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What makes these funds great isn't that they're the hottest or most popular options around—although some of them are—but that they can be used to construct a thoroughly diversified, low-cost portfolio that's built to last for years, if not decades.
What follows are three sample portfolios, each built from Money's top fund picks, that reflect three different investing approaches. All are built with a fairly moderate risk profile to appeal to a broad audience—with 50% in equities, 40% in bonds, and 10% in real estate investment trusts. (If you're in your 20s or 30s, you'll probably want a higher percentage of stocks.)
And each portfolio gives you exposure to five basic asset classes: domestic and international equities, domestic and international bonds, and real estate.
Strategy #1: Go Simple and Cheap
If all you want is basic and broad exposure to global stocks and bonds, consider this strategy.
This portfolio gives you exposure to all of the investment classes you need through just five funds. And because it relies on low-cost ETFs, it only charges fees of 0.07% of assets per year—which works out to $7 for every $10,000 you have in the market.
To put that in perspective, the average stock fund levies annual fees of around $100 for every $10,000 you invest.
Strategy #2: Tilt Toward Value
History says you can outperform the market over the long-term by focusing on beaten-down or overlooked investments that are trading at cheap prices. Here's a simple way to seek that type of exposure without going overboard.
This portfolio introduces two additional funds — Vanguard Value ETF, which invests in overlooked blue chip U.S. companies, and Vanguard Small-Cap ETF, which focuses on cheap small-company shares. Because both funds are cheap, this portfolio also only charges $7 in fees for every $10,000 you invest.
Strategy #3: Bet on a Few Active Managers
In general, your best bet is to stick with index funds, which are low-cost funds that own all the stocks in a particular market. That's because only a small minority of actively managed funds, led by stock traditional stock pickers, wind up outperforming over very long periods of time.
If you're willing to invest in actively managed funds, however, this portfolio offers a smart way to go about it. The Money 50 includes some actively managed funds that have beaten the odds. And the funds used in this strategy—Dodge & Cox Stock and Oakmark International—have the added appeal of having a value-minded focus.