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What are we looking for?

Balanced DIY mutual funds and ETFs for RRSP season

The screen

March 1 marks this year’s RRSP contribution deadline for Canadians. For seasoned investors with an established portfolio, it is a great time to rebalance the portfolio back to target weights with the help of the additional cash injection. However, for new investors, managing one’s own RRSP can prove to be a daunting task given the abundant choice of investment options available. For those who don’t have complicated financial situations or are just starting out, I’ve noted in the past that one of the best set-ups for new investors in Canada is the combination of a discount brokerage account (many of which don’t charge commissions for trading ETFs or mutual funds) and holding a balanced fund (sometimes called an “all-in-one”). Balanced funds offer the convenience of owning a single fund that will regularly rebalance itself, while providing access to a well-diversified portfolio spanning multiple asset classes and regions. Moreover, buying these products through discount brokerage channels saves you fees on advice and distribution, which over time can be significant. To help with ideas in this space, I use Morningstar Direct to screen for balanced Canadian-domiciled ETFs and DIY mutual funds that meet two criteria:

  • A four- or five-star Morningstar Rating for Funds, indicating that the fund has historically outperformed respective category peers after fees, on a risk-adjusted basis. Our data shows that although the star ratings are backward-looking, funds that have received five stars as a group outperform those that have received four stars, three stars, etc., in periods after receiving the rating. In other words, it’s more likely that a fund manager with a track record of outperforming peers will continue to outperform in the future, as compared with those that have historically underperformed peers.
  • Have received a Morningstar Quantitative Rating of gold, silver, or bronze, isolating funds that Morningstar believes will produce excess after-fee returns in the future, based on our analysis of people (quality of the management team), parent (stewardship of the fund company) and process (robustness of investment decision-making).

What we found

22 top ranked ETFs and funds

NameTickerMorningstar CategoryMER (%)Morningstar Rating for FundsMorningstar Quantitative RatingTotal Ret YTD (%)Total Ret 1 Yr (%)Total Ret Annlzd 3 Yr (%)Total Ret Annlzd 5 Yr (%)Total Ret Annlzd 10 Yr (%)Total Ret Annlzd 15 Yr (%)Inception Date
Exemplar Growth and Income Ser ETFEGIF-TCanadian Equity Balanced1.084 StarsBronze-0.89-7.414.002018-07-23
TD Dividend Income - DCanadian Equity Balanced1.204 StarsBronze6.04-3.556.026.992015-10-20
Leith Wheeler Income Advantage Series BCanadian Fixed Income Balanced0.854 StarsBronze4.36-2.523.423.834.572010-12-21
RBC Monthly Income Fund DCanadian Neutral Balanced0.884 StarsGold3.50-3.182.935.115.065.112007-07-03
PH&N Monthly Income Fund DCanadian Neutral Balanced1.094 StarsSilver5.00-0.495.826.565.642009-12-29
RBC Managed Payout Soln-Enhanced Plu DCanadian Neutral Balanced1.135 StarsSilver4.42-1.535.176.566.585.522007-07-03
RBC Balanced Fund DCanadian Neutral Balanced1.334 StarsSilver4.49-3.203.565.315.864.652007-07-03
iShares Core Growth ETF PortfolioXGRO-TGlobal Equity Balanced0.204 StarsBronze5.78-1.714.996.386.994.882007-06-21
Vanguard Growth ETF PortfolioVGRO-TGlobal Equity Balanced0.244 StarsSilver5.78-2.234.766.662018-01-25
PH&N Balanced Fund DGlobal Equity Balanced0.884 StarsGold3.95-3.874.
RBC Vision Balanced Fund DZGlobal Equity Balanced0.934 StarsSilver3.82-6.423.115.992017-05-19
Mawer Global Balanced AGlobal Equity Balanced1.084 StarsBronze*3.23-1.632.756.082013-07-02
Leith Wheeler Balanced Series BGlobal Equity Balanced1.164 StarsBronze4.51-0.904.845.096.525.491987-09-22
RBC Balanced Growth & Income DGlobal Equity Balanced1.244 StarsSilver3.97-2.783.795.272013-08-12
iShares Core Balanced ETF PortfolioXBAL-TGlobal Neutral Balanced0.204 StarsBronze4.66-2.803.235.775.135.302007-06-21
Vanguard Balanced ETF PortfolioVBAL-TGlobal Neutral Balanced0.244 StarsSilver4.74-3.392.845.122018-01-25
Mawer Tax Effective Balanced AGlobal Neutral Balanced0.894 StarsSilver3.38-3.361.774.787.486.861988-01-08
Mawer Balanced AGlobal Neutral Balanced0.904 StarsBronze*3.42-3.471.774.797.526.901988-02-12
RBC U.S. Monthly Income Fund DGlobal Neutral Balanced0.945 StarsGold1.69-2.712.765.998.677.632007-07-03
RBC Global Balanced Fund DGlobal Neutral Balanced1.324 StarsSilver4.26-3.822.905.066.294.722007-07-03
TD Tactical Monthly Income Ser DTactical Balanced1.214 StarsBronze3.30-
Canoe Asset Allocation Portfolio Cl DTactical Balanced1.795 StarsSilver1.842.1612.002019-03-08

Source: Morningstar Direct, Data as of Feb 14, 2023

* Denotes analyst rating

The 22 ETFs and DIY mutual funds that met the above requirements are listed in the accompanying table, alongside their fees, categories, trailing performance, ratings and inception dates. The list is sorted first on the category, which should provide an indication of what is held in the fund (noting importantly that younger investors or those with long investment time horizons can handle more equity in their portfolio), then by management expense ratio, from lowest to highest. For those that are open to a “go-anywhere” portfolio (i.e. a dynamic mix of stocks and bonds, which can change at the discretion of the portfolio manager of the fund), the last two funds on the list would provide this effect, whereas all others on the list will have a stated static mix of stocks and bonds.

This article does not constitute financial advice. Investors are encouraged to conduct their own independent research before purchasing any of the investments listed here.

Ian Tam, CFA, is director of investment research for Morningstar Canada.

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