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For clients who have not jumped on the passive investment bandwagon but still want mutual funds on the cheap, there are some strong options to consider – in a bull-market at least.

With these parameters in mind – active management, low fees and strong performance – we started looking at the possibilities. We specifically looked at active funds with at least $500 million in assets and expense ratios of 25 basis points or less (we could have screened for 20 basis points because in the end, our most expensive fund on this list was just 19 basis points.).

Then, we ranked them by their year-to-date performance. The conclusion? It paid in 2017 to be a penny-pinching retiree. Why? Because 17 of the top 20 funds are target-date funds. Whether your client is planning to retire in 2035 or 2060, these funds have posted returns well into the double-digits year to date (the average is 20%) while costing an average of 15 basis points.

Reversion to the mean is a powerful force, though, as the three-year returns of these 20 funds averaged a more realistic 8.8%.

Scroll through to see the 20 top-performing active funds this year to date with the lowest expense ratios. All data from Morningstar.
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20. State Farm Growth (STFGX)
YTD Return: 16.14%
3-Yr. Return: 8.70%
Expense Ratio: 0.12%
Net Assets (millions): $5,027
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19. Vanguard Target Retirement 2030 Inv (VTHRX)
YTD Return: 17.05%
3-Yr. Return: 7.62%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $32,283
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18. Fidelity Freedom 2030 Investor (FXIFX)
YTD Return: 17.61%
3-Yr. Return: 7.89%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $4,182
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17. State Street Target Retirement 2030 (SSBYX)
YTD Return: 17.73%
3-Yr. Return: 7.69%
Expense Ratio: 0.13%
Net Assets (millions): $774
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16. Vanguard Target Retirement 2035 Inv (VTTHX)
YTD Return: 18.60%
3-Yr. Return: 8.15%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $31,221
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15. Vanguard LifeStrategy Growth Inv (VASGX)
YTD Return: 18.73%
3-Yr. Return: 8.23%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $14,790
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14. State Street Target Retirement 2035 (SSCKX)
YTD Return: 19.06%
3-Yr. Return: 8.20%
Expense Ratio: 0.13%
Net Assets (millions): $577
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13. Wells Fargo Target 2050 R6 (WFQFX)
YTD Return: 19.09%
3-Yr. Return: 8.47%
Expense Ratio: 0.19%
Net Assets (millions): $545
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12. Fidelity Freedom 2035 Investor (FIHFX)
YTD Return: 19.88%
3-Yr. Return: 8.78%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $2,663
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11. Fidelity Freedom 2050 Investor (FIPFX)
YTD Return: 20.10%
3-Yr. Return: 8.86%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $1,623
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10. Fidelity Freedom 2040 Investor (FBIFX)
YTD Return: 20.148%
3-Yr. Return: 8.86%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $2,941
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9. Fidelity Freedom 2045 Investor (FIOFX)
YTD Return: 20.151%
3-Yr. Return: 8.85%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $1,748
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8. Fidelity Freedom 2055 Investor (FDEWX)
YTD Return: 20.16%
3-Yr. Return: 8.85%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $560
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7. Vanguard Target Retirement 2040 Inv (VFORX)
YTD Return: 20.19%
3-Yr. Return: 8.65%
Expense Ratio: 0.16%
Net Assets (millions): $23,438
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6. Vanguard Target Retirement 2055 Inv (VFFVX)
YTD Return: 20.81%
3-Yr. Return: 8.83%
Expense Ratio: 0.16%
Net Assets (millions): $6,095
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5. Vanguard Target Retirement 2060 Inv (VTTSX)
YTD Return: 20.83%
3-Yr. Return: 8.84%
Expense Ratio: 0.16%
Net Assets (millions): $2,308
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4. GE RSP US Equity (GESSX)
YTD Return: 20.84%
3-Yr. Return: 8.99%
Expense Ratio: 0.15%
Net Assets (millions): $5,504
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3. Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 Inv (VTIVX)
YTD Return: 20.858%
3-Yr. Return: 8.89%
Expense Ratio: 0.16%
Net Assets (millions): $21,569
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2. Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 Inv (VFIFX)
YTD Return: 20.862%
3-Yr. Return: 8.89%
Expense Ratio: 0.16%
Net Assets (millions): $14,237
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1. Elfun Trusts Fund (ELFNX)
YTD Return: 25.55%
3-Yr. Return: 10.25%
Expense Ratio: 0.18%
Net Assets (millions): $2,795