These funds have the biggest net flows of the decade. How about their gains?
Low-cost funds have continued to attract the most investor cash over the past decade, but has their performance followed?
Despite attracting more than $1 trillion in combined assets, the 20 mutual funds and ETFs with the biggest net flows of the decade — and at least $500 million in AUM — have posted sub-par gains over the same period: 5.76%, Morningstar Direct data show. Year-to-date, these funds have notched near double-digit losses of 9.67% and reported outflows of more than $20 billion in combined assets.
When compared to broader markets, the lineup of both bond and stock funds have come in well below the S&P’s 11.04% return, as measured by the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY). It’s also below the Dow’s 10.56% gain over the same period, as measured by the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA), data show. On the fixed income side, the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index recorded a 10-year gain of 3.89%, as measured by the iShares Core US Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG), data show.
As expected, funds with the biggest inflows are also some of the cheapest. With an average net expense ratio of 17 basis points, these were significantly less costly than the 48 basis points investors paid on average for fund investing last year, according to Morningstar’s most recent annual fee survey, which reviewed the asset-weighted average expense ratios of all U.S. open-end mutual funds and ETFs.
“The biggest takeaway here is Vanguard is dominating in asset flows … and it has a lot to do with fees,” says Marc Pfeffer, CIO of CLS Investments.
The $736.7 billion Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX) — the industry’s biggest — carries a 0.40% expense ratio and generated a 10-year gain of 10.75%, data show. VTSAX also had a YTD loss of 14.46%. With a 0.50% expense ratio, the largest on the bond side, the $259.3 billion Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBTLX), recorded a 10-year gain of 3.93% and YTD gain of 4.09%, data show.
“I do believe that clients sometimes get too caught up in expense ratios,” Pfeffer says. “Vanguard is doing a great job marketing, but there are plenty of other funds that are not in this list that are completely outperforming the funds that are on this list. Fees matter but it should be a component, and not the component for making a decision.”
Scroll through to see the 20 mutual funds and ETFs with the largest 10-year net share class flows through April 1. Funds with less than $500 million in AUM and investment minimums over $100,000 were excluded, as were leveraged and institutional funds. Assets, expense ratios and five-year net share class flows are listed for each, as well as year-to-date, one-, three-, five- and 10-year returns. The data show each fund's primary share class. All data is from Morningstar Direct.