You know the refrain. The key to achieving long-term investment success is simply to make an investment plan and stick to it. You’ve seen it in the marketing literature for mutual funds and ETFs your entire life.
Well, one way to do that is with target-date funds—and today, we’re going to spend a little time on one particular lineup: Fidelity’s target-date funds.
Investing isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does require your attention. You have to regularly check your allocation to make sure the risk you’re taking is appropriate for your age and stage of life. You generally don’t want to be too heavy in bond funds early in your career because you’re unlikely to keep pace with inflation. You have the ability to take more risk because time is on your side; you have years or even decades to recover losses. You’re also pulling in a paycheck and have the ability to offset losses by simply saving and investing more.
But you generally don’t want to be too heavy in stock mutual funds later in life, as you won’t have time to recover any potential losses. The calculus changes. You have less time to recoup losses, and once you are retired you can’t replace losses by saving and investing more. So, it’s important to invest more conservatively and avoid gambling with your golden years.
In an ideal investment plan, you follow a glidepath (a plan that shifts your investing mix over time) from more aggressive to more conservative over the course of your investing life.
This isn’t always easy to do on your own; market noise has a way of distracting us. When the market is ripping higher, it’s natural to want to take more risk, regardless of whether you should. And when the market is looking rough, it’s psychologically hard to add risk even when you need to in order to meet your long-term goals.
One of the most efficient ways to build a financial plan and actually stick to it is by buying and holding a target-date fund.
Today, I’m going to talk about one of the most popular target-date lines around: Fidelity Freedom target-date funds. I’ll start by talking about what a target-date fund is and does, discuss why shifting assets is so important, and then delve into specifically what Fidelity’s target-date funds have to offer.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute individualized investment advice. These funds appear for your consideration and not as investment recommendations. Act at your own discretion.
What Is a Target-Date Fund?
Target-date funds are a type of mutual fund that have become popular in retirement planning over the past two decades. They go by different names, interchangeably called several things, including:
- lifecycle funds
- age-based funds
- dynamic-risk funds
But the concept at the core is simple: Target-date funds invest in a more aggressive portfolio of mostly equity funds to start, then gradually shift to a more conservative portfolio of mostly bond funds as they approach a target retirement date.
The target retirement dates are intended to be estimates; they don’t have to be super precise. Generally, most mutual fund families will create target date funds in five-year increments (say, 2025, 2030, 2035, etc.).
For the investor, the math here is simple enough.
Let’s say you’re 30 years old today, in 2023, and that you expect to work until age 70. Your expected retirement date would be in the year 2063. So, investing in a target-date fund with a target retirement date of 2060 or 2065 (or even a combination of the two) would make sense.
What if your expected retirement age changes? No problem! Target-date funds are normal mutual funds and can be bought or sold as your needs change.
Note that the target-date fund’s allocation to stocks will generally never go to zero. Retirees need growth too, and most should maintain at least a little exposure to the stock market. The beauty of the target-date fund is that it changes your asset allocation to match your risk tolerance as you age—and it does it automatically without requiring you to actually do anything.
What Is Asset Allocation?
A lot of investors (and particularly young investors) dream of making a killing picking stocks. And that’s fantastic. Stock picking is stimulating and, if done well, can add some zeros to your net worth!
When push comes to shove, however, asset allocation decisions are far more important than individual stock picking when it comes to meeting your financial goals. Asset allocation sits at the core of target date funds and, really, at the core of all financial planning.
But what exactly is asset allocation?
Every planner has their own take, but the basic idea is simple. You diversify your portfolio across different asset classes (stocks and bonds, for instance) that, ideally, move at least somewhat independently of each other. A typical asset allocation will include:
- stocks (or stock mutual funds)
- fixed-income investments (bonds or bond funds)
- alternative assets such as gold, commodities, or real estate
You arrange the parts so that the overall portfolio has a risk and return profile that makes sense for you. And (importantly!) you rebalance the portfolio when the weights to each asset start to divert from your plan.
Let’s say your ideal asset allocation had you 50% allocated to stocks and 50% allocated to fixed income.
First, let’s say the stock market crashes. Your stock weighting has suddenly dropped to just 35%, and your fixed-income investments have jumped to 65% of your portfolio’s worth! You need to rebalance your portfolio to get back to 50/50. You would do that by selling off some of the fixed-income investments and buying some stock.
Now, let’s say instead that the stock market shoots higher, and you find yourself allocated 60% to stocks and 40% to fixed-income investments. If you wanted to rebalance back to 50/50, you would sell some of your stocks and buy new fixed-income investments.
The idea here is to constantly reduce risk and smooth out your returns by buying low and selling high.
Asset allocation within a target-date fund takes it a step further. Apart from regular rebalancing due to market moves, the target-date fund’s asset allocation decisions involve gradually reducing the risk (buying fewer and less risky stocks, and buying more bonds) as the fund gets closer to its target retirement date.
A Look at Fidelity Target-Date Funds
Fidelity is, of course, one of the largest mutual fund companies in the world. I’ve personally discussed Fidelity’s best index funds for Young and the Invested, and it’s worth noting that Fidelity ETFs can be useful for tactical investors.
Fidelity also manages one of the largest target-date fund families. In fact, there’s a good chance your company 401(k) plan has Fidelity target-date funds as an investment option.
There are literally dozens of Fidelity target-date funds, and we will cover each in a moment. But all share certain characteristics. For example, all Fidelity target-date funds hold underlying funds managed by Fidelity. So, essentially, you can think of a Fidelity target-date fund as a portfolio of regular Fidelity mutual funds specifically allocated for a person your age.
That said, there are some significant differences, particularly when it comes to fees and the expense ratio of each particular fund.
Fidelity Freedom Funds
The Fidelity Freedom Funds are a family of 14 target-date funds with target retirement dates currently spanning from 2005 to 2065, as well as an income-focused fund, the Fidelity Freedom Income Fund (FFFAX):
|Fidelity Freedom Income Fund||FFFAX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2005 Fund||FFFVX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2010 Fund||FFFCX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2015 Fund||FFVFX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2020 Fund||FFFDX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2025 Fund||FFTWX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2030 Fund||FFFEX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2035 Fund||FFTHX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2040 Fund||FFFFX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2045 Fund||FFFGX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2050 Fund||FFFHX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2055 Fund||FDEEX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2060 Fund||FDKVX|
|Fidelity Freedom 2065 Fund||FFSFX|
Fund managers build the allocations for each up exclusively from underlying Fidelity funds. And each of the Fidelity Freedom Funds are expected to reach their most conservative allocation 10 to 19 years after the target date. At that point, the target asset allocation will include approximately 24% equity funds, 46% bond funds, and 30% cash or short-term funds.
While the process is designed to follow a glidepath, the funds are actively managed and involve a degree of human discretion.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Fidelity Freedom 2065 Fund (FFSFX)
The most aggressive fund currently in the lineup is the Fidelity Freedom 2065 Fund (FFSFX), which would be appropriate for an investor in their very early 30s who intends to retire around the age of 70. The Fidelity Freedom 2065 is invested 49% in U.S. equities and 42% in non-U.S. equities, meaning this is a very aggressive fund with 91% exposure to stocks. It also has an expense ratio of 0.75%, which is roughly in line for an active mutual fund.
Fidelity Freedom 2035 Fund (FFTHX)
Now, let’s consider the Fidelity Freedom 2035 Fund (FFTHX). The 2035 fund would be appropriate for someone in their late 50s or early 60s that planned to retire around the age of 70. This fund is more conservative than the 2065 fund, but it still has 40% of its portfolio in U.S. equities and another 36% in non-U.S. equities. It has an expense ratio of 0.71%.
Remember, Fidelity’s concept of what an ideal asset allocation is for a person at a given age might not exactly line up with yours. By the time you’re 60, you might consider having a 76% allocation to stocks to be far too aggressive. So, while target-date funds are designed to be “set it and forget it,” you still need to periodically check in to make sure you’re comfortable with the risk being taken.
Fidelity Freedom Index Funds
Index funds have been a massive blessing for investors since Vanguard’s John Bogle launched the concept in 1975. Due in large part to their lower fees and lower frictional expenses like brokerage commissions, index funds generally outperform their actively managed counterparts over time.
So, if index funds are good for your stock and bond funds, why not for your target-date funds too?
That’s exactly what the Fidelity Freedom Index Funds offer. It’s the exact same target-date concept as the original Fidelity Freedom funds, but this family of index target-date funds builds its portfolios exclusively from Fidelity’s large selection of low-cost index funds:
|Fidelity Freedom Index Income Investor Fund||FIKFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2005 Investor Fund||FJIFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2010 Investor Fund||FKIFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2015 Investor Fund||FLIFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2020 Investor Fund||FPIFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2025 Investor Fund||FQIFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2030 Investor Fund||FXIFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2035 Investor Fund||FIHFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2040 Investor Fund||FBIFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2045 Investor Fund||FIOFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2050 Investor Fund||FIPFX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2055 Investor Fund||FDEWX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2060 Investor Fund||FDKLX|
|Fidelity Freedom Index 2065 Investor Fund||FFIJX|
Let’s look at an example.
Fidelity Freedom Index 2065 Fund (FFIJX)
We’ll compare the Fidelity Freedom 2065 Fund to its indexed sister fund, the Fidelity Freedom Index 2065 Fund (FFIJX). The index-only Fidelity Freedom fund has an expense ratio of just 0.12% compared to 0.71% for the active target-date fund. Those 59 basis points (a basis point is one one-hundredth of a percentage point) might not sound like much of a difference, but over time it compounds. Over the course of 10 years, if performance is equal, the index fund will make about 6 percentage points more overall due to the lower fees—and the difference will get wider with time.
But understand there can be slight differences in asset allocation between the active Fidelity Freedom funds and their Index Freedom Fund peers.
For example, the active 2065 fund is 49% invested in U.S. stocks and 42% in non-U.S. stocks, whereas the index 2065 fund is invested 54% in U.S. stocks and 36% in non-U.S. stocks. The total allocation to stocks is about the same, but the mix of stocks between U.S. and foreign is very different, owing to the preferences of the fund managers.
So, when choosing between the active and indexed Fidelity Freedom funds, you have to weigh the benefits of manager discretion against the lower cost of going full index.
For what it’s worth, the actively managed 2065 fund has a three-year average annual return of 9.8%, versus just 8.3% for its indexed sister. That could revert over time—but it might not.
Fidelity Freedom Blend Funds
Typically, the term “blend fund” actually refers to a type of stock fund that holds both value and growth stocks. But in the case of the Fidelity Freedom Blend Funds, what Fidelity is “blending” is active and passive management.
That is, Fidelity Freedom Blend Funds are target-date funds that hold a combination of actively managed and indexed Fidelity funds to meet their goals:
|Fidelity Freedom Blend Income Fund||FHBZX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2005 Fund||FHAZX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2010 Fund||FHAYX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2015 Fund||FHAWX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2020 Fund||FHAVX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2025 Fund||FHAUX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2030 Fund||FHATX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2035 Fund||FHASX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2040 Fund||FHARX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2045 Fund||FHAQX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2050 Fund||FHAPX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2055 Fund||FHAOX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2060 Fund||FHANX|
|Fidelity Freedom Blend 2065 Fund||FFBSX|
Here’s an example of how this plays out:
Fidelity Freedom Blend 2065 Fund (FFBSX)
Fidelity Freedom Blend 2065 Fund (FFBSX) holds index funds, including the Fidelity Series Large Cap Value Index Fund (FIOOX) and Fidelity Series Long-Term Treasury Bond Index Fund (FTLTX), as well as actively managed funds, such as the Fidelity Series Emerging Markets Opportunities Fund (FEMSX).
As you might expect, expenses for FFBSX fall in between the purely indexed target-date fund and the fully actively managed fund—at 0.49% currently. Performance falls in the middle, too—at 9.3%, it’s a full percentage point better than the indexed FFIJX, but about half a percentage point worse than the active FFSFX.
Fidelity Sustainable Target Date Funds
In 2023, Fidelity launched its Fidelity Sustainable Target Date lineup, which like the Freedom funds, includes a product specific to every five years, as well as an income fund.
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date Income Fund||FSUDX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2010 Fund||FSUYX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2015 Fund||FSVNX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2020 Fund||FSWDX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2025 Fund||FSWOX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2030 Fund||FSXAX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2035 Fund||FSXKX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2040 Fund||FSXVX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2045 Fund||FSYHX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2050 Fund||FSYWX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2055 Fund||FSZHX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2060 Fund||FSZSX|
|Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2065 Fund||FTGPX|
In addition to leading investors down the proper glidepath to retirement, these funds also try to invest in assets with positive environmental, social, and governance (ESG) characteristics. It can do so by investing in:
- Actively managed funds that buy securities of issuers that are believed to have good or improving sustainability or ESG characteristics
- Index funds that track an ESG index
- Funds that don’t necessarily have a principal ESG investment strategy, but that have at least 80% of assets in debt securities that the adviser believes have positive ESG characteristics
Like with Fidelity Freedom Blend Funds, Fidelity Sustainable Target Date Funds sport expense ratios falling between their fully passive and fully active brethren. Fidelity Sustainable Target Date 2065 Fund (FTGPX), for instance, charges 0.49% annually.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do Fidelity Freedom funds compare to Vanguard Target Retirement funds?
As a general rule, you’re going to get a very similar experience in both Fidelity Freedom funds and Vanguard Target Retirement funds. Both offer low-cost access to an asset allocation model that glides from more aggressive to more conservative as you reach your targeted retirement date.
But there can be differences, and those differences matter.
Let’s compare the Fidelity Freedom Index 2040 Fund (FBIFX) to the Vanguard Target Retirement 2040 Fund (VFORX). Both have rock-bottom expense ratios of 0.12% and 0.08%, respectively. That’s close enough that fees alone aren’t going to move the needle much in terms of returns.
But the asset allocations are noticeably different. FBIFX currently has about 52% in U.S. stocks and another 35% in international equities—so, 87% invested in stocks. Meanwhile, VFORX is currently invested 47% in U.S. equities and 32% in international equities, for a total stock exposure of about 79%.
As another example, let’s consider funds that already assume you’re in retirement. The Fidelity Freedom Index 2020 Fund Investor Class (FPIFX) has about 47% of its portfolio in stocks, whereas the Vanguard Target Retirement 2020 Fund (VTWNX) has about 43% of its portfolio in stocks.
The Fidelity target-date funds consistently have more stock exposure than the Vanguard target-date funds of a comparable target date. They’re a little more aggressive, and that’s neither good nor bad. But it’s something you should consider as you choose the right target-date fund for you.
Are indexed target-date funds better than actively managed funds?
This is an eternal debate, and the answer is “it depends.”
Some active managers effectively beat their indexed competition even after the higher fees, trading expenses and tax considerations are taken into account. Most, however, do not. Over the past two decades, there have been only three years—2005, 2007, and 2009—in which a majority of large-cap managers beat the S&P 500. So, as a general rule, it is safe to assume that indexed target-date funds will be your better option over time.
Furthermore, active management can muddle the waters of a target date strategy, particularly if the active manager regularly makes defensive moves, such as going to cash. The percentage of the portfolio you have exposed to stocks is determined by the number of years until the retirement date, and active management can potentially skew your weights outside of the target.