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Best Vanguard Funds for Your Retirement Nest Egg


Vanguard is the biggest fund company in the land, with more than $3 trillion in assets. So chances are high that many retirement savers have access to Vanguard funds in their 401(k) plans. But size is no guarantee of good results.

Thirty-four Vanguard funds appear on a list of the 105 most popular mutual funds in employer-sponsored retirement savings plans. No other fund company comes close. Not surprisingly, of the 34 most popular Vanguard funds in retirement plans, 15 are index funds. And nine more are target-date portfolios—those set-it-and-forget-it funds that shift over time to more conservative allocations as the fund nears its target year. The remaining 10 are actively managed.

We didn’t analyze each individual index fund. For starters, Vanguard’s index offerings are well-managed and charge low fees. In other words, they come close to matching their underlying benchmarks. Your toughest decision with them boils down to which markets you want to track or which swath within a particular market you want to match. That’s why we focused on the actively managed funds that appear on the list, as well as Vanguard’s target-date fund series. Each warrants a closer look because investors need to understand what they’re buying. We rate the 10 actively managed funds and the collection of target-date funds Buy, Sell or Hold based on our analysis of the funds' performance and prospects. A Buy rating indicates the best Vanguard funds for your retirement savings from among the group of funds analyzed.

The list of funds, based on 401(k) assets under management, was generated for Kiplinger by BrightScope, a financial-information company that rates retirement-savings plans. The funds are listed in alphabetical order. We used data for the Investor share class for each fund, but your retirement plan may offer a different share class that presumably charges a lower fee. Note that some of the actively managed funds on this list are closed to new investors. But some funds that are nominally closed may be open to participants in a 401(k) plan. Returns are as of October 11.

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