What are Vanguard Admiral Shares?

Last week, my wife and I received a letter from Vanguard informing us that one of our mutual funds qualifies for conversion to “Admiral Shares.” For those that aren’t familiar with Admiral Shares, this is a very good thing. Here’s why:

“Admiral Shares are a class of Vanguard funds created to recognize and encourage the cost savings realized from large, long-standing accounts, and to pass these savings on to the shareholders who generate them. The ultra-low Admiral Shares expense ratios can reduce your investing expenses 18%–50% below the already low expenses of your Investor Shares.”

How much are the savings?

As noted above, the expense ratios on Admiral Shares are 18-50% lower than for Investor Shares. In our case, we’re talking about converting Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Investor Shares (VTSMX) into Admiral Shares (VTSAX). The Investor Shares have an expense ratio of 0.18% (which is already quite low) but the Admiral Shares will take this down to 0.09%.

While this doesn’t sound like a lot, that translates into an improvement in performance of nearly 0.1% each and every year. Over time, small differences in cost really add up.

How do you qualify for Admiral Shares?

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to Admiral Shares. In order to qualify, your account must:

  • $10,000 for most index funds and tax-managed funds.
  • $50,000 for most actively managed funds.
  • $100,000 for certain sector-specific index funds.

Note that these limits are applied on a per fund/account basis. Thus, if you have multiple accounts, it’s possible that some shares will qualify and others won’t even if you hold the same fund in each account.

How do you convert shares?

Beyond offering rock-bottom expense ratios, Vanguard also takes a lot of the hassle out of investing, and Admiral Shares are no exception. According to the letter that we received, the conversion will take place automatically during their quarterly conversion process. In other words, we don’t have to do a thing. They’ll mail us a confirmation when the conversion is complete.

What are the tax implications?

Whenever you modify your holdings in a non-retirement account, it’s important to consider the tax implications. The good news here is that “conversions from Investor Shares to Admiral Shares of the same fund are tax-free.”

Hmmm… We’ll save money, we don’t have to lift a finger, and there’s no tax hit. What’s not to love?

13 Responses to “What are Vanguard Admiral Shares?”

  1. Anonymous

    I just got a letter saying that I am now qualified to be promoted to Admiral Shares; I have the ten years in, but do not have a minimum of 50K. So do I still qualify?

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you for this article. I converted mine yesterday and was a bit hesitant, not knowing anything about the Admiral Shares. After all of my questions to the more than helpful associate I took a leap of faith. Why? Because it’s Vanguard and I’ve alway liked the way they do business.

  3. Phil: Great question. Here is what the Vanguard website says:

    “If the balance in an Admiral Shares fund account drops below the minimum, Vanguard will notify you, and you will have the opportunity to add to the account to meet the minimum. If the balance remains below the minimum, the account will be reclassified to Investor class.”

  4. Anonymous

    Just found your website on Google. Just got a notice from Vanguard that my Healthcare Fund qualifies for Admiral Shares. (barely) What happens if the balance falls below $50,000, as it might when I need to write a check for a major item or an emergency?

  5. Anonymous

    I’m eagerly awaiting the day I will qualify for Admiral shares, it will most likely be awhile and due to the 10 year/50K requirement.

  6. Nickel

    There’s no tax hit from selling/re-buying the shares. They somehow directly convert it so you don’t realize any gains/losses during the conversion.

  7. Anonymous

    WOW! Well done! (I’m guess you fall into the 10-yr category.) I’ve been looking into reducing fund expenses and ditching a few active trading funds I’ve got. I am just addicted to the dividends those funds produce. They’re like crack!

  8. Anonymous

    Ah it would take forever for me to get there…but one day. So does the 10 year thing mean that you’ve opened your account for 10 years or invested in a particular fund for 10 years? I’m in a target retirement fund but eventually I want to get out of it once I meet the minimum for some other funds. Does this mean I have to start all over regarding the 10 year qualification?

  9. Anonymous

    I echo the sentiment above…

    I have been salivating over the Admiral shares for a bit. Can’t wait til I am eligible 🙂

    Do you know if other companies offer the same sort of thing?

Leave a Reply