Slide 1 of 22
If you have any clients retiring today, and they’ve had money working for the past 40 years, large caps were their best bet. Ideally, large-cap growth.

With all due respect to small-cap enthusiasts, high-yield fanatics or gold bugs, large caps have dominated a rollicking good ride from the late 1970s to today. These funds powered through good times and bad: sky-high inflation, bull markets, crashes and irrational exuberance. There were low points along the way, of course. That’s why we added both the best, and worst, annual performances for each fund, in addition to the 40-year annualized average.

Spoiler alert, the worst year for each one was 2008, the year of the financial crisis. The best year for 11 of 20 of these funds was either 1979 or 1980. But before you get too envious of the days of disco, bear in mind that the 30-year mortgage rate reached 16% in 1980, according to numbers from FreddieMac.

To be sure, a lot of funds aren’t eligible for this list. Any fund launched in the past 40 years obviously won’t be here, impressive gains notwithstanding. The biggest case in point: There are no ETFs on this list because they’re too new for our time frame in this analysis. The first ETFs made their appearance on the scene in the early 1990s.

So which funds have posted the best performance for the past 40 years? Scroll through to see the top 20. All data is from Morningstar.


next