GuideStone Funds (Faith-Based Mutual Funds Review)
Are you a Christian looking to invest according to your values? Then you should know about GuideStone Funds, the largest family of Christian mutual funds. Read to find out more.
SustainFi June 30, 2021
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What is GuideStone Financial?
- Founded: 1918
- Assets under management: $16.7 billion as of March 2021
- Fees: fund fees vary from 0.40% to 1.58% annually
- Minimum investment: $1,000
Founded in 1918, GuideStone Financial (GuideStone) is a faith-based mutual fund family serving over 250,000 individuals and 50,000 churches. The founder, Pastor William Lunsford, created GuideStone to help Southern Baptist pastors make ends meet.
GuideStone offers over 20 Biblically responsible mutual funds, plus retirement plans and insurance coverage. All mutual funds meet Biblical values and do not invest in the alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, or abortion industries. Because of these exclusions, GuideStone cannot invest in about 3-5% of the S&P 500.
In addition to screening out controversial sectors, GuideStone fund managers actively engage with company management teams.
What funds does GuideStone offer?
GuideStone offers 23 mutual funds, investing in U.S. and international stocks, bonds, real estate, and alternative assets. Fund fees vary a lot, from 0.40% ($40 on a $10,000 investment each year) for the Equity Index Fund to 1.58% for the Strategic Alternatives Fund. Many of the funds have been around for over 20 years.
Nearly all funds are actively managed, meaning that portfolio managers pick stocks to beat the market while supporting Christian values. (GuideStone outsources stock picking to other asset managers, known as sub-advisors, such as American Century and Legal & General.)
GuideStone U.S. equity funds
GuideStone offers five U.S. equity funds. The largest, the GuideStone Equity Index Fund (GEQZX), is also the cheapest, costing 0.40%. The fund invests in S&P 500 companies, excluding the ones that don’t meet Christian values. As a result, the fund owns 493 stocks vs. 500 in the S&P 500. The Equity Index Fund is probably the best option in the GuideStone line-up. Since the fund launched in 2001, it returned 8.18% annualized vs. 8.54% for the S&P 500. The Equity Index Fund is our top GuideStone mutual fund pick.
The Defensive Market Strategies Fund (GDMZX) invests half of its assets in S&P 500 stocks that meet Christian criteria and half in short-term U.S. government bills. This fund is less volatile than investing in the stock market, but returns are also much lower. We think that investing half of your assets in safe U.S. government bills is too risk-averse if you want to grow your wealth.
Other U.S. stock funds invest in small-cap companies (Small Cap Equity Fund (GSCZX)), value stocks (Value Equity Fund (GVEZX)), and growth stocks (Growth Equity Fund (GGEZX)). All of these funds did worse than their benchmarks since they launched and recently, partially due to charging nearly 1% fees.
GuideStone International equity funds
GuideStone offers two funds that invest in international stocks. The International Equity Fund (GIEZX) invests in developed economies, and the Emerging Markets Equity Fund (GEMZX) buys emerging markets stocks. Both funds are expensive. The International Equity Fund costs 1.22%, and the Emerging Markets Equity Fund costs 1.52%. However, the International Equity Fund has performed well, beating its benchmark since 2001 and over the past one and five years.
The Emerging Markets Fund, though, was a laggard. It returned only 4.45% annually from 2013 through March 2021, which is 1.27% lower than the benchmark.
GuideStone fixed income or bond funds
GuideStone offers a money market fund, Money Market Fund (GMZXX), which can serve as a cash alternative, and three bond funds. The bond funds invest in short-term bonds (Low-Duration Bond Fund (GLDZX)), medium-term bonds (Medium-Duration Bond Fund (GMDZX)), and global bonds (Global Bond Fund (GGBFX)). Short-term bonds are considered less risky, and global bonds can help you diversify your investments. Both the short-term and the medium-term bond funds have beaten their benchmarks since they launched, and the global bond fund has come close. Bond fund fees are also more reasonable, ranging from 0.42% for the Money Market Fund to 0.86% for the Global Bond Fund.
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GuideStone real estate and alternatives funds
Although many financial advisors recommend sticking to stocks and bonds for simplicity, you may want to look at additional types of investments to diversify your portfolio. The Global Real Estate Securities Fund (GREZX) invests in real estate investment trusts (REITs) and other real estate aligned with Christian values. Although the fund is expensive (1.14%), it has delivered, beating its benchmark by over 1.5% annually since it launched in 2006.
On the other hand, the tiny Strategic Alternatives Fund (GFSZX) only returned 1.49% annualized since it launched in 2017. It also costs a whopping 1.58%. The fund can use non-traditional investment approaches like investing in options and currencies, but given lackluster performance and high fees, we would pass.
GuideStone Impact Fund
The Global Impact Fund (GGIIX) is the latest addition to the GuideStone family of funds. Many finance experts recommend the 60%/40% stock and bond portfolio, and that is what this fund provides, investing 60% of assets in U.S. and international stocks and 40% in bonds.
The fund’s investments are aligned with three impact themes: Sanctity of Life and Spreading the Gospel, Human Dignity and Advancement, and Stewardship of God’s Creation. The fund only launched in January 2021, and it costs 1.24%. Given the limited track record, it’s too early to judge this fund’s performance, but the concept is interesting.
GuideStone target-date funds
GuideStone offers five target-date funds, which split equity and bond investments based on the year when you are looking to retire. For example, if you want to retire in 2055, you can buy the MyDestination 2055 Fund (GMGZX). There are also options for those retiring in 2045, 2035, and earlier. As you near your retirement age, the fund manager will adjust your investments to include more bonds and make your assets less risky. Target date funds are popular because they let you “set and forget it.” GuideStone target date funds cost 0.75%.
GuideStone target-risk funds
Target-risk funds let you decide how much risk you are willing to take with your investments. Higher risk generally means high return. GuideStone offers four target-risk funds: Conservative Allocation (GFIZX), Balanced Allocation (GGIZX), Growth Allocation (GCOZX), and Aggressive Allocation (GGBZX). The Conservative Allocation Fund invests 15-30% of assets in stocks and the rest in bonds. In contrast, the Growth Allocation Fund invests 70-85% of its assets in stocks. These funds are like target-date funds, except that they don’t automatically adjust their riskiness over time. However, all four funds are expensive (around 1%) and have underperformed their benchmarks since they launched.
How have GuideStone Funds performed?
GuideStone doesn’t believe that investing in line with Christian values leads to worse performance, but we found that most of the funds have done somewhat worse than their benchmarks. The underperformance is likely due to high fees (which are around 1% for most funds).
GuideStone offers 23 mutual funds, and performance has varied by fund. Most of the time, you get something close to market performance in addition to investing in a Biblically responsible way, so slightly lower performance may be fine with you. We think that the Equity Index Fund (GEQZX) is the best option. GuideStone’s bond funds – the Low-Duration Bond Fund (GLDZX) and the Medium-Duration Bond Fund (GMDZX) – have also done fine over time and cost around 0.60%, which is relatively inexpensive.
How can you invest with GuideStone Financial?
You can open an investment account directly with GuideStone or buy GuideStone mutual funds through a broker like Fidelity or Charles Schwab. Some of the brokers may charge transaction fees.
GuideStone doesn’t charge any fees if you invest through their platform. You can also withdraw your money without any penalties. Investments can be made by check, wire, money transfer, or automatic investment plan. GuideStone requires the following minimum investments:
- Initial investment and balance per fund: $1,000 minimum
- Subsequent purchases per fund: $100 minimum
GuideStone also offers traditional and Roth IRAs that let you save for retirement in a tax-efficient manner. They also support Rollover IRAs.
Are GuideStone funds right for you?
If you are a Christian investor, GuideStone offers solid mutual fund options, but they are quite expensive. We would also consider exchange-traded funds that let you invest along with Christian values but at a lower cost.
🔔 Check out our review of five top Biblically responsible exchange-traded funds.