The fees you pay at Vanguard are:- For each INDEX FUND you own (whether or not in a retirement account), $10/year (billed quarterly) if the balance is below $10,000. No exceptions, not even for clients with lots of assets.- Inside an IRA, for each FUND you own with a balance below below $5000, $10/year custodial fee (billed annually) but you can pay it from money outside the IRA. The exception is for clients with more than $50,000 at Vanguard.- In a taxable account, for each FUND you own with a balance below $2,500, $10/year low balance fee. The exception is for clients with more than $50,000 at Vanguard.- And each fund has its own expense ratio.They give you a little leeway if you are above the limit most of the time and/or if you drop below the limit due to market fluctuations.But someone starting a new IRA with a $4000 contribution into an index fund will be paying over $20/year (2% of balance) in fees. That's pretty steep. Speaking as someone with lots of assets at Vanguard including a very small Roth IRA, I can attest to the fact that what you have posted is exactly how it works. Essentially, there are 2 fees - one that is paid for not having some minimum balance in the fund, and one that is paid on the account, so you have have your account maintenance fee waived because you have lots of assets, but you can still be paying that $10/year if you don't have enough assets in that particular index fund.