There are so many different investment options today that it can be hard to know where to start. However, certain fund families consistently offer lower costs, greater variety, and more innovative choices. Although there are other excellent picks, these five leading fund families have what most people want.
Vanguard takes top honors for 2020. The company is best known for its low-cost index funds. Vanguard began the index fund revolution with its S&P 500 index mutual fund in 1975, and they continue to be the leader in low fees. From U.S. government bonds to emerging markets, Vanguard keeps expenses at or near the bottom in most categories. They also offer several managed funds, such as the Wellington Fund (VWELX), that combine low fees with high risk-adjusted returns.
2. BlackRock / iShares
BlackRock is best known for its iShares line of ETFs. BlackRock's fees are generally very low, and they offer far more investment choices than Vanguard. Whether you are looking to invest in specific countries or precious metals, there's usually an iShares ETF available. What is more, iShares ETFs are free to trade at many brokerages, including some that still charge fees for other trades. Finally, the popularity of iShares also means low bid-ask spreads for most ETFs.
Over the years, Fidelity has been home to many of the best mutual fund managers. Some of their funds, such as the Fidelity Contrafund (FCNTX) and the Fidelity Strategic Dividend & Income Fund (FSDIX), frequently outperformed their benchmarks while charging reasonable fees. Fidelity also offers some attractive ETFs, including sector funds that had lower expense ratios than Vanguard in early 2020.
4. T. Rowe Price
T. Rowe Price has a long and storied history, but the firm is not resting on its laurels. Funds like the T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Value Fund (PRSVX) and Blue Chip Growth Fund (TRBCX) have beaten their benchmarks in recent years. Even better, T. Rowe Price charges reasonable fees by managed fund standards.
If you are looking for leverage, ProShares provides a variety of ETFs. The ProShares Ultra S&P 500 ETF (SSO) was one of the first leveraged ETFs on the market. ProShares continues to offer competitive fees and relatively high liquidity for leveraged ETFs. Most investors are better off avoiding bear ETFs entirely. However, the ProShares leveraged bull ETFs are far more likely to beat the market than most fund managers.
The Bottom Line
The best fund family for you depends a lot on your investing style. If you want low fee index investing, Vanguard and BlackRock are hard to beat. If you are looking for well-managed mutual funds with reasonable fees, Fidelity and T. Rowe Price fit the bill. If you trade frequently and are willing to take on more risk, ProShares ETFs will probably work better for you than stock picking.
Also, remember that you don't have to stick with one fund family. You can pick and choose among funds from these top families or go with other options. The best investments are the ones you can live with over the long run.