Morningstar Analyst Rating
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Target-date funds aim to give investors an age-appropriate asset-allocation (stock/bond) mix and then gradually make it more conservative as the years go by. Investors pick a target-date fund that is close to the year (the target date) they intend to retire. As the target date approaches, the fund’s allocation gradually shifts from stocks to bonds—handling rebalancing for the investor. Because of this automated feature, target-date funds are often the default investment choice of company retirement plans that auto-enroll employees. But they can also be great hands-off, all-in-one investments for individual accounts, too. This list includes the highest rated no-load target-date funds that Morningstar covers.
These funds, which will include a year in their names, hold a mix of stocks and bonds. Funds whose target retirement year is far in the future will hold mostly stocks for long-term growth potential, but will gradually shift to hold more bonds as the target year approaches. Funds close to their target year will hold more bonds for stability, as it is assumed the investor will begin withdrawing money soon. These funds adjust their allocations automatically for investors along a so-called “glidepath,” so they can be a good choice for hands-off investors who want a diversified fund they don’t have to babysit.
The Analyst Rating for Funds is based on our fund analysts’ conviction in a fund’s ability to outperform its peer group (funds in the same category) and benchmark on a risk-adjusted basis over the long term. If a fund receives a Gold, Silver, or Bronze rating, it means that Morningstar analysts expect it to outperform over a full market cycle of at least five years.
This list includes only no-load funds. “No load” refers to a mutual fund that does not charge a fee (known as a load) for buying or selling its shares; the investor typically buys no-load funds directly from a fund company or through a fund supermarket. Load funds, on the other hand, are sold by an advisor or broker and charge a percentage fee at purchase or sale of the shares, which is meant to be compensation for the planner’s investment-selection advice. (Note: Not all advisors sell load funds. Many are compensated via a flat fee or a percentage of all assets under management.) Whether a fund charges a load or not isn’t a reflection of its underlying quality. Many load funds are also Medalists, and some load funds are available without a load through 401(k) or other retirement plans. But we’re including only no-load funds here, since this list is designed to help investors who are primarily doing their own fund-picking.
Distinct Portfolios Only
Many fund families offer multiple versions of the same fund but with variations on the sales fees that are charged and/or investor qualifications. Screening for “distinct portfolios only” removes all but one of these options to avoid having several share classes of the same offering cluttering the list. Morningstar normally designates the oldest share class as the distinct portfolio. In some cases, this share class may be for institutions (such as company retirement funds) or otherwise have a high investment minimum. In those cases, investors may want to consider an “investor” share class of the same fund, though the fund expenses may be higher for those share classes.