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Vanguard STAR Fund

The Vanguard STAR Fund is a Large-Cap Value mutual fund that has returned 11.10% since it’s inception in 1985 and was my choice for where my SEP-IRA contributions [3] would go. The primary reason for selecting the STAR Fund was it’s low minimum investment of $1,000, since my employer contribution was capped at $461 last year, and because the low balance fee of $10 was only due if my balance fell under $500. (The standard SEP-IRA custodial fee for accounts under $5,000 still applied)

The expense ratio of the STAR fund is a nice svelte 0.36% which is higher than, say, the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Investor Shares (VTSMX) which has an expense ratio of 0.19% or the Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares (VFINX) which has an expense ratio of 0.18%. The expense ratio isn’t the whole picture though because the low balance limits of both funds is $10,000 (I pay $10/yr if my balance is under $10,000) so that puts them much higher than the STAR fund in terms of total fees.

The STAR fund is a collection eleven other Vanguard funds so it has no active management. Of the other funds, it tries to put 60-70% in stock funds, 20-30% in bond funds, and 10-20% in short term bond funds. The STAR fund itself has no fees but the 0.36% is the weighted average of the fees of the underlying funds.

Verdict? It’s a safe bet for me because I don’t mind the risk of having a majority of the fund in stocks and it’s not too conservative for someone in my age group. The low balance requirement of $500 is in line with my needs so I won’t be dinged for additional fees other than the SEP-IRA custodian fees and the expense ratio of the underlying funds isn’t terribly high.