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Looking Up a Fund’s Holdings

A reader writes in, asking:

“Is it possible to find out exactly what is in a mutual fund? I’m looking for something more complete than the “largest holdings” lists which I can see on Vanguard’s website.”

Mutual funds are required by the SEC to disclose a complete list of their holdings on a quarterly basis. SEC Form N-Q is used to disclose holdings as of the end of the first and third quarters of the fiscal year, and Form N-CSR is used for the end of the second and fourth quarters.

You can look up either of these forms in the SEC EDGAR database. For example, here’s the Form N-CSR for Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund (as well as several other Vanguard funds) as of December 31, 2012.

Because these disclosures are only done on a quarterly basis — and because the funds have a 60-day window during which they can make the filing — the information provided in these disclosures is not especially timely. As a result, these disclosures will be of little use for certain purposes (e.g., trying to mimic the strategy of an actively managed fund). But they would be useful, for instance, to somebody who is trying to figure out whether a given index fund holds shares a particular company (or group of companies) to which they have ethical or religious objections.

Finding a Fund’s Form N-CSR or Form N-Q

While it only takes a few seconds to look up a fund’s N-CSR or N-Q once you know where you’re going, getting there for the first time isn’t exactly intuitive — at least it wasn’t for me. So let’s quickly walk through it step by step.

  1. Go to the SEC EDGAR homepage.
  2. Click the link for “search for filings.”
  3. Click the link to search by ticker symbol or fund name, and on the next page enter the ticker of the fund in question in the “fast search” box and click “search.”
  4. On the next page, scroll until you find the most recent thing in the “filings” column labeled either “N-CSR” or “N-Q.” Click the “documents” button next to that listing.
  5. On the next page, find “N-CSR” or “N-Q” in the “type” column and click the red link in the corresponding row. (The link itself could be named anything.) Here’s a screenshot of what you’re looking for (click to enlarge):


Naturally, most funds — especially broadly diversified index funds — have a heck of a lot of holdings, so browsing the list in search of a specific stock or bond will take an exceedingly long time. A much faster approach is to use “control + F” to search the page for a specific word or phrase.

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