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As for Vanguard, I must be mistaken because I visited their site a few months ago because I was interested in opening an account with them. I was looking at the total stock market fund and I thought the details were something like a minimum 2k to start and a low yearly account maintenance fee. Am I talking about something different than everyone else?

Vanguard's minimums for index mutual funds is generally $3000; there are low balance fees and annual fees that may apply, although if you will agree to receive everything electronically, they waive some of the fees.

I think that the other posters in the thread were talking about Vanguard ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) as opposed to mutual funds. The ETFs are like shares of stock that mimic a mutual fund. They also change value during the day like stocks and they can be traded like stocks, at any time during the day; mutual funds are re-valued and traded only after the market closes for the evening. Here is a page on the Vanguard website with more information:

ETFs are generally good if you have a lump sum to invest because they often have even lower annual expenses than the mutual fund they mimic, and there aren't any annual fees. Because you have to pay a commission with every buy, they may not be so good if you are investing a smaller amount on a regular basis, because the trading costs can become prohibitive.

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