUD. Personally I have no desire for additional complications, for those minimal cost savings, but if others do, good for them being optimizers.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by Thesaints » Fri Mar 22, 2019 5:43 pm

AlohaJoe wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:24 pm
As has been repeatedly endlessly, Vanguard doesn't "set costs". The cost is what it is. That's how much it costs Vanguard to run things. Mutual funds cost more to run than ETFs, all things being equal.
I'm pretty sure Vanguard does set the compensation level of its employees, though...

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by drk » Fri Mar 22, 2019 6:42 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 2:07 pm
samsoes wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:55 pm
drk wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:50 pm
There’s always so much FUD in threads concerning ETFs.

If you want to, go ahead and convert. You can continue to buy the mutual fund and convert on some regular schedule. It really doesn’t matter at all.
What is FUD?
Fear, Uncertainty, Dread.
Doubt rather than Dread, in my experience, but the idea stands. :sharebeer

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Fri Mar 22, 2019 6:43 pm

[quote=nalor511 post_id=4451111 time=1553294426 user_id=100917]
[quote=TomatoTomahto post_id=4450654 time=1553281643 user_id=25926]
[quote=samsoes post_id=4450635 time=1553280926 user_id=43319]
[quote=drk post_id=4449323 time=1553223010 user_id=123377]
There’s always so much [color=#FF0000]FUD[/color] in threads concerning ETFs.
If you want to, go ahead and convert. You can continue to buy the mutual fund and convert on some regular schedule. It really doesn’t matter at all.
[/quote]
What is FUD?
[/quote]
Fear, Uncertainty, Dread.
[/quote]
I think it's actually Fear Uncertainty Doubt, the implication being that the FUD is unwarranted. In this particular case, ETFs are now less costly (minimally) than Mutual Funds, and more complicated (minimally) than Mutual Funds. It's quantifiable, so no need for any FUD. Personally I have no desire for additional complications, for those minimal cost savings, but if others do, good for them being optimizers.
[/quote]
Thanks for the correction. :beer
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by Pigeye Brewster » Fri Mar 22, 2019 9:11 pm

samsoes wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:22 am
Let's back up a minute.

Why are you in both of these to begin with? They both track the same index. Does that reason to invest in two of the same index-tracking product still apply?
Let's back up another minute.

Not only do they track the same index, they're simply different share classes of the same fund.

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by ruralavalon » Sat Mar 23, 2019 8:57 am

drk wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 6:42 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 2:07 pm
samsoes wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:55 pm
drk wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:50 pm
There’s always so much FUD in threads concerning ETFs.

If you want to, go ahead and convert. You can continue to buy the mutual fund and convert on some regular schedule. It really doesn’t matter at all.
What is FUD?
Fear, Uncertainty, Dread.
Doubt rather than Dread, in my experience, but the idea stands. :sharebeer
No, it is skepticism about the basic idea of Exchange Traded Funds. Someone said they are fine as long as you don't actually trade them. link, and link.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started

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Re: VXUS now lower cost than VTIAX. Should I convert?

Post by drk » Sat Mar 23, 2019 9:54 am

^ That *is* FUD.

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