Skip to main content
number cruncher

What are we looking for?

Balanced ETFs for the do-it-yourself small investor.

The screen

Over the past decade, technology, competition and scale have dramatically lowered the barriers to entry for the small Canadian investor. Today, investors with very small starting amounts who want to be well diversified can achieve a reasonable asset mix by using a combination of a discount brokerage account and an asset-allocation, or balanced, exchange-traded fund. This combination can be a good value to gain exposure to a broad number of securities – these ETFs invest in both stocks and bonds – if investors are willing to do a bit of homework to understand their risk appetite. To help with this, today I’ve used Morningstar Direct to screen for Canadian-domiciled asset-allocation ETFs that:

  • Have received a Morningstar Rating Overall (also known as the Star Rating) greater than three stars. Recall the Morningstar Rating is a backward looking assessment of risk-adjusted fund returns after fees relative to their peers.
  • Have received a Morningstar Quantitative Rating of gold, silver or bronze. This is Morningstar’s forward-looking assessment of a fund’s prospective ability to outperform similar funds after fees, based on five factors: people (the quality of management team); process (the effectiveness and consistency of the investment process); parent (organizational structure and talent retention); performance; and price (fees). Over the long term, gold, silver and bronze funds are expected to outperform neutral and negative funds after fees.

Please note that funds can qualify by meeting either one of the above two criteria.

More about Morningstar

Morningstar Research Inc. is a leading provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Morningstar offers an extensive line of products and services for individual investors, financial advisers, asset managers, retirement plan providers and sponsors, and institutional investors. Morningstar Direct is the firm’s multi-asset analysis platform built for asset management and financial services professionals. Morningstar Canada on Twitter: @MorningstarCDN.

What we found

The ETFs that have met the above requirements are listed in the table along with their associated fees, ratings and, importantly, their allocation to stocks, bonds and cash. The list is sorted by stock exposure with the lowest exposures at the top. Investors are reminded that investment time horizon is often related to risk appetite and proportion of assets allocated to equities. As time passes and investors draw closer to withdrawing investments, it is prudent to de-risk by allocating more assets into less volatile asset classes such as bonds.

This article does not constitute financial advice. It is always recommended to speak to a financial adviser or professional before investing.

Select asset-allocation ETFs

Exchange-traded fundTickerGlobal CategoryMorningstar Rating OverallMorningstar Quantitative RatingInception DateMER (%)YTD Ttl. Rtn.1Y Ttl. Rtn.3Y Ann. Ttl. Rtn.5Y Ann. Ttl. Rtn.10Y Ann. Ttl. Rtn.Equity Alloc. (%)Bond Alloc. (%)Cash Alloc. (%)Other Alloc. (%)
Vanguard Conservative Income ETF Port.VCIP-TCautious Allocationnot ratedSilver1/29/20190.255.627.20n/an/an/a19.978.10.61.4
iShares Core Income Balanced ETFXINC-TCautious Allocationnot ratedBronze8/7/20190.206.51n/an/an/an/a20.
AGFiQ Global Income ETF PortfolioQMY-TCautious Allocation3 StarsNeutral1/30/20170.850.663.234.54n/an/a21.960.42.015.7
Vanguard Conservative ETF PortfolioVCNS-TCautious Allocationnot ratedSilver1/25/20180.254.216.72n/an/an/a41.
iShares Core Conservative Balanced ETFXCNS-TModerate Allocationnot ratedBronze8/7/20190.204.86n/an/an/an/a41.554.80.53.2
iShares Diversified Monthly Income ETFXTR-TCautious Allocation2 StarsBronze12/19/20050.62-4.10-1.732.583.794.6741.550.90.57.1
Horizons Conservative TRI ETF PortfolioHCON-TModerate Allocationnot ratedSilver8/1/20180.155.859.62n/an/an/a45.
AGFiQ Global Balanced ETF PortfolioQMA-TAggressive Allocation4 StarsNeutral1/30/20170.802.106.056.78n/an/a57.739.42.60.3
iShares Core Balanced ETF PortfolioXBAL-TModerate Allocation4 StarsGold6/21/20070.202.906.486.275.666.1959.737.11.02.2
Vanguard Balanced ETF PortfolioVBAL-TModerate Allocationnot ratedSilver1/25/20180.252.666.07n/an/an/a60.938.10.30.7
Horizons Balanced TRI ETF PortfolioHBAL-TAggressive Allocationnot ratedBronze8/1/20180.163.978.92n/an/an/a63.431.74.80.1
Invesco Low Volatility Portfolio ETFPLV-TAggressive Allocation3 StarsNeutral5/6/20150.40-7.37-
iShares Core Growth ETF PortfolioXGRO-TAggressive Allocation4 StarsSilver6/21/20070.201.355.756.256.277.1480.
Vanguard Growth ETF PortfolioVGRO-TAggressive Allocationnot ratedSilver1/25/20180.250.985.31n/an/an/a80.618.80.20.4

Source: Morningstar Direct

Return data as of July 28.

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

Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.