Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Strategy with Vanguard ETFs

Vanguard's entry into the Canadian ETF market with very low management fees has many ETF investors considering making a switch. However, it costs commissions and spreads to switch over to Vanguard ETFs. This leaves investors weighing the costs to decide whether to change or not. However, there is a middle ground.

The most interesting of Vanguard's new ETFs to me is VCE which tracks the MSCI Canada stock index. This is a potential replacement for iShare's XIU which tracks the S&P/TSX 60. The management fees are 0.09% for VCE and 0.15% for XIU. These figures are not the complete MER, but we can assume that the difference in MERs will be close to 0.06%.

So, an investor with $20,000 in XIU could save $12 per year by switching to VCE. This isn't exactly a huge savings. It's hard to justify the trading commissions and spreads to make the change. But, there is a simple compromise: just buy VCE whenever you're adding new money or rebalancing toward stocks and sell XIU when you're withdrawing money or rebalancing away from stocks.

Personally, I'll be waiting a while with VCE to avoid the "bleeding edge", but I expect to be using this compromise strategy to avoid unnecessary costs.


  1. I like that idea Michael, adding new $$ to Vanguard products. I've done that with other products.

    I won't be making a wholesale switch anytime soon, I can't justify selling hundreds of units of XIU for such a small difference in fees.

  2. I have some XIU in a taxable account that has an unrealized capital loss. Seems like I could lock in that loss by selling now and help justify the switch? I suppose that would just be offset by the (hopefully) larger vanguard gain when that was sold down the road. So perhaps not?

  3. @Mark: It sounds like we're on the same page.

    @Kevin: Be careful of the superficial loss tax rules. I don't know if it would apply between XIU and VCE, but it's worth checking out before making any moves for purely tax reasons.