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5 Passive and Profitable ETFs for Your Portfolio

John Maxfield
December 4, 2013

The evidence is unequivocal: Most of us are horrible investors.

Emotions cause us to buy when stocks are high and sell when they're low. We trade in and out of stocks even though transaction costs diminish our returns. And we rarely hold onto anything for long enough to allow the law of compounding returns to take effect.

The author Carl Richards refers to this as the behavior gap. "Typically, the studies find that the returns investors have earned over time are much lower than the returns of the average investment," Richards says in his book, The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money.

What should you do about this? I encourage you to completely rethink the way you're investing. Instead of buying individual stocks, go with exchange-traded funds. And instead of trying to time the market, adopt a simple strategy of dollar-cost averaging, whereby you invest the exact same amount each month, quarter, or year.

Your objective should be to buy things now, and let the power of time and compounding returns do the rest.

With this in mind, I thought it'd be helpful to share a list of five exchange-traded funds that can and should serve as the backbone of any prudent investor's equity portfolio.


Assets Under Management

Expense Ratio

Dividend Yield


$162 billion



iShares Core S&P 500 (NYSEMKT: IVV)

$47 billion



Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSEMKT: VTI)

$38 billion