The Vanguard Group has some new funds up its sleeve. Vanguard plans to launch six "targeted maturity" funds tailored to those socking money away for their golden years.

According to an AP story, "The new Vanguard Target Retirement Funds invest in several Vanguard index funds, and are available in different asset mixes developed for investors in various age groups. The asset allocation is adjusted automatically as the investor ages."

Also debuting soon will be 10 new sector-based index funds, a new large-cap index fund, and 20 exchange-traded funds (ETFs, to those in the know). Interestingly, the ETFs will be based not on the well-known Standard & Poor's indexes, but on indexes maintained by S&P rival Morgan Stanley.

ETFs are interesting beasts. They're based on index funds but trade like shares of stock. Perhaps the best known are "Spiders" (AMEX:SPY), or S&P Depositary Receipts, based on the S&P 500.

Vanguard's new large-cap index fund will follow the Morgan Stanley US Prime Market 750 index, which should perform very much like the S&P 500. The new sector funds include health services, energy, and financial services. The ETFs will track the 11 new funds, plus nine other index funds reflecting stock market segments in the United States, Asia, Europe, and beyond.

If you're looking for an index fund, give these new offerings a look when they debut later this year. Vanguard has long served individual investors, initially by pioneering the index fund in the first place (thanks, John Bogle!), and then by keeping down fund costs and fees. That's right -- some firms will charge you considerably more than 1% per year to keep you in an index fund, while Vanguard's fee is a mere 0.18%.

And if you're all confused by all this, you can do just fine in a plain old S&P 500 index fund, or in Spiders. Simplicity serves many investors exceedingly well.

Learn more about Vanguard's new developments in this Philadelphia Inquirerarticle. And get the scoop on ETFs in our 60-second ETF guide and this good overview by Bill Mann.