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Investing Specialists

Some Surprising Vanguard Statistics

It's time to clear the analyst's notebook of interesting numbers.

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In high school I had an English teacher who ended every quiz and exam with what he called, with dramatic flourish, "a little potpourri." He meant extra credit trivia questions on whatever we happened to be studying at the time, such as who held the sword that Brutus impaled himself on in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" (a minor character named Strato). I thought I'd share some of the statistical miscellany I've accumulated while researching and investing with Vanguard recently. Don't worry. There'll be no test, but feel free to give yourself extra credit for reading.

$67.6 billion
This is the estimated amount of new investor dollars that have flowed into Vanguard funds in the 12-month period ended Aug. 31, 2009, according to Morningstar data. What did Vanguard do to deserve this? Nothing, or at least nothing it hasn't been doing for years. Low costs, sober and diversified strategies, and avoiding the toxic assets at the root of the financial panic helped the family once again benefit from some of its rivals' misfortunes. Big competitors American Funds and Fidelity Investments, for example, have seen outflows of $51 billion and $12 billion, respectively, over the same time period due to disappointing performance at some of their biggest funds last year.

$8,071 and $10,907
The first number is what you would have had left if you put $10,000 in  Vanguard Target Retirement 2010 (VTENX) on its June 7, 2006, inception but got spooked and bailed out on the March 9, 2009, bottom of the bear market. The second number is what you would have earned if you sat tight through Sept. 29, 2009. A 2.7% annualized return doesn't earn bragging rights. An investment in  Vanguard Short-Term Treasury (VFISX) would have done better, gaining 5.7% annualized and turning $10,000 into roughly $12,000 during that time. But the 2010 fund's small advance doesn't quite spell retirement Armageddon, which (as I wrote about in January's newsletter) many retirees who invested in target-date funds feared they faced a few months ago.

Dan Culloton does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.