The Best Target Date Funds for Retirement Savers

Target-date funds are great for many investors because these funds do all the work for you.

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Target-date funds are great for many investors because these funds do all the work for you. Choose a fund with a year that’s closest to the one in which you plan to retire. For example, if you’re 40 today and plan to retire at 65, your best option is a 2040 fund. Stick your money in, then sit back and let the pros go to work: They decide how much to hold in stocks or bonds, and over time they gradually shift the mix of investments to a more conservative blend as you near retirement age, and, in some cases, well into your golden years, too.

But not all target-date funds are created equal. These funds hold other funds, so the quality of the underlying portfolios matters. So, too, does the stock-bond mix and how it changes — the so-called glide path that the fund follows — over time. A series of funds with a more conservative glide path than its peers for instance may not pack enough punch for an aggressive investor.

If you invest in a target-date fund in your 401(k) retirement-savings plan, you’re limited to the fund series that is offered in the plan. But if you want to know how the funds in your plan stack up, or you choose to invest in a target-date fund outside of your plan, read about our favorite choices. Our picks include four target-date series from three fund families.


The average expense ratio listed for each series is weighted by assets (funds with the most assets count more in the expense-ratio calculation). The series are listed in alphabetical order; data as of May 18.

Nellie S. Huang
Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Nellie joined Kiplinger in August 2011 after a seven-year stint in Hong Kong. There, she worked for the Wall Street Journal Asia, where as lifestyle editor, she launched and edited Scene Asia, an online guide to food, wine, entertainment and the arts in Asia. Prior to that, she was an editor at Weekend Journal, the Friday lifestyle section of the Wall Street Journal Asia. Kiplinger isn't Nellie's first foray into personal finance: She has also worked at SmartMoney (rising from fact-checker to senior writer), and she was a senior editor at Money.