The Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund (VWINX) is a hold-over of the Vanguard acquisition of the Wellington Management Company. This mutual fund seeks to provide long-term growth of income and a high and sustainable level of current income, along with moderate long-term capital appreciation. Established in 1970, the Wellesley Income Fund has become one of the more successful income-oriented balanced funds for conservative investors.

The Wellesley Income Fund Investor Shares requires a minimum investment of $3,000, with an expense ratio of 0.23% that is considered to be quite low for its category. An otherwise identical institutional version of the fund also exists, the Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund Admiral Shares (VWIAX), which requires a minimum of $50,000 but also comes with a lower 0.16% expense ratio.

In this article, we provide an overview of the fund, along with several fund highlights to help you determine if VWINX is an appropriate investment to add to your portfolio.

Key Takeaways

  • The Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund (VWINX) is a conservative balanced income fund with a portfolio of 30-50% stocks and the rest in investment-grade bonds.
  • This $64 billion mutual fund is primarily oriented to medium- and long-term investors who want steady income and who are willing to accept a modest level of risk, but also only modest capital appreciation.
  • The fund has been around since 1970 and is a holdover from when Vanguard purchased Wellington Management in 1975.
  • VWINX has consistently been rated highly by Morningstar and outperforms its benchmark.
  • VWINX comes with a 0.26% expense ratio and a $3,000 minimum investment requirement.
1:56

How To Pick A Good Mutual Fund

Investment Objective

The fund’s overall investment objective is to seek consistent total returns made up of current income from bonds, dividends, and modest capital appreciation.

Although the Wellesley Income Fund is categorized as an income fund, it utilizes a more balanced approach to achieve its income objective. Balanced funds typically offer a 60% allocation to stocks, but VWINX is somewhat unique in that it allocates only one-third to stocks and roughly two-thirds to bonds. Because of its focus on bonds, this fund is best suited to those investors looking for portfolio income and only modest capital gains; for instance, among those close to retirement.

The fund’s smaller weighting to stocks is concentrated on companies that offer above-average dividend yields or increasing dividends. This tends to provide a higher quarterly income distribution (currently offering a 2.61% trailing twelve-month yield) than non-income-focused balanced funds, and it is intended for medium- to long-term holders.

Among its fixed-income investments, VWINX invests approximately 60% to 65% of its assets in investment-grade, fixed-income securities with the goal of generating a reasonable level of current income. These holdings including investment-grade corporate bonds, U.S. Treasuries, and government agency bonds, as well as mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

50 years

The Wellesley Income Fund has been managing its investment portfolio for fifty years.

Portfolio Management

The portfolio management team is led by John C. Keogh and W. Michael Reckmeyer III, both senior managing directors and partners at Wellington Management. Keogh is the fixed-income portfolio manager, and Reckmeyer is the equity portfolio manager.

Keogh joined Wellington Management in 1983 after working for several years in portfolio management at Connecticut National Bank. Reckmeyer, whose main focus is on researching large-cap, value-oriented companies with a strong dividend history, joined Wellington Management in 1994 following eight years as a research analyst for Kemper Financial Services. He earned both his Master of Business Administration (MBA) and B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin. He also has earned the chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation.

Reckmeyer has managed the fund since 2007, Keogh since 2008. Loran Moran and Michael Stack joined them in early 2017. They too hold positions at Wellington Management and also work on its other funds. Effective at the close of business on June 30, 2021, Michael Stack will retire from Wellington Management Company LLP and will no longer serve as a portfolio manager for Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund.

Loren L. Moran and W. Michael Reckmeyer, who currently serve as portfolio managers with Mr. Stack, will remain as portfolio managers of the Fund upon Mr. Stack’s retirement. The Fund’s investment objective, strategies, and policies will remain unchanged.

Investment Portfolio

The $64 billion fund utilizes a balanced approach that emphasizes fixed-income securities with up to two-thirds invested in investment-grade corporate bonds and US. government bonds. The other portion is invested in large-cap, dividend-paying stocks.

As of January 2021, the fund's portfolio is comprised approximately of 38% stocks, 58% bonds, and 4% cash. It holds 66 blue-chip stocks and more than 1,260 individual bond positions with an average duration of 8.18 years and yield-to-maturity of 1.68%.

VWINX 10 Largest Holdings

While the fund is only weighted roughly one-third to stocks, equities dominate the portfolio's top weights. This is because while the fund holds more than twelve hundred bond positions, it only has positions in dozens of individual stocks. Each of these stocks is a dividend-paying blue-chip company, across a range of industry sectors.

VWINX 10 Largest Holdings as of December 30, 2020
Holding Portfolio %
Johnson & Johnson 1.88
United States Treasury Notes 0.25% 1.39
Pfizer, Inc. 1.37
Cisco Systems Inc 1.24
Comcast Corp Class A 1.21
Procter & Gamble Co 1.21
JPMorgan Chase & Co 1.19
Verizon Communications Inc 1.03
Bank of America Corp 0.96
Medtronic PLC 0.91
Source: Morningstar

Investment Performance

The income-generating balanced approach has worked very well for investors. The fund has generated an average annual return of nearly 10% since its inception. More significantly, the fund consistently demonstrates its ability to limit its downside while outperforming its benchmark. During the 2008 stock market collapse, for example, it declined just 10%, which was less than its category and far less than stock-only funds.

As of January 2021, the fund has an average 3-year pre-tax annualized return of 6.95%, 8.37% for the last five years, and 7.72% over 10 years—results that have consistently earned it a four- or five-star rating from investment fund research firm Morningstar Inc.

Pros and Cons of VWINX

As with many Vanguard mutual funds, one of the key advantages of VWINX is its relatively low management fees. That said, there is a minimum investment requirement that could dissuade certain retail investors. The fund is highly-rated and invests in high-quality securities, but is an income-focused balanced fund that is weighted far more to bonds than most of its peers. One thing to note is that VWINX has an annual turnover rate of 53%, meaning that despite its low management fee, the fund changes roughly half of its holdings each year. This means that there is a greater likelihood fund holders will be exposed to taxable events that can detract from top-line returns.

VWINX Pros
  • Low management fees

  • Consistently outperforms its benchmark

  • Highly-rated by Morningstar

VWINX Cons
  • Has a minimum investment requirement

  • Far more conservative than most balanced funds

  • Relatively high annual turnover (53%)

VWINX FAQs

Is VWINX a Good Investment?

VWINX is a high-quality mutual fund that consistently outperforms its benchmark. It is a conservative income-focused fund, making it most suitable for long-term investors seeking regular income and only modest capital gains.

Is Vanguard Wellesley a Good Fund?

Both Vanguard and the Wellesley Management brands have a great track record and are well-known and well-respected in the investment management world. The fund itself currently holds nearly $64 billion in assets and has been around since 1970. Morningstar consistently rates the fund its highest rating of 5-stars.

Is the Vanguard Wellesley Fund Tax Efficient?

Because it is mainly an income fund, and because it mostly holds taxable bonds and dividend-paying stocks, with only around 1/3 of the equity holdings pay qualified dividends, it is unlikely to be incredibly tax efficient. With a 53% turnover rate, it furthermore may create more taxable events each year.

What Is the Best Vanguard Income Fund?

The best-performing fund of any category in any given year can change, and past performance is never a guarantee of future returns. It is therefore difficult to definitively say which of Vanguard's many high-quality income funds is best. Still, Investopedia also recommends the Vanguard High-Yield Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VWAHX), the Vanguard High-Yield Corporate Fund Investor Shares (VWEHX), and the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VWITX), based on their performance and characteristics.

The Bottom Line

The Wellesley Income Fund could be considered as a core holding for conservative investors looking for a solid stream of income with some capital appreciation. The fund offers upside potential with limited volatility. It could also be a good satellite holding for moderate or aggressive investors revamping the equity portion of their portfolio and who want consistent performance. The fund is not without its risks, as its large exposure to bonds could react negatively to increasing interest rates.