Your Guide to Investing in ETFs
Frequently Asked Questions
What are ETFs?
ETFs or exchange traded funds,like mutual funds pool investors money to invest in a basket of securities. But unlike mutual funds, ETFs trade like stocks, which means investors can buy or sell ETFs on an exchange at any time. Typically, ETFs passively track indexes implying lower costs, though some ETFs may be actively managed. ETFs are also considered more tax-efficient compared to mutual funds.
How do ETFs work?
ETF shares give the investor proportionate ownership on the ETF. You can trade them like stocks on the exchange, and you pay the ETF market price which may differ from the net asset value. Most ETFs replicate constituents of their benchmark index in order to track its performance. There are many types of ETFs, some more risky and narrowly focused than other. They offer a lower cost and more tax-efficient alternative to mutual funds.
How many ETFs should I own?
There is no prescribed number of ETFs you must have, it depends on your goals and investment strategy. You could invest in thematic ETFs for diversification and to gain exposure to commodities, currencies on even international markets or you could build an entire portfolio out of just 3 ETFs. You can also use ETFs to employ advanced short-selling and hedging strategies. Select ETFs based on the role you want them to play in your portfolio, expenses and performance.
How do I invest in ETFs?
To invest in ETFs, you would first need a trading account. You could open one up with your broker or with a fund company like Vanguard that has such accounts. The next step would be to fund your account using a payment method. Narrow down ETFs based on your investing strategy and compare different ETFs using an ETF screener. Select the ETF you intend to purchase and place the order.
How are ETFs priced?
ETF prices are by both exchange supply and demand, as well as the value of the underlying assets. The ETF share price is what is reflected on the exchange and what you pay for when you buy an ETF share. The ETF’s net asset value (NAV) is the value based on its underlying assets which is calculated once a day. An ETF may trade at a premium or discount to the NAV, but such price differentials are small and temporary.
How do I pick ETFs?
There are a number of factors to consider before you select ETFs best suited for your needs. These include your investment goals and strategy and the role you expect the ETF to play in your portfolio. Compare the ETF’s assets, expenses and performance not just to its peers but also other actively managed funds. While ETFs may be more tax efficient than mutual funds, they may still have tax implications.
Are ETFs tax efficient?
You incur capital gains tax liability when you sell an asset for profit. With mutual funds, that liability occurs even if you don’t sell shares in the fund, but the fund manager sells securities from the fund’s portfolio for a profit. Typically, ETFs mirror indexes which means lower trading of underlying units. ETF dividends are taxed based on how long you’ve held the ETF shares. Capital gains from some ETFs like precious metals, commodities or currency ETFs may be taxed differently at higher rates.
What are leveraged ETFs?
A leveraged ETF uses borrowed money, futures, and swaps to increase the returns of an index, commodity, or other types of investments. They greatly increase the risk and costs of investing. A 3x leveraged ETF could use stocks listed on the S&P 500 index to create three times the returns or three times the loss. Leveraged ETFs are not long term investments and resets everyday.
ETFs are commonly split if share prices rise too high for investors to afford or to keep the fund competitive. An ETF split works the same as a stock split; one share is split via a ratio, and the shareholder retains the overall value.
Tracking error is the variation between the performance of a portfolio and the performance of the portfolio’s benchmark over time. It’s calculated as the standard deviation of the difference of a sequence of portfolio returns and index returns.
An inverse ETF is an index ETF that gains value when its correlating index loses value. It achieves this by holding assets and derivatives, like options, that are used to create profits when the underlying index falls.
An ETF screener typically consists of an internet-based or software program that helps users find exchange-traded funds (ETFs) after setting certain criteria to narrow down or filter the search from every ETF available on the market.
A stock index is a compilation of stocks constructed in such a manner to replicate a particular market, sector, commodity, or anything else an investor might want to track. Indexes can be broad or narrow. Investment products like exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds are often based on indexes, allowing investors to invest in a stock index without having to buy every security included in the index.
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) index. It does this by holding a portfolio of stocks in companies that are included in the S&P 500.
A mutual fund takes money from a group of people and invests it in a basket of stocks, bonds, and other securities. This basket is known as a portfolio and represents a range of companies and sectors.
A sector ETF is an exchange-traded fund in a specific industry or sector that offers the diversification of mutual funds and the trading benefits of stocks. A sector ETF follows a variety of selected stocks within an industry by tracking an index, instead of the broader market.
Index ETFs are exchange-traded funds that aim to duplicate and track a benchmark index, like the S&P 500. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can be bought and sold on exchanges intraday (during normal trading hours), and they have some tax and cost advantages over mutual funds.
A 12b-1 fee is an annual fee that a mutual fund company charges to cover the costs associated with distribution of funds and shareholder services. It derives its name from a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule authorizing fund companies to charge this fee. It is usually paid out of the assets of the mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF).
A leveraged exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a type of financial product designed to track an underlying index at higher rates of return. It can offer returns as high as two or three times the returns of a traditional ETF, but that also makes it a riskier investment option.
Exchange-traded notes (ETNs) are shares of corporate debt, similar to bonds, with contracted rates of return based on the market performance of an index or other benchmark.