The Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 Fund ("VFIFX") is a target-date portfolio that adjusts its underlying asset allocation over time. It incrementally decreases its exposure to equities and increases its exposure to bonds as its target date of 2050 approaches. Geared toward individuals retiring between 2048 and 2052, the fund holds approximately 90% of total fund assets in equities and 10% in bonds. The expense ratio is 0.16%, and the minimum initial investment is $1,000. As of Feb. 29, 2016, the total fund net assets were $7.8 billion. At the end of February, just under 40% of net assets were held in foreign companies. The fund had a one-year loss of 3.1%, but it had a three-year average return of 7.09% and a five-year average return of 7.26%. Although the fund's fiscal year ends in September, this performance analysis breaks down the fund's previous returns by quarter, starting at the beginning of the calendar year in order to reflect the typical fiscal year end of the underlying investments.
January Through March
The Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 Fund had a loss in each of the past three years in January. Most recently, it lost 4.9% in January 2016. Although the smallest loss was 1.5%, these three losses were the largest losses during the first four months of the calendar year over the past five years. The fund had consecutive gains in January of at least 4.3% in 2012 and 2013. It reported a gain in each year from 2011 to 2015. This streak was broken with a -0.8% return in 2016. Four of these five gains were at least 3%. The fund had a gain in four of the past five years in March as well. The sole outlier was a 1% drop in 2015. However, only one of these gains exceeded 2.8%. From 2011 to 2013, there was no loss in any of these three months.
April Through June
The Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 Fund had a gain in four of the past five years in April. However, the highest of these occurred five years ago in 2011, when it increased 3.4%. Since then, no gain has exceeded 2.2%. The only loss in April was a 0.8% loss in 2012. It had a gain in three consecutive years in May. Only one of these was greater than 0.6%, though. In fact, it also had its second-worst month in the past five years in May, when it dropped 6.8% in 2012. The fund alternated between a gain and a loss in June over the past five years. Each of the past four changes has been at least 2%, with the biggest move being a 4.1% increase in net asset value in June 2012.
July Through September
The Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 Fund had a gain in three of the past four years in July. While the gain in 2013 was 4.7%, the other two during this period were less than 1%. It had a loss in three of the past five years in August. Each of these losses was at least 2.3%, with two of them being greater than 5.8%. September had consecutive years with losses of at least 2.8%. However, these were preceded by two consecutive years with gains of at least 2.6%. The fund's single worst month occurred in September 2011, when it dropped 8.1%.
October Through December
The Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 Fund's best month in the past five years was October. In 2011, it had its best month in the last half-decade by posting a gain of 10%. Two of the three gains since then have been at least 3.6%. The fund's sole October loss was 0.9% in 2012. It had a gain of at least 1% each November from 2012 to 2014. This streak was snapped by a loss of 0.2% in 2015. The fund had a loss in four of the past five years in December, and three of these losses were at least 2.3%. On top of this, the only gain in December over the past five years was an increase of 0.1% in 2013.