what was vanguard like before the internet?

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bhsince87
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by bhsince87 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 3:45 pm

I started investing with Vanguard in August 1987 (hence my name here).

Did everything through the US mail until the late 90's when the web became a thing.

I've never called Vanguard in the entire 32 years!
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SGM
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by SGM » Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:28 pm

I cannot remember when I first bought Vanguard for my personal account. I do remember buying the Vanguard S&P 500 fund for an UTMA account in the late 1980s and watched it grow over the years. I filled out the paperwork and sent a check. I could always look up the net asset value once a week in a library copy of Barron's for as long as I can remember. I made a habit of looking up valuations when the market was up and ignoring valuations when the market was down. I bought Vanguard for a long term investment at low cost. I liked what I was reading about Jack Bogle. I checked prices when the market was up as it made me feel good.:wink:

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fortyofforty
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by fortyofforty » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:05 pm

There was no easy way to time the markets, that's for sure. You'd get a deposit slip in the mail. You tore it off the bottom of the statement, wrote a check, put a stamp on the envelope and mailed it off. What the market did on the day they processed your request was completely out of your hands. In fact, you didn't worry about it because you couldn't do anything about it. I think I simply mailed my check on the first of the month and let the chips fall.
Last edited by fortyofforty on Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by bck63 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:24 pm

nisiprius wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:15 pm
Telephones existed.

No-load funds were, indeed, a little laborious because obviously no advisor would tell you about them or recommend them.

You needed to learn that the Vanguard 500 Index Fund existed. Likely ways to do that were by seeing a print advertisement in a finance magazine like Kiplinger's, or by having it mentioned in an investing book like Andrew Tobias' The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need, or in some financial writer's column.

Having discovered the fund, you would then telephone or write directly to Vanguard. There's another interesting date here. Before the mid-1990s, you could not buy a mutual fund through a brokerage. That was a Charles Schwab innovation, and contributed greatly to the growth and success of no-load funds.

Before that, the only way to buy a mutual fund was to have an account directly at the mutual fund company. In that account, you had your choice of funds from that fund company's family, with (usually) no fees for buying, redeeming, or exchanging funds within the family.

You called them or wrote them. They sent you paperwork. You signed it and mailed it with a check. The account opening process was much like opening a brokerage account now. You then got a paper statement mailed to you quarterly. If you wanted to know how you were doing in between, you telephoned them.
columbia wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:13 pm
My father bought his first Vanguard fund in the 70s through a broker. (This was after attending one of those investing sales pitches at a hotel meeting space.)
This puzzles me because it contradicts what I thought--that you couldn't hold a mutual fund within a brokerage account before the mid-1990s. There may be some interesting technicalities here. I don't think the fund could have been in the brokerage in the sense of being listed as a line item on the brokerage statements along with stocks. Or maybe brokerages, as a service to clients, would do the legwork to open your account in your name at a mutual fund company. Or, maybe I'm just plain wrong.

Wait, there's another question to be answered here. I think I remember that Vanguard funds were not always no-load. So when did they become no-load?
Thank you for this! A fascinating piece of history. I didn't find Vanguard till the mid 90s.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by littlebird » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:46 pm

tfb wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:08 pm
Hulk wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 6:58 pm
For all you index investor out there who are long in the tooth, just curious what you did pre internet.
Landline phone and USPS mail. Vanguard had deposit slips. You mail a check and fill in the fund number on the deposit slip. Vanguard still has those fund numbers but most people don't refer to the fund numbers any more. If you wanted to check you balance or trade from one fund to another, you call a voice response phone system.
When I first started using Vanguard, an actual human answered the phone within a ring or two and executed your exchange, or answered your question,

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by dratkinson » Mon Oct 21, 2019 7:13 am

Started with Vanguard in 2005: phone call to receive startup kit. Mailed check to fund mmkt in taxable.


Made a mistake* on my first online transaction. Called Vanguard and they fixed it. (* Could buy only 5 funds/transaction, so when using percentages (recency bias: copying Aronson Family taxable portfolio), next group of funds purchased based on percentages will be off... because transaction percentage is applied to remaining mmkt balance, not initial mmkt balance as I'd calculated. Lesson learned: it's safer to allocate based on dollars.)

Have called Vanguard CSRs since as a CYA to ensure I'm not overlooking something else obvious. So far, so good. And I'm keeping the CSRs employed.


Learned during this month’s rebalancing---after a reported extended hold time* (opted-out) and after-hours being directed first to wrong CSR---that Vanguard is making changes to it's phone system. Old Voyager Select phone number is no longer correct, assume others have also changed. (* Extended delay seems to have been caused by 2 CSRs needing to work most calls.)

New Voyager Select phone number: 877.662.7447. Request "mutual fund transaction" at phone prompt to be routed to correct CSR (my case).
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by abuss368 » Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:26 am

Landline telephone and a lot of mail. Transaction summaries and statements mailed with deposit slips.

It was a little different.
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Monster99
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by Monster99 » Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:39 am

livesoft wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:19 am
Even in the early 1980's Vanguard and others had automatic investing programs (AIP) where they would take money from one's checking account at monthly (or other) intervals to invest. Many companies had a lower initial minimum purchased if one signed up for their AIP to invest monthly.

And they all sent one post-paid envelopes to use to mail in checks. I think nowadays one might have to put their own postage on mail-in envelopes, but I haven't seen one in a while.
+1
This - got my first bonus, bought VG S&P500 fund and setup monthly payments from my checking account.

Dollar cost averaging does work...😀

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by lukestuckenhymer » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:57 am

Grasshopper wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:50 am
My first MF was Windsor mailing my check in with a prepaid envelope. I think it was a while before Vanguard would let you view your account on line, but you could only do this with with an AOL account. I guess that Vanguard didn't trust the "web" but America On Line had a direct connection to Vanguard.
Thanks to the Internet Archive, we have a little snapshot...
https://web.archive.org/web/19970416204 ... guard.com/

Though the images are not working, here's the Vanguard website in the early days of the internet. It looks like Account Access (view-only capability) was first available in January 1997, and then the ability to exchange between funds was enabled sometime in mid 1997. It may have been a little longer before you could buy new shares via ACH or sell shares online.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by JediMisty » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:17 pm

I started with Vanguard in a 401k in 1989, contributing (and receiving the company match) until I no longer worked for that employer in 1999. I remember filing out forms for my 401k, and when I hit the HCE limit, getting an announcement via snail mail that I was no longer eligible. And I recall getting quarterly statements in the mail, that at time were so bad (think 2008), I couldn't bear to look at them. Those statements went unopened for months.

We could use the phone to change our AA or change the contribution percentage. Push buttons with fund numbers or wait to talk to someone on the phone. Fun times. I would have to use a good chunk of time either way to get it done.

I rolled that legacy 401k into an IRA in 2016 when I began to consolidate my myriad holdings.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by Sheepdog » Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:02 pm

JediMisty wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:17 pm
I started with Vanguard in a 401k in 1989, contributing (and receiving the company match) until I no longer worked for that employer in 1999. I remember filing out forms for my 401k, and when I hit the HCE limit, getting an announcement via snail mail that I was no longer eligible. And I recall getting quarterly statements in the mail, that at time were so bad (think 2008), I couldn't bear to look at them. Those statements went unopened for months.

We could use the phone to change our AA or change the contribution percentage. Push buttons with fund numbers or wait to talk to someone on the phone. Fun times. I would have to use a good chunk of time either way to get it done.

I rolled that legacy 401k into an IRA in 2016 when I began to consolidate my myriad holdings.
Very similar.
I joined Vanguard in 1991 (I have year end investment data, and transfer paperwork from other companies for every year since plus from previous investment companies as well.) All correspondence was by US Postal Service to and from them.) From me to them some were hand written.
Looking at a hand typed copy of my 1992 IRA Asset Transfer letter to Capital Guardian Trust to pass on my request to transfer to Vanguard. They requested a check be mailed to Vanguard.
Every thing financial was by US Mail with me receiving copies.
On my copies of every Vanguard purchase from Vanguard included an invest by mail form for future investments.
At the time all Form 8606s were hand written by me and mailed out.
That was a lot of mail to and from.
It was a big deal to me that I could use Vanguard's Tele-Account telephone service where I could learn the present fund prices and yield, account balances and transaction history.
Computer correspondence to and from Vanguard became available in 1997.
And, in 1998 I bought my first computer, but didn't start computer transactions until late 1999.
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by Dandy » Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:30 am

Started investing in the mid 80's using top fund ratings in Money Magazine at one time had investments in VG, Fidelity, 20th Century and Janus. The advent of the IRA was a big incentive and caused a lot of press about investing - especially in mutual funds.

Used the VG 800# a lot (eventually I ran mutual fund call centers for two different firms :oops:). Got monthly statements -- lots of paper. I was/am a late adopter of tech so the VG call center was a key - at that time provided very good service. It took awhile to move to low cost index funds and out of non VG funds.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by Buckeye Chuck » Wed Oct 30, 2019 5:39 pm

Clever_Username wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:24 pm
Buckeye Chuck wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:20 pm
I would send in a monthly check as often as I could.
There is a natural limit to how often one can send in a monthly check ;-)

While I'm not the topic author, I'd like to thank everyone who told their story in this thread, or who will do so. I am finding it interesting.
True. You got me! Lol

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by nisiprius » Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:53 pm

dodecahedron wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 9:49 pm
...According to a recent article by MIT Professor Andrew Lo and colleagues, transactions costs prior to the 21st century were so large that tax loss harvesting was only available to investors with extremely large accounts...
I never thought about it in connection with tax loss harvesting, but yes on transaction costs.

Before the end of fixed commissions, my typical average run-of-the-mill confirmation slip from Merrill Lynch--I wish I'd saved one--for buying or selling $5,000 worth of stock would have included a commission in the ballpark of over $100.

And there was another detail, which I've always thought was the sleaziest thing going. If you weren't buying or selling a round lot of 100 shares, you paid an extra fee of $0.50/share which was totally concealed. Nothing on the paperwork revealed it. If the true market price was $25/share, your confirmations simply showed that you had bought the stock for 25-1/2. If you sold, your confirmations simply showed that you had sold it for 24-1/2.

The only good thing to be said about it was that it didn't take much analysis to see how important it was to trade as little as possible. It was easy to form a buy-and-hold habit. And easy to understand the motivations for the broker calling you trying to get you interested in "opportunities."

When fixed commissions ended, Schwab dropped its commissions to $29.95 and was considered to be a "discount broker." The real discount brokers, though, were "only" charging $19.95.
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by radiowave » Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:16 pm

Just out of curiosity, I lived in New York City (midtown east Manhattan) from 1978 to 1981. Was there a Vanguard office in NYC I could have gone to with my check?
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dodecahedron
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by dodecahedron » Wed Oct 30, 2019 10:42 pm

radiowave wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:16 pm
Just out of curiosity, I lived in New York City (midtown east Manhattan) from 1978 to 1981. Was there a Vanguard office in NYC I could have gone to with my check?
I doubt it. Jack Bogle told us that they chose to locate their offices in the outer suburbs of Philadelphia for reasons of frugality. Why ever would they spend money on rent for a NYC office, especially back in those days? They were really struggling and small in those early years. They were a really small operation.

(Funny story about the old days related by Maria Bruno two weeks ago at Bogleheads 2019. When she first started at Vanguard decades ago, she was straight out of college (nearby Villanova). Her office was just four doors down from Mr. Bogle´s and she said she would arrive at the office to see him at *her* desk using *her* adding machine to balance *his* checkbook.) She also said she had previously accepted an offer from a big Philadelphia area bank before the Vanguard offer arrived. She´d never heard of Vanguard, but her professor advised her to take the Vanguard job and tell the bank she wasn´t coming. Over four decades later, the bank closed its doors long ago and she is still at Vanguard.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by fru-gal » Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:33 pm

fortyofforty wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:05 pm
There was no easy way to time the markets, that's for sure. You'd get a deposit slip in the mail. You tore it off the bottom of the statement, wrote a check, put a stamp on the envelope and mailed it off. What the market did on the day they processed your request was completely out of your hands. In fact, you didn't worry about it because you couldn't do anything about it. I think I simply mailed my check on the first of the month and let the chips fall.
I owned twentieth century ultra for along time. I think I used to check the balance once a year.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by bhsince87 » Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:53 pm

nisiprius wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:53 pm
dodecahedron wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 9:49 pm
...According to a recent article by MIT Professor Andrew Lo and colleagues, transactions costs prior to the 21st century were so large that tax loss harvesting was only available to investors with extremely large accounts...
I never thought about it in connection with tax loss harvesting, but yes on transaction costs.

Before the end of fixed commissions, my typical average run-of-the-mill confirmation slip from Merrill Lynch--I wish I'd saved one--for buying or selling $5,000 worth of stock would have included a commission in the ballpark of over $100.

And there was another detail, which I've always thought was the sleaziest thing going. If you weren't buying or selling a round lot of 100 shares, you paid an extra fee of $0.50/share which was totally concealed. Nothing on the paperwork revealed it. If the true market price was $25/share, your confirmations simply showed that you had bought the stock for 25-1/2. If you sold, your confirmations simply showed that you had sold it for 24-1/2.

The only good thing to be said about it was that it didn't take much analysis to see how important it was to trade as little as possible. It was easy to form a buy-and-hold habit. And easy to understand the motivations for the broker calling you trying to get you interested in "opportunities."

When fixed commissions ended, Schwab dropped its commissions to $29.95 and was considered to be a "discount broker." The real discount brokers, though, were "only" charging $19.95.
And this is when the concept of "Dividend Champions" and DRIP plans became a popular and common sense approach.

No transition costs! No mutual fund fees or loads! What a concept!!!

But alas, some people still tout it today, when it makes much less sense.
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by CrossOverGuy » Thu Oct 31, 2019 12:15 am

Man, I think I still have copies of some of those forms from Vanguard that I filled out when I used to sign up and mail in for individual mutual funds from back in the late 90s to early 2000s. Is there any reason I should not shred them, since the yearly statements (which I've kept) indicate that I do indeed own these funds?

I used to own Twentieth Century (which changed its name to American Century when the 20th Century came to an end!) Ultra, also Berger (which I think is out of business), CGM Mutual (not a bad one for a first fund -- a balanced fund), also PGHG's two funds (fortunately I sold them at a profit before they started running into problems and financial mischief) and Lehman Brothers Capital, which became Salomon Brothers Capital then finally Legg Mason Capital where it totally switched its investment goals and I sold at a nice profit (actually that turned out be a good fund for many years). But I used to get monthly statements from some, quarterly statements from others, always with prepaid deposit slips. Lots of mail to go through, opening and discarding envelopes and sorting and filing statements, and all the documents they sent about the individual funds! You could check in the newspapers how your mutual funds did the previous day usually if they were prominent enough, but when you sent in your check, you were at the mercy of the post office and how the market did that day that your deposit was received. So I always felt it was better to break it down to smaller investments at any one time, other than say, the initial investment if that had some kind of required minimum investment.

I try to avoid looking at my investments on-line too much, especially if the market is down or on a downswing. I know most of the index funds will be down as well, but if the rates for the bonds are down for the day, I figure my bonds are probably up at least and doing their job. Pre-internet, you could also call to see how your individual funds were doing, though you'd have to make numerous inquiries (to perhaps various financial companies) to see how your portfolio as a whole was doing. Sometimes that inconvenience is an advantage, since some people want to "do something" when the market goes way up or way down. Back then, your check wasn't going to arrive and be processed for a few days anyway, so maybe you just didn't do anything for a while, which sometimes turns out to be the smart thing to do.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by 22twain » Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:16 am

gd wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:24 am
It reminds me of reading Sherlock Holmes stories, noting how often he'd send telegrams across London with boys delivering, and was always discussing train schedules to towns outside the city.
And there were twice-a-day postal mail deliveries. In a big city, you could mail a letter early in the morning and it would get delivered that afternoon.
My investing princiPLEs do not include absolutely preserving princiPAL.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by dekecarver » Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:31 am

Paper forms and phones to buy, sell and check balances, lol. I remember before I bought my first MF, I read to buy the management team not the fund and I ended up buying VG funds, Healthcare, Windsor and PrimeCap with what was then the minimal purchase amount; that was a lot of money to me at that time but proved to be very good investments, just wish I could have done that in tax deferred accounts.

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by fortyofforty » Thu Oct 31, 2019 6:38 am

Let's not forget, too, that our sources of information were newspapers (Wall Street Journal Personal Finance section), magazines (Money, Fortune, Forbes...), and television (Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser). Many of us didn't fully realize that they were selling things to us under the guise of presenting objective information. If you stumbled upon a book like those written by Jack Bogle you (and your wallet) were quite fortunate.
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by RickBoglehead » Thu Oct 31, 2019 6:55 am

dekecarver wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:31 am
Paper forms and phones to buy, sell and check balances, lol. I remember before I bought my first MF, I read to buy the management team not the fund and I ended up buying VG funds, Healthcare, Windsor and PrimeCap with what was then the minimal purchase amount; that was a lot of money to me at that time but proved to be very good investments, just wish I could have done that in tax deferred accounts.
Funny.

I first bought Primecap for that very reason in 1997. First buy was $41.20 per share, looks like it went down to $38.34 on a dividend/capital gain reinvestment. Closed yesterday at $144.29.
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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by Harry Livermore » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:18 am

I started investing in mutual funds around 1990. Prior to that I had gone to my local bank (!) to open an IRA. I remember the guy saying something dismissive like, "well, we can't do much with $1,000, but keep coming back and we can play with it as your account grows"
I was a serious fund junkie at one point. I was reading the WSJ, Money magazine, Worth, and Smart Money cover to cover. Every month there was a new "superstar" manager to entrust your money to. 20th Century Ultra, Kaufmann Fund, T. Rowe Price Japan Fund, Janus Venture, the list went on and on. Landline and paper applications, and I always signed up for automatic investments ($100/ month or something) and divvy reinvestment.
A couple years later (1993?) I was discussing the ups and downs of funds with a friend with whom I'd founded a small investment club (through the NAIC, which led me to DRIPs, very lucky but that's another story) I was waxing poetic and saying how great it would be if someone just replicated the index that I was failing to beat 80% of the time. He clued me in to Vanguard.
Landline, "800" number, and I received paper applications. I moved all my IRA money to VG, and started a SEP with them. I also started putting taxable money into VTSAX. I would get monthly confirmations with the automatic monthly investments, and quarterly statements, all on paper. Occasional lump sum additions were mailed in with a paper slip in a postage-paid envelope. Don't laugh, I still do this with my small company retirement trust account at VG.
If I needed help, the "800" number connected me immediately to a VG rep who was always competent and ready to help. If I cared how I was doing (I didn't, I had ready several books already advising to "don't DO something, just STAND there!") I could call the "800" number. I think I would also look up the previous day's closing NAV in the NY Times business section?
As time went on, and VG lowered fees (and I moved up the ranks to Admiral shares, etc.) I slowly stopped investing with other companies. Eventually all the other funds were sold, either reinvested in VG funds, home upgrades, or eventually, the vacation rental property.
Somewhere along the way, viewing and transacting via the web happened.
Cheers

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Re: what was vanguard like before the internet?

Post by ZWorkLess » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:35 am

In the 90s, I tracked stock/fund prices in the newspaper. For immediate accurate pricing, I called Vanguard, but that really only happened if I wanted to confirm a price before making a large sale (or purchase). When I needed to sell or buy something, I called Vanguard. If there was paperwork to fill out, they emailed (sometimes available) or snail mailed it, and I snail mailed it back. It wasn't much more difficult or time consuming than it is now, just a little slower.

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