Under the Hood: TD Balanced Index Fund

This post is part of a series called Under the Hood, where l take a detailed look at specific Canadian ETFs or index funds. The fund: TD Balanced Index (TDB965) The index: This index mutual fund tracks a blended benchmark made up of 48% DEX Universe Bond Index (Canadian bonds), 32% S&P/TSX Composite (Canadian equities), 9% S&P 500 (US equities), 9% MSCI EAFE (European/Pacific stocks), 2% DEX 91 Day T-Bill Index. The cost: The fund’s MER is 0.83%; as of July 2010, the HST makes the total cost of the fund 0.94%. The details: The TD Balanced Index fund is an all-in-one portfolio that holds several other TD index funds. It holds half of its assets in fixed income and half in equities. Here’s the breakdown as of August 31:

TD Canadian Bond Index 48.6%
TD Canadian Index 32.2%
TD International Index 8.8%
TD U.S. Index 8.7%
TD Canadian Money Market 2.0%

Both the US and international funds are hedged to Canadian dollars to remove currency risk. The fund has a minimum investment of just $100, and subsequent contributions must also be at least $100. This makes it accessible for investors who have only a small amount to invest and would like to set up a simple index portfolio with just one fund. Here is the fund’s performance since 2000 (the 2010 figure is as of August 31):

Year Return
2000 5.3%
2001 -3.0%
2002 -4.5%
2003 11.9%
2004 8.0%
2005 10.5%
2006 10.1%
2007 2.8%
2008 -13.8%
2009 14.1%
2010 3.1%

The fund’s annualized return for the decade 2000–09 was 3.79%. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s good enough to rank in the second quartile (that is, above average for Canadian balanced funds) according to Morningstar. GlobeFund gives the fund four out of five stars compared with its peers over the last 10 years. SEDAR only has reports going back to 2005, and since that time the fund’s tracking error has averaged –1%, or 17 basis points higher than its MER.

The alternatives: There are only two other balanced index funds available: the CIBC Balanced Index Fund, with an MER of 1.09%, and the ING Streetwise Balanced Fund, with an MER of 1%. Only a small number of actively managed balanced funds can compete on fees. The notable ones are the Mawer Balanced Fund (MER 1.01%), the McLean Budden Balanced Growth Fund (MER 0.95%), the Phillips Hager & North Balanced Fund (MER 0.86%). These funds are available through discount brokerages, but they require minimum investments of $5,000 to $10,000. All five of these competing funds have a strategy of 60% equities, compared with 50% in TD’s fund. All but the PH&N fund also divide the equity portion more or less equally between Canada, the US and overseas. (The PH&N and TD funds have a much higher weighting to Canada.) Keep these differences in mind when comparing the funds’ performance over the past 10 years. Any fund with a lower allocation to US and international stocks will have performed better during the dreadful 2000–09 period:

10-year
Fund annualized
CIBC Balanced Index 2.6%
Mawer Canadian Balanced 6.0%
McLean Budden Balanced 4.8%
PH&N Canadian Balanced 3.1%

ING’s Streetwise Balanced Fund has only a two-year track record: it returned –14.1% in 2008 and 10.7% in 2009, considerably worse than the TD fund. The bottom line: The TD Balanced Index is a low-cost, well diversified fund with a decent, though not outstanding track record. Clearly index investors who want exposure to these four asset classes can do better by assembling the portfolio themselves, either with TD’s own e-Series funds or with ETFs. However, the fund is a good option for beginning indexers who have a very small sum to invest but want to begin making a regular monthly contribution. With just one preauthorized plan to set up and no rebalancing necessary, this would be a convenient way to get started. This fund might also help ETF investors who are looking for a way to use dollar-cost averaging. If you have an all-ETF portfolio, you likely don’t want to add money to your positions more than once or twice a year in order to keep trading costs to a minimum. But of you’re making monthly contributions to your account, you may have several thousand dollars lying around in cash for much of the year. (This idea was discussed earlier this month in Dollar-Cost Averaging With ETFs: Part 1 and Part 2.) By setting up a preauthorized contribution to this fund, you’ll be maintaining exposure to both the stock and bond markets throughout the year. Then you can withdraw money from the fund whenever necessary to rebalance your ETFs. Disclosure: I do not own the TD Balanced Index fund in my own portfolio.

2000 5.3%
2001 -3.0%
2002 -4.5%
2003 11.9%
2004 8.0%
2005 10.5%
2006 10.1%
2007 2.8%
2008 -13.8%
2009 14.1%
2010 3.1%

13 Responses to Under the Hood: TD Balanced Index Fund

  1. Greg September 27, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Any reason why you only include one of the ING funds in the discussion. I think if you are looking for an all-in-one fund, you would also need to include the other two ING funds not mentioned in your post. One of the funds (Balanced Income) holds 70, 10, 10 and 10 and the other (balanced growth) holds 25, 25, 25, 25 – across bonds, cdn equity, us equity and int’l equity respectively. While the asset mix does not match the others, they are certainly viable options in the same general category of a balanced fund. If you are young and just starting out (and willing to take more risk), you may have more interest in the balanced growth than some of the other options.

  2. Canadian Couch Potato September 27, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    @Greg: When I look at alternative funds, I like to limit the comparisons to funds with very similar asset allocations. Otherwise you get into apples-to-oranges comparisons, especially when looking at performance. A fund that is 25% or 70% bonds is going to perform very differently from one that is 50-50. I had to expand the discussion here to 60-40 funds because that’s the standard with most balanced funds, but didn’t want to go further out than that.

  3. gilbert September 27, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    I use the TD Balanced Index Fund as a comparitive Benchmark to my 50 / 50 Portfolio.

    I try to beat the Benchmark by using ETFs : XRB (Real Return Bonds), ZQQ (Nasdaq) and XEM (Emmerging Markets).

    25% XBB
    25% XRB
    10% XIC
    10% XIN
    10% XSP
    10% XEM
    10% ZQQ

  4. Canadian Couch Potato September 27, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    @Gilbert: When comparing your portfolio to the TD Balanced Index, keep in mind that your asset allocation is quite different. Yes, it’s 50-50 overall, but you have 10% in Canadian equity vs. 33%, and 20% in the US vs. 9%, plus you have 35% of your portfolio in real-return bonds and emerging markets, neither of which are part of the TD fund. So the comparison isn’t really fair. Remember, when you select a benchmark for your portfolio it should measure the same asset classes you’re investing in.

  5. Amir Rouhi October 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Does the TD Balanced Index Fund really have an MER of 0.94%? It holds other TD funds which in turn have their own MERs.
    TD Canadian Bond Index – e 0.48%
    TD Canadian Index – e 0.31%
    TD US Index – e 0.33%
    TD International Index – e 0.48%

    So isn’t the investor paying both sets of MERs?

  6. Canadian Couch Potato October 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    @Amir: No, the investor does not pay the MERs twice. They would pay the MERs of the underlying funds, plus a small added fee for the convenience of wrapping them in one fund, rebalancing, etc.

  7. Jas October 24, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    @CCP: I’m considering using TDB965 for dollar-cost averaging during the year than selling once a year to rebalance my ETF portfolio as you describe. The only problem is that this fund is much more conservative than my own portfolio. Does it really matter if it is only for temporary investment?

    Do you think Mawer Canadian Balanced Retirement Savings Fund could also be a good choice for dollar cost averaging during the year?

    Thanks!!

  8. Canadian Couch Potato October 24, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    @Jas: Either choice would be fine, but make sure you meet the minimum initial purchase, and make sure there are no early redemption fees when you sell units in the fund once a year or so. Because you’re just holding a fairly small amount of money for short period, the precise asset allocation is a pretty small factor.

  9. Simon Luchak January 6, 2014 at 4:28 am #

    Hi I realize this is a post from 2010. 3+ years later surely a lot of things have changed. I am an individual wanting to sink his teeth into something like what you are writing about here. Something that allows for (all things considered one could lose dollars here) a return of 3%-10% annually. I was considering taking 10/11/12,000 but do not honestly have any knowledge of investing whatsoever. I recently went into TD Bank and sat down with an individual who was talking my ear off about Mutual Fund opportunities… I am not even entirely sure the text above that I have read is related to Mutual Funds at all but the point was he showed me similar figures to this 50/50 style which was on pace for 2012-2013 quarters expectations of 6.8% etc. I realize this post is rather vague but I would appreciate a link or two to something/anything that would help this prospective investor.

    Best regards,

    Simon Luchak

  10. Canadian Couch Potato January 6, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    @Simon: Thanks for the comment. I’m concerned you’re starting your investing journey by dwelling on products and past performance. I’d suggest you have a look at my book (The MoneySense Guide to the Perfect Portfolio) or a similar book on the fundamentals of saving and investing before shopping around for specific funds. You can be pretty certain that mutual fund salespeople at banks do not have your best interest at heart.

  11. Simon Luchak January 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Fair enough. I have come to Canadian Couch Potato so I am not mad that you have recommended criteria based from your site. I will pick it up from a bookstore at some point this week. I can respect the process before product bit, and I can respect that there isn’t a perfect world where someone tells you what to do and each time it makes gains. I’ll begin this journey with the basics about fund acquisition etc.

    All the best 2014, I’ll get back to you some day soon,

    Simon Luchak

  12. Brian G February 14, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    Often people ask me how to invest. In the past I talked about creating a couch potato portfolio but too many times I have determined that, opening a brokerage account (or online only mutual fund account) and annual rebalancing is too complicated for some people. I looked at the performance of all the big bank balanced funds, and the TD Balanced Index portfolio does surprisingly well when compared to all of them, it’s never the worst and never the best but over the long run it has shown itself to have relatively low risk for a balanced fund and good returns and it just keeps chugging along to do well.

    I think this fund is often overlooked when it shouldn’t be. It’s probably the best fund you can buy by walking into a bank. (Just don’t get suckered into one of their other high MER funds while you are there.)

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  1. Canadian Personal Finance & Investing Carnival - September 30, 2010

    […] Couch Potato presents Under the Hood: TD Balanced Index Fund, saying, “This post is part of a series called Under the Hood, where l take a detailed look […]

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