Callan Target Date Index™

Callan Institute logo
The Callan Target Date Index allows plan sponsors, managers, and participants to track the performance and asset allocation of available target date mutual funds and collective trusts.

Glidepath Allocation

The Callan Target Date Index Asset Allocation chart provides insight into the underlying asset class composition of the Callan Target Date Index over the full asset allocation glidepath. Multiple views offer varying degrees of detail into asset allocation.

The Macro Level View depicts the allocation over the course of the Index’s glidepath (40 years before retirement and 20 years after retirement) across nine major asset classes.

The Micro Level Views show the allocation over the course of the Index’s glidepath broken out into much more granular asset classes with options to examine equity and fixed income asset classes separately.

Use the drop-down menu to the right to see the different views.

Equity Rolldown

The Equity Rolldown Analysis chart displays the Callan Target Date Index’s equity allocation (excluding commodities and REITs) across the full asset allocation glidepath, including 40 years prior to and 20 years after retirement. The range in grey shows each target date vintage’s equity exposure at the 10th and 90th percentiles across the full glidepath.

Simply hover over the various lines in the chart to see the equity exposure for each vintage year.

Target Date Performance Snapshot

The Callan Target Date Index – Average of All Vintages chart gives a snapshot of the performance of the Callan Target Date Index. We show the aggregate performance of the universe of target date funds at a glance by equally weighting every “vintage” within the target date fund glidepath (e.g., 2015, 2020, 2025, etc.). The charts also show the range of performance of the Callan Target Date Index members, similarly weighted.

Click on the various vintage years to see the performance over time.

Index Performance as of 3/31/21

  • Average of All Vintages
  • Retirement Income
  • 2010
  • 2015
  • 2020
  • 2025
  • 2030
  • 2035
  • 2040
  • 2045
  • 2050
  • 2055

First Quarter Performance Overview

The Callan Target Date Index™ rose 3.0% in 1Q21, the fourth consecutive quarter of gains. The median target date fund (TDF) manager outperformed the Index by 11 basis points in the quarter. For the one year ending March 31, the median manager’s return (37.8%) also exceeded that of the Index (36.2%), a reversal from the previous quarter. Notably, trailing one-year returns are very robust given that the relatively large losses experienced during 1Q20 have fallen out of the one-year time horizon. In addition, the margin between the Index’s trailing five-year return (+10.60%) and that of the median manager (+10.58%) narrowed by 9 basis points from the previous quarter’s spread.

As equity markets continued to deliver strong returns following the tumultuous first quarter of 2020, the spread between the best- and worst-performing managers within the Target Date Index narrowed after widening the previous quarter. The 10th percentile manager gained 3.5% while the 90th percentile manager rose 2.7%. In contrast, the one-year spread widened further to 9.0 percentage points from the previous quarter’s 6.2 points.


The S&P 500 followed three previous quarters of gains with a 6.2% rise in 1Q, while global ex-U.S. equity indices delivered lower, albeit positive, returns. On the other hand, the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index fell by 3.4%. The strong performance of equity relative to fixed income led longer-dated vintages, with their relatively large equity allocations, to outperform near-dated vintages. The median 2050 TDF manager gained 5.2% while the median 2020 TDF manager rose 1.7%. In addition, the median 2050 TDF’s trailing one-year return (+52.4%) well exceeds that of the median 2020 TDF (+26.7%).

Expense Ratio Analysis

Expense Ratio

The Expense Ratio Analysis shows the distribution of expense ratios for funds within the Target Date Index. The group includes the lowest fee share class of mutual funds as well as collective trusts. For this universe, the median expense ratio is 42 basis points; the 10th percentile is 66 bps; the 90th percentile is 10 bps (i.e. the higher the fee, the lower the ranking). Much of the difference is driven by active versus passive implementation of target date glidepaths.

This fee data will be updated on an annual basis.


The Callan Target Date Index is an equally weighted composite of 64 target date fund series, including both mutual funds and collective trusts. It is updated quarterly. To accurately benchmark a target date fund it is essential to determine an appropriate target date fund index. Many current target date indices simulate capital markets and derive an artificial glidepath to create a suite of target date indices.


This approach could be labeled biased or subjective – or even worse, arbitrary – because it does not objectively represent the target date opportunity set. After all, if a given target date fund’s performance differs from such an index, what does that really signify that is meaningful from an evaluation perspective? To avoid this problem, Callan constructed a consensus glidepath that is driven by the actual glidepaths offered within the industry.

Questions about the Callan Target Date Index?