What is it with Vanguard? I've heard the name come up a bunch, but I don't know why this particular company is getting all the good free press...
Vanguard is unusual among mutual-fund companies since it is owned by the funds themselves. In this structure, each fund contributes a set amount of capital towards shared management, marketing, and distribution services.
In other words, the company is owned entirely by the shareholders of the funds in the company. The result is that Vanguard usually has the lowest cost index funds.
I'll rain on the parade because I'm a cynical jerk. :)
Vanguard is at top of mind because they were the first provider of index funds and they spend a TON of money on advertising and public relations to establish themselves as THE provider of inexpensive investments. John Bogle is probably the only mutual fund founder that has held semi-celebrity status for decades... he's like the Steve Jobs of index funds.
That said, they also happen to be a company that is good at what it does.
Vanguard is where John Bogle started creating Index Funds. When investors think of low cost index funds, Vanguard is typically the first to come to mind.
John Bogle graduated from Princeton University in 1951, where his senior thesis was titled: "Mutual Funds can make no claims to superiority over the Market Averages." Bogle wrote that his inspiration for starting an index fund came from three sources, all of which confirmed his 1951 research: Paul Samuelson's 1974 paper, "Challenge to Judgment", Charles Ellis' 1975 study, "The Loser's Game", and Al Ehrbar's 1975 Fortune magazine article on indexing. Bogle founded The Vanguard Group in 1974; it is now the largest mutual fund company in the United States as of 2009.
Also from the same quote, Vanguard is "now the largest mutual fund company in the United States as of 2009."
Being the biggest gives you a lot of name recognition.
I've been a Vanguard client for more than 40 years. My reasons? Wide selection of high quality funds; low costs; excellent service. On the other hand, this is not a place for people who need advice. At Vanguard, you are your own adviser. They provide ample information, but the responsibility is yours.