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Investing

4 simple ways beginner investors can build the classic 60/40 portfolio

Here's how new investors can get started with a 60/40 portfolio after one of its roughest years yet.

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When it comes to investing, there are some tried-and-true formulas for "success" that have held fast over time: buy low and sell high, hold investments for the long term and diversify, diversify, diversify. Add to that mix the classic 60/40 portfolio model — a standard investing benchmark — that helps investors achieve that last point.

Market experts see the 60/40 portfolio poised to make a comeback this year (a welcome relief from its dismal performance in 2022), and many are encouraging investors to jump back in. But you don't need to be a vet investor to take advantage of this classic investing strategy. In fact, the 60/40 portfolio can serve as a good starting point for beginners, too.

Below, CNBC Select spoke to two financial professionals about how novices can put a 60/40 portfolio strategy in action. 

What's the 60/40 portfolio?

With a 60/40 portfolio, investors put 60% of their money in stocks and 40% in bonds. This diversification of both growth and income has generally provided a safe, mundane way for investors to grow their money without taking on too much risk. This is because while stocks offer greater growth, bonds can help lessen their volatility.

How to create a 60/40 investment portfolio

Although a 60/40 portfolio naturally calls for a portfolio weighted in 60% stocks and 40% bonds, it's worth noting that, before jumping in, investing newbies should first think about their individual risk tolerance and risk capacity — and how this specific portfolio allocation meets both.

A 60/40 portfolio has long been the standard because of the moderate risk it usually provides, but those just starting out should still make sure it aligns with their goals.

Once you're ready to invest, here are four simple ways to start putting money into a 60/40 portfolio.

1. Buy into a fund that already utilizes the 60/40 strategy

The good news is that beginner investors don't need to deal with researching and buying individual stocks to take advantage of a 60/40 portfolio since many funds already put this allocation into action for them. For example, CFP Cathy Curtis of Curtis Financial Planning suggests the Vanguard STAR® Fund (VGSTX), which maintains a 60/40 asset allocation by investing in a selection of Vanguard funds, including domestic and international stock funds and U.S. bond funds. This specific fund has a low minimum investment of $1,000 at the time of writing — making it a solid choice for younger investors just starting out. "This is hard to find these days," Curtis says, noting that minimum investment amounts are usually higher.

Vanguard

  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. No minimum to open a Vanguard account, but minimum $1,000 deposit to invest in many retirement funds; robo-advisor Vanguard Digital Advisor® requires minimum $3,000 to enroll

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Zero commission fees for stock and ETF trades; zero transaction fees for over 3,000 mutual funds; $20 annual service fee for IRAs and brokerage accounts unless you opt into paperless statements; robo-advisor Vanguard Digital Advisor® charges up to 0.20% in advisory fees (after 90 days)

  • Bonus

    None

  • Investment vehicles

    Robo-advisor: Vanguard Digital Advisor® IRA: Vanguard Traditional, Roth, Rollover, Spousal and SEP IRAs Brokerage and trading: Vanguard Trading Other: Vanguard 529 Plan

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, ETFs and options

  • Educational resources

    Retirement planning tools

Terms apply.

2. Use exchange-traded funds, or ETFs

For those new to investing, CFP Lee Baker of Apex Financial Services recommends ETFs as a straightforward and low-cost way for investors to implement the 60/40 strategy. Since ETF performance is usually based on an index — meaning the funds follow the ups and downs of a said index — most are passively managed investments and thus likely have lower fees than, say, mutual funds.

As an example, Baker suggests allocating 60% of your money to SPDR® S&P 500® ETF Trust (SPY:NYSE Arca) and 40% to iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG:NYSE Arca) — two ETFs that basically mimic the S&P 500 Index and the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index.

ETFs can be purchased through a broker or trading platform. Plus, these days, many of the traditional brokerages such as Charles Schwab and Fidelity offer commission-free trading on ETFs.

Charles Schwab

  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. No account minimum for active investing through Schwab One® Brokerage Account. Automated investing through Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® requires a $5,000 minimum deposit

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Schwab One® Brokerage Account has no account fees, $0 commission fees for stock and ETF trades, $0 transaction fees for over 4,000 mutual funds and a $0.65 fee per options contract

  • Bonus

    None

  • Investment vehicles

    Robo-advisor: Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium™ IRA: Charles Schwab Traditional, Roth, Rollover, Inherited and Custodial IRAs; plus, a Personal Choice Retirement Account® (PCRA) Brokerage and trading: Schwab One® Brokerage Account, Brokerage Account + Specialized Platforms and Support for Trading, Schwab Global Account™ and Schwab Organization Account

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs and ETFs

  • Educational resources

    Extensive retirement planning tools

Terms apply.

Fidelity Investments

  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. No minimum to open a Fidelity Go® account, but minimum $10 balance according to the investment strategy chosen

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Zero commission fees for stock, ETF, options trades and some mutual funds; zero transaction fees for over 3,400 mutual funds; $0.65 per options contract. Fidelity Go® has no advisory fees for balances under $25,000 (0.35% per year for balances of $25,000 and over and this includes access to unlimited 1-on-1 coaching calls from a Fidelity advisor)

  • Bonus

    Find special offers here

  • Investment vehicles

    Robo-advisor: Fidelity Go® IRA: Traditional, Roth and Rollover IRAs Brokerage and trading: Fidelity Investments Trading Other: Fidelity Investments 529 College Savings; Fidelity HSA®

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, CDs, options and fractional shares

  • Educational resources

    Extensive tools and industry-leading, in-depth research from 20-plus independent providers

Terms apply.

3. Purchase a target-date fund that allocates 60/40

Target-date funds provide a hands-off investing approach to help investors build wealth for retirement. With a target-date fund, an investor's investments mirror their risk tolerance as they near their non-working years. Typically, target-date funds are labeled with a retirement year, say 2060. As you approach your target retirement date, in this case the year 2060, the target fund will shift its investments to be more conservative. (You may not realize it, but the money you have in a 401(k) through your employer could very well be investing into a target-date fund.)

Curtis suggests choosing a target-date fund for your 60/40 asset allocation. "The fund manages the allocation and an added bonus is that the fund will slowly own more bonds as the investor gets older," she explains.

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4. Sign up with a robo-advisor

If you like the hands-off investing style, consider putting your money with a robo-advisor who can help you reach a 60/40 portfolio allocation. Using computer algorithms and data, robo-advisors are essentially software platforms that invest on your behalf, automatically rebalancing your portfolio from time to time based on your risk tolerance, market conditions and other factors.

This would be a good route for those who are unsure if they want to jump right into a 60/40 portfolio as robo-advisors can recommend an allocation based on the specific investor's goals and time horizon — and go from there.

Some of CNBC Select's top-ranked robo-advisors include:

Betterment

  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For example, Betterment doesn't require clients to maintain a minimum investment account balance, but there is a ACH deposit minimum of $10. Premium Investing requires a $100,000 minimum balance.

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected, account balances, etc. Click here for details.

  • Investment vehicles

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash

  • Educational resources

    Betterment offers retirement and other education materials

Terms apply. Does not apply to crypto asset portfolios.

SoFi Invest®

On SoFi's secure site
  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. No account minimum for active or automated investing, or to participate in IPOs. $5 minimum to own a fractional share of a company.

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Active investing has zero commission fees for trading stocks and ETFs (exchange and fund management fees may apply). Automated investing has zero management fees

  • Bonus

    Download the SoFi app and get up to $1,000 when you open an Active SoFi Invest® Brokerage Account. SoFi covers up to $75 of any transfer fees your brokerage may charge when you transfer an account to SoFi

  • Investment vehicles

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs, fractional shares and IPO participation

  • Educational resources

    Investors can create a personal watchlist that follows their stocks to stay up to date and receive the latest investing news

Terms apply.

Wealthfront

  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. $500 minimum deposit for investment accounts

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Zero account, transfer, trading or commission fees (fund ratios may apply). Wealthfront annual management advisory fee is 0.25% of your account balance

  • Bonus

    None

  • Investment vehicles

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash. Additional asset classes to your portfolio include real estate, natural resources and dividend stocks

  • Educational resources

    Offers free financial planning for college planning, retirement and homebuying

Terms apply.

Bottom line

If you're just starting out on your investing journey and you want to attempt the classic 60/40 portfolio that experts say is making a comeback in 2023, consider one of the above four simple strategies.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal financetech and toolswellness and more, and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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