The Best Free Advice You'll Get

Published in Investing on 4 August 2011

To grow your wealth, others have the answers that you need.

The Internet is a great way for people with questions to connect with the people who have the answers to those questions. The trouble is, if you're the one with the question to ask, it's not always easy to actually find the people with the answers.

Google, for instance, is marvellous at locating previous instances of a question being asked, and bringing to your computer screen the answers that were given back then.

But if the answers have changed since the question was asked, or if the answers don't apply in your particular circumstances -- well, sadly, you're on your own. And you're even more on your own if the question hasn't actually been asked before. Because there's nothing for Google to find.


Here at the Fool, our discussion boards are popular question-and-answer forums. And not just on investing matters -- or on matters only connected with finance or money. As with a village pub or any other community, there are all sorts of conversations going on at any one time: sport, cooking, fitness and living frugally, for instance.

Income investors, for instance, can be found our high yield, income and gilt/bond discussion boards. Got a question on investment trusts, or other funds? You'll find fellow investors there. And this board is a great place to compare index trackers. Share picks? Several boards excel, but it's hard to beat Paulypilot's Pub.

And a resource that's especially useful is those of our discussion boards that are specifically given over to discussing the offerings of a particular financial service provider.

If you have a question about a Selftrade brokerage account, for instance, you can always ask it on our Brokers/Sharedealing board. Better by far, though, to ask it on our Selftrade board. Here, other Selftrade customers will chip in -- as will Selftrade themselves, sometimes, through a Selftrade customer service representative who monitors the board.

The UK's lowest-cost index tracker

Here on the Fool, it falls to me to write many of the articles touching on Vanguard's low-cost index trackers and funds.

Since arriving in the UK in 2009, the mutually-owned American firm set up by investing legend Jack Bogle has attracted quite a number of new customers. And not a few readers of The Motley Fool, it seems. In those two years, from a starting point of zero, Vanguard's UK arm has built up £2 billion in assets under management.

But I know from reading the comments appended to the articles that I write, that there are an awful lot of misconceptions about Vanguard's products -- something that's inevitable, perhaps, because the firm chiefly markets itself through financial advisers and other intermediaries.

What's more, it doesn't have a retail platform of its own, and major platforms such as Hargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL) don't carry Vanguard products because Vanguard won't pay them a commission for doing so.

And, to answer two of the most commonly-asked questions: no, you don't have to invest a minimum of £100,000 (any sum will do); and yes, there are platforms that carry Vanguard funds -- Alliance Trust Savings and Sippdeal, to name two.

A board for Vanguard

A couple of years ago, I asked Fool HQ to set up a board for investors in Alliance Trust Savings. It doesn't get a huge amount of traffic, to be sure, but those of us who do use it find it very useful. I've learned a lot, to be sure, thanks to fellow posters. And, to be blunt, I'm wealthier as a result.

And now, I've asked for a board to be set up to cater for those of us who are interested in, or invest in, Vanguard trackers and funds. Will anyone from Vanguard show up to answer questions? I've no idea. But I'll certainly draw it to their attention. And in any case, as we've seen elsewhere -- the Equitable Life board, for example -- it's often the customer perspective that's most helpful.

What's more -- as with the Alliance Trust Savings board -- I've added it to my 'favourite boards' list, and I plan on chipping into the conversations that take place.

Bottom line

Many readers of the Fool don't actually take the step of joining in the conversations that take place on our discussion boards. But among those who do, there's a common refrain: through conversing with others, in a moderated and civil environment, they're wealthier than they were before.

That's certainly true in my case. So even if I don't see you on the Vanguard board, I hope I see you on one of the Fool's other splendid discussion boards. Fool on!

More from Malcolm Wheatley:

> Malcolm has a SIPP with Hargreaves Lansdown, a SIPP and ISA with Alliance Trust Savings, and holds index trackers from Vanguard.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual writers and are not representative of The Motley Fool. If you spot any comments that are unsuitable hit the flag to alert our moderators.

growingmyown 04 Aug 2011 , 2:10pm

So HL and Vanguard have fell out?

HL were carrying Vanguard Products until last week or so (I know because I looked) and now, as you said, Vanguard products appear to have disappeared from HLs website.

Wonder what went off there then.

DexETF 04 Aug 2011 , 5:55pm

Sippdeal charge a £12.50 quarterly fee to hold non core funds (which means vanguard!!) this swings me away from their offerings through this company

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