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Reasons to Check Out Target-Date ETFs

XShares Advisors launched its TDAX series of target-date ETFs in a partnership with TD Ameritrade (AMTD) in October. Not everyone is a fan, but there are some compelling reasons to give those funds a look.

The series is comprised of the TDAX Independence In-Target ETF (TDX), the TDAX Independence 2010 ETF (TDD), the TDAX Independence 2020 ETF (TDH), the TDAX Independence 2030 ETF (TDN) and the TDAX Independence 2040 ETF (TDV).

"We were looking to build a new, leading edge product, where we saw an economic need," said Anthony Dudzinski, CEO of XShares. "These funds not only serve as a good default choice for retirement plans, but they can also be used in other strategies for long-term investors."

The funds follow a glide-path investment approach that adjusts an allocation mix between equity and fixed-income investments based upon one's target date. Although this series of ETFs might seem ideal for retirement investing, the target audience is much larger.

"The target-date funds emphasize goal-based planning as opposed to being intended just for retirement, " said Michael Case Smith, director of Index and Allocation for Zacks Investment Research, which designed the indexes the funds follow. "They empower individual investors as well as advisors."

Michael Krause, president of AltaVista Independent Research, sees target-date ETFs bringing an immediate benefit to the ordinary investor who is seeking diversity but may not be well-versed in making specific stock selections or allocation decisions.

"I definitely believe there is a place for them," said Tom Lydon, president and portfolio manager for California-based Global Trends Investments. "You have an ongoing transparency of what your holdings are."

A look at the Independence In-Target ETF reveals top holdings such as U.S. Treasury notes and investment grade corporate bonds issued by large cap companies such as International Business Machines (IBM) and Bank of America (BAC).

For investors with many more years left to meet their investment goals, the allocation is more aggressive and heavily favors equities over fixed income. The Independence 2040 ETF, for example, has top holdings that include blue chips such as Sun Microsystems (JAVA), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Pfizer (PFE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Wal-Mart (WMT) and Microsoft (MSFT).

"Our core holdings are typically big, safe companies," Smith says.

The TDAX Independence series of ETFs will likely soon face competition from State Street (STT), which recently filed with the SEC for its own series of actively-managed ETFs.

The primary difference between the Independence ETFs and State Street's proposal is that the Independence ETFs hold individual securities, while the State Street target-date funds will hold a mix of ETFs and serve as a fund of funds.

"With our funds, you will be using ETFs to move along the glide path," said Tom Anderson, head of ETF Research and vice president of State Street Global Advisors. "They are great if you are investing for the long term, but don't want to worry about when to change the allocation based on your age."

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