Which Target-Date Funds Are the Most Aggressive?
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Which Target-Date Funds Are the Most Aggressive?

Target-date funds (TDFs) continue to gain in popularity as more and more investors look to simplify their portfolios. The funds offer instant diversification across numerous assets classes. The benefit is that they get more conservative as they approach their end-date, usually when investors are set to enter retirement.

However, there are some target-date funds that are more aggressive than others. This means that they hold a higher percentage of stocks throughout their life cycle.

The basic idea is that a heftier dose of stock allocation is needed to help investors gain enough returns to last through longer and longer retirements. We’re living longer lives and that means that our retirement periods are getting longer, too. With retirements lasting 30 years or more in some cases, you’ll need to generate strong returns even after you’ve stopped punching the clock.

But which fund families offer the most aggressive target-date funds? Here are five that carry a hefty dose of stocks throughout their life cycles.

1. T. Rowe Price

Designed to carry someone through age 95, TDFs from mutual fund giant T. Rowe Price take the cake as the most aggressive. The firm basically created the concept of a through-fund. The selected vehicle won’t reach its most conservative allocation until 30 years after an investor stops working. At retirement, T. Rowe’s offerings still have about 57% of their allocation in stocks.

T. Rowe’s suite of target-date funds are also heavy in their allocation of foreign and actively managed mutual funds. The bond side is also more aggressive as it is peppered with holdings of preferred stocks, convertibles, high-yield and foreign bonds. At the end of the day, T. Rowe’s TDFs are perfect for someone facing longevity risk.

2. American Funds

Like T. Rowe Price, American Funds’ suite of TDF’s is firmly in the “through” camp, designed to keep earning real returns 30 years after they hit their target date. However, unlike T. Rowe Price, American Funds’ target-date offerings aren’t nearly as aggressive. At retirement age, they hold roughly 50% of their portfolio in bonds. Also, the fund sponsor’s stock allocations at retirement are heavy on equity-income, balanced, and growth and income funds; that means a hefty dose of more conservative dividend stocks. In fact, five years after retirement the suite’s exposure to pure growth stocks disappears.

For investors looking to head off longevity risk without some of the volatility associated with “growth” investing, American Funds’ suite of target-date funds could be a good bet.

3. Putnam Funds

“Aggressive” may not be the correct word to describe Putnam Funds’ RetirementReady series of TDFs. Perhaps, “differently conservative” is a more correct term. That’s because the funds don’t actually use traditional bonds as a means to provide balance. Putnam uses its portfolio of Absolute Return mutual funds to provide that ballast. These funds are chock-full of liquid alternatives and use a multitude of strategies/asset classes to provide consistent bond-like returns. In some cases, these alternatives, especially the fixed-income holdings, can be as risky as stocks. Alternative fixed-income sectors, like bank loans, commercial mortgage bonds, emerging-market bonds, and agency-pass through securities, can be quite volatile.

For investors, Putnam’s funds could be a unique way to provide growth throughout retirement, even though they are technically “to” funds. The focus on alts and nontraditional fixed-income asset classes will still provide needed growth, albeit at a lower rate.

4. Schwab Funds

Aside from offering brokerage account services, Charles Schwab also offers some pretty impressive in-house mutual funds and ETFs. And its target-date funds could be one of the best. Like the rest of the players on this list, Schwab’s TDFs are “through” funds. However, they aren’t as aggressive as T. Rowe’s offerings.

At retirement, Schwab’s glide path will only have 40% of its portfolio in equities. This figure is still pretty high, but not too high. In addition, Schwab’s suite of funds is designed to provide growth for only 20 years after retirement, not 30. After those 20 years, Schwab’s funds will only hold 25% of its assets in equity, while 66% will be in fixed-income funds and 9% will be in cash and cash equivalents.

Schwab’s suite ultimately make sense for investors looking to keep their retirement portfolios humming throughout their golden years without taking too much risk.

5. John Hancock Funds

While all the other aggressive target-date funds on this list use a closed-architecture structure, meaning they only use their own mutual funds and glide path, John Hancock’s Living Through suite uses an open architecture. Hancock uses 20 different outside managers to sub-advise its funds. This allows Hancock to select managers better suited to some assets classes, for example PIMCO for bonds. This could help investors achieve better long-term returns.

This is the main idea when looking at longevity and inflation risks. At retirement, John Hancock’s funds will have 50% of their portfolios in stocks. That number is reduced to 25% around 20 years after retirement.

For investors, Hancock’s target-date funds could be a great fit if they are looking to “play the field” and select the best managers for each assets class but don’t have the time or know-how.

The Bottom Line

Not all target-date funds are created the same. Some are facing problems with longevity and inflation head on. While that may seem aggressive, these “through funds” could be a portfolio’s best friend. The previous picks are just some of the most aggressive fund families out there in target-date land.

Disclosure: None

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Sep 30, 2015