Charles Schwab was late to launch exchange-traded funds, but the company has emerged as a capable competitor. Its influence and desire to compete has spawned a fee war, driving fund managers to inch their fees toward zero with each passing day.
It's hard to go wrong with any of its low-fee funds, but here's a short list of the best Schwab ETFs you can buy today:
- Schwab Broad Market ETF (NYSEMKT:SCHB)
- Schwab U.S. REIT ETF (NYSEMKT:SCHH)
- Schwab Large-Cap ETF (NYSEMKT:SCHX)
The case for each fund follows below.
Schwab Broad Market ETF
Launched in 2009, this fund tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Broad Stock Market Index, which includes more than 2,050 stocks.
The goal is to essentially generate a return equal to the total return of the entire investable market, which includes small companies and large companies, with their weights adjusted by market capitalization (size) and float (how many shares can be bought and sold).
The fund's market cap weighting skews it toward larger companies, so you may want to supplement it with a small-cap fund to get exposure to smaller stocks. Its three largest holdings are household names -- Apple, Microsoft, and ExxonMobil.
The most attractive thing about this ETF is that it allows you to buy the total stock market, and do it inexpensively. After slashing fees, this fund carries an annual expense ratio of just 0.03% of assets annually, or $3 of fees for every $10,000 invested each year.
Schwab U.S. REIT ETF
Real estate investment trusts have emerged as their own asset class, and more investors are making them part of their portfolios. But for every good REIT ETF out there, there are more than a few that really miss the mark on portfolio construction.
One great twist to the Schwab US REIT ETF is that it avoids the volatile, though high-yielding, mortgage REIT industry. Instead, it invests only in companies that own and lease real property -- primarily office, retail, and residential properties. Thus, though the ETF may lag others in yield (it had a distribution yield of about 3.2% at the time of writing) you can take comfort in knowing that it isn't taking undue risks to generate outsize returns.
The Schwab US REIT ETF is diversified, holding 111 different investments. Most important, it's inexpensive, carrying an annual expense ratio of just 0.07% annually. With only so many ways to slice and dice REIT ETFs, a low expense ratio is perhaps the single most important determinant of performance.
Schwab Large-Cap ETF
Consider this fund something like a weird mix of the S&P 500 Index (which generally includes 500 of America's largest companies) plus 250 mid-cap stocks tacked on for the ride. This fund tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Large-Cap Total Stock Market Index, which includes the 750 largest companies on American exchanges by market cap.
The fund's large cap bias is significant. Note that at the time of writing, its weighted average portfolio company had a market cap of $130 billion. Perhaps giant cap would be a better descriptor than large cap.
Because its portfolio is weighted by market capitalization, its performance doesn't differ all that much from the S&P 500. Its three- and five-year performance varies from the returns of the S&P 500 index by about 0.3% per year.
As with all Schwab funds, the biggest advantage is price. This fund carries an average annual expense ratio of just 0.03% of assets annually, or $3 for every $10,000 invested.