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5 Best Funds for Your Retirement Portfolio

This set of ETFs will keep you well-rounded and protected

I always preach that investors should hold a wide variety of stocks in a long-term diversified portfolio. Thus, focusing on the best funds — where you can hold said variety of stocks — is never more appropriate than in a retirement account, such as a rollover IRA or a 401k, where you want to lay off as much risk as you can while reaping the maximum benefit from long-term positions.

best-funds-retirementETFs are a great vehicle for building a core set of investments around which to build your entire portfolio. I recently rebalanced my retirement accounts and went with some different choices that I think investors might benefit from.

First, I’ll note that one thing you should focus on is including a couple equal-weighted ETFs. The idea is that this spreads the risk of an index equally across all holdings, rather than concentrate it based on the stocks that happen to be the largest. I did this because I’ve noticed that in many cases, equal-weight funds are the best funds for the particular investing flavor, and they also performed better in the financial crisis than their market cap-weighted brethren.

This probably is because smaller-cap companies tend to grow more rapidly, so funds that weight them more heavily are more poised to benefit. But they also benefit from rebalancing — stocks that run up increase their weight in the fund, so when it comes time to rebalance, these stocks are essentially “sold high” to bring them back down to a truly equal weight.

So, without further ado, here are five of the best funds for your retirement portfolio:

Best Funds: First Trust NASDAQ-100 Equal Weight Index (QQEW)

best-funds-qqewThe First Trust NASDAQ-100 Equal Weight Index (QQEW) essentially is the equally weighted version of the PowerShares QQQ Trust (QQQ), which tracks the Nasdaq-100. It has handily outperformed its counterpart and did better peak-to-trough in the financial crisis as well.

I like the Nasdaq-100 because it is stacked with fast-growing companies, giving it a great chance to outperform most indices.

So, how does equal weighting benefit the QQEW? Well, as a good for-instance, hot-running Tesla Motors (TSLA) is weighted at just 0.71% in the QQQ, but it’s the top holding of QQEW at 1.53%, more than double its weight in the PowerShares ETF. And even after its next rebalancing, TSLA will still make up 1% of the QQEW.

Expenses are 0.6%, or $60 annually for every $10,000 invested.

Best Funds: Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight Technology (RYT)

best-funds-rytI also believe that technology is where you want to be for the long-term, as far as certain sectors are concerned. And while the QQEW does hold some tech names, I prefer some added tech oomph.

For this purpose, the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight Technology (RYT) is one of the best funds you can hold. This is an index fund that goes with equal-weight positions in the S&P 500 Information Technology Index. This is a deliberate attempt to outperform the overall market by taking a position in a sector to enhance a straight-up market holding. (I have those, too.)

Current top holdings are LSI Logic (LSI), Electronic Arts (EA) and F5 Networks (FFIV). Expenses are 0.4%.

Best Funds: iShares Russell 1000 Growth (IWF)

best-funds-iwfAs with any strategy, you want to remain diversified, so I don’t go with all equal-weight ETFs.

I modulate this strategy a bit with the iShares Russell 1000 Growth (IWF). In this case, I’m focusing on growth in the hopes of long-term outperformance. IWF specifically gives you exposure to mid- and large-cap stocks that, as iShares says, “exhibit growth characteristics.”

It also gives me exposure to those big stocks everyone loves like Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL), but without going overboard and having them represent massive positions.

IWF also is a fairly inexpensive fund at just 0.2% in fees.

Best Funds: iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM)

best-funds-eemIn speaking with a friend who used to manage one of the best emerging-market mutual funds, she believes the emerging market selloff is overdone, and that there is fabulous long-term value here. I tend to agree … but I only had a small mutual fund position in emerging markets, so I’ve added the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM).

EEM gives you exposure to a number of emerging markets, though it’s most heavily weighted in China (18%), South Korea (15.9%), Taiwan (12.2%) and Brazil (10.6%). It’s also got more than a quarter of its holdings in financials and another 17% in information technology, so as long as you’re comfortable with those heavy sector leans, you’re fine.

Top holdings include Samsung (SSNLF), Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) and Tencent Holdings (TCEHY).

EEM charges 0.67% in fees.

Best Funds: Vanguard Total Market Index ETF (VTI)/Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight (RSP)

best-etfs-retirement-vanguard-vtiFinally, you’ll want some form of exposure to the “broader markets.”

If you believe the S&P 500 Index is a broad enough proxy for the market — and most people do — I recommend the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight (RSP), which merely takes the equal-weight approach to the index.

However, if you really want to go big, you might consider the Vanguard Total Market Index ETF (VTI). That way, I’ll never feel left out if some stock goes to the moon, since at least I’ll hold a few pennies worth via this ETF! All told, VTI holds more than 3,600 stocks, and has a nice balance among numerous sectors.

VTI isn’t just one of the best funds for diversification — at 0.05%, it’s also one of the cheapest.

As of this writing, Lawrence Meyers was long all of the aforementioned ETFs. He is president of PDL Broker, Inc., which brokers financing, strategic investments and distressed asset purchases between private equity firms and businesses. He also has written two books and blogs about public policy, journalistic integrity, popular culture, and world affairs. Contact him at and follow his tweets @ichabodscranium.

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