Here is my best Vanguard three fund portfolio!
Not long ago, I wrote an article reviewing the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM). And subsequently, one of my readers posed an interesting question to me on Twitter.
He asked, “How about building a dividend-paying ETF portfolio?” And I responded, “It certainly can be done. You could use VYM and its international counterpart, just to keep it simple”.
After pondering the reader’s question, I thought it was an excellent investment topic to cover. To add to the Dividends Diversify investment library. Certainly, it deserved more attention than just a spur of the moment Twitter tweet on my part.
Disclosure: At no cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
Dividend Stocks versus Dividend ETF’s
After all, individual dividend stock selection is not for everyone. To do it right, it takes clearly defined investment objectives, time and research.
If you like those types of activities like me, that’s great. Then you should check out my model portfolio full of individual dividend stocks. Each stock in the model portfolio is linked to its most recent dividend stock analysis here at Dividends Diversify.
But since not everyone is like me (thank goodness), let’s dig into how to build a Vanguard three fund portfolio paying dividends.
And the great thing is, you can get started without a lot of money.
What Is The Vanguard Three-fund portfolio?
Bogleheads popularized the Vanguard three-fund portfolio. That’s an interesting investment term. So, let’s discuss it.
What Are Bogleheads?
Bogleheads are devoted followers of John Bogle, the late founder of Vanguard. They believe in investing at a young age, living below one’s means, regular saving, broad investment diversification, and sticking to one’s investment plan.
What Three Vanguard Funds?
Then What Three Funds Go Into The Portfolio? For Bogleheads, the answer to the question “what mutual funds should be used in a three-fund portfolio,” is “low-cost funds that represent entire markets.”
If you ask different people to choose funds for a three-fund portfolio, you will get different fund choices. But they should have these main characteristics:
- Low cost
- Representation of entire markets
From Vanguard’s core funds, Bogleheads believe the best funds for a three-fund portfolio are:
- Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX)
- Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund (VTIAX)
- Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund (VBTLX)
Vanguard Three Fund Portfolio Paying Dividends
To build a three fund ETF portfolio paying dividends, we will have to deviate slightly from the Bogleheads classic definition of a three fund portfolio.
Not All Stocks Pay Dividends
Why? Because we are limiting our stock selection to only those companies that pay dividends for the portfolio income they provide. So by definition, the funds I will choose will not represent entire markets.
Many stocks in the stock market do not pay dividends. For example, a well-known company like Amazon comes to my mind immediately.
Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)
Furthermore, we will build our portfolio with super low-cost ETFs per my reader’s suggestion. Rather than traditional open-end mutual funds. The differences between the two are not significant for our purposes. And I will leave these differences for a story on another day.
So we will bend the rules just a little to build our Vanguard three fund portfolio paying dividends. I hope the Bogleheads will understand.
Let’s get started by identifying the funds. All information for the funds is sourced from Vanguard’s website.
First Fund – US Stocks (VYM)
The first fund selection should come as no surprise. It is the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM).
VYM tracks the FTSE high dividend yield index. The index is comprised primarily of US-based stocks that are characterized by higher than average dividend yields.
Trailing dividend yield – 3.0%
Expense ratio – .06%
Related: Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF review.
Second Fund – International Stocks (VYMI)
For our second fund, we will go with VYM’s “close cousin”. It is the Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF (VYMI).
VYMI seeks to track the performance of the FTSE All-World (excluding the US) High Dividend Yield Index.
The fund provides a convenient way to get exposure to international stocks that are forecasted to have above average dividend yields.
Trailing dividend yield – 4.2%
Expense ratio – .32%
As is typical with many international stocks versus US stocks, the dividend yield of VYMI is higher than VYM’s. But the fund also carries a slightly higher expense ratio.
Third Fund – US Bonds (BND)
For our third fund, we will stay close to the standard Boglehead fund recommendation. That is the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND). According to Vanguard, the fund:
- Provides broad exposure to US investment grade bonds
- Offers relatively high potential for investment income
- Tends to rise and fall modestly in value
- Is appropriate for a reliable income stream
- And is appropriate for diversifying the risks of an all-stock portfolio
Trailing income yield – 2.7%
Expense ratio – .035%
This is not a dividend stock fund. Bonds and loans pay interest, not dividends. If you want a pure dividend stock ETF portfolio, drop this one and invest only in the first two. But for today’s purposes, we will stick with the Vanguard three fund portfolio concept.
Three Fund Portfolio Asset Allocation
Now that we have our funds selected we need to decide how much money to put in each one. One investment strategy says choose your allocation of money to the three funds is by age.
The rule of thumb is to take your age and invest that percentage in bonds. Then take the rest and invest it in stocks. Split the stock percentage by 75% US and 25% International. This is a target asset allocation for example purposes. Yours may be different.
For example, if you are 40 years old, allocate the amount of money you have to invest between the Vanguard three fund portfolio like this:
Rebalancing Your Three Fund Portfolio
Rebalancing is the act of bringing your investments back to the target asset allocation. Looking at your three fund portfolio annually and doing this should be sufficient.
Let’s say that at the end of the first year, the stock market did really well and the percentage of your holdings in each Vanguard fund looks like this:
Rebalancing says you should sell off a portion of VYM and VYMI and reinvest the proceeds into BND to get back to your target asset allocation. This forces the investor to sell higher-performing investment assets and buy lower-performing ones.
Buying low and selling high is usually a solid investing strategy!
Vanguard Three Fund Portfolio Performance
Now you might ask what kind of investment returns can be expected from this Vanguard three-fund portfolio. Let’s look at the performance of these three funds since their date of inception. Of course, past performance is never a guarantee of future results.
The table below presents the average annual fund return since inception. And the current trailing dividend yield.
|Fund||Fund Inception |||| Annual Return |||| Dividend Yield|
It is interesting to note that a large portion of the annual return will come in the form of dividend and interest payments. You can instruct your broker to reinvest these automatically. Or let the cash build up and use it to rebalance your portfolio at the end of each year.
Advantages of A Vanguard Three Fund Portfolio Paying Dividends
Investment returns: Research indicates dividend-paying stocks outperform the broader stock market.
Simplicity: There are just 3 investments to manage. Set it up and forget it except once a year when it is time to rebalance.
Costs: Vanguard ETFs have some of the lowest expense ratios available. Buy them in a Vanguard brokerage account and make your trades for free. You can also invest in stocks and ETFs for free through M1 Finance.
Little money is needed: You can get started with just a few dollars and add more money over time as you get it.
Save time: You should be able to set up and manage this portfolio in an hour or two per year.
Diversification: Get hundreds of stocks and bonds from as many different companies.
Vanguard Three Fund Portfolio Summary
As I said in the beginning, there is more than one way to invest for portfolio income and get paid dividends. And I’m sure the Bogleheads would agree.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Set up and invest for free through your M1 Finance account. You can do it with a Vanguard three fund portfolio by:
- Selecting your three funds
- Choosing your asset allocation
- Making your investment
- Rebalancing on an annual basis
This is a passive investment approach to do it yourself dividend and income investing. The method has a number of advantages for the investor:
- Solid investment returns
- Low costs
- Time savings
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