Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are among the best ways to invest in stocks, especially for those who don't have time to research and monitor stocks and are generally risk-averse -- like retirees. In your golden years, you might also prefer investment tools that can supplement your retirement income without requiring you to put in extra effort. ETFs are a perfect fit, as they offer a passive way to own a basket of diversified stocks, and can be easily traded on stock exchanges.
Depending on your risk/reward profiles and investing preferences, you can choose from a wide range of ETFs.
For retired investors, our contributors believe that three top ETFs to go for are iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF (NYSEMKT: IUSB), Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (NYSEMKT:VYM), and Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (NYSEMKT:VOO). Here's why.
Boost your income with this high-yield dividend ETF
Neha Chamaria (Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF): Dividend stocks are a great way to supplement retirement income, which is why my ETF pick for retirees also revolves around dividends. Among the several dividend ETFs, I believe Vanguard High Yield ETF, which comprises more than 400 high-yield dividend stocks and tracks the FTSE High Dividend Yield Index, deserves attention.
There are several reasons why I believe this ETF is particularly well suited for retirees. For starters, more than 80% of its portfolio comprises large-cap stocks, eliminating much of the volatility and risk associated with small- or mid-cap stocks.
Second, the ETF has near-equal weightage -- roughly 13% to 15% each -- in several key industries including consumer goods, technology, financials, healthcare, and industrials, which means it offers investors well-balanced exposure.
Third, no single stock has more than mid-single-digit weightage -- Microsoft, currently the ETF's largest holding, comprises only about 5.5% of its total funds. Stocks like ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson, and JPMorgan Chase make up between 3% and 4% each.
Fourth, and most importantly, the ETF has a minuscule expense ratio of 0.08%, which means you're hardly paying anything extra to own the ETF. For retirees, every dollar saved counts.
Given its focus on large-cap high yields, low cost, and strong historical performance -- the ETF has generated 96% in total returns over the past five decades -- I believe the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF is an excellent choice for retirees.
Get more yield from a low-cost fund
Jordan Wathen (iShares Core Total USD Bond Market): When you're drawing money from your retirement accounts, it becomes increasingly important to have fixed-income investments that produce more yield with less downside risk than stocks.
The iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF is one of my favorite total bond-market funds because it is primarily invested in safe, AAA-rated securities (about 60% of the portfolio), with some yield enhancement from the roughly 9% of its portfolio held in bonds rated below investment grade.
With an expense ratio of just 0.08% per year, it is less expensive to hold than a similar fixed-income position made up of a blend of an investment-grade ETF and a junk-bond ETF. With an average effective duration of 5.6 years, the ETF won't expose its investors to particularly large losses if rates continue to increase. The duration tells us that a 1-percentage-point move in rates would lead to a 5.6% increase or decrease in the value of the ETF.
With a reasonable expense ratio and current yield of 2.5% per year, this ETF could be used for the entirety of a portfolio's bond exposure.
A low-cost, easy-to-understand ETF
Steve Symington (Vanguard S&P 500 ETF): As arguably the world's most widely followed stock-market index, the S&P 500 is hard to beat, with historical annual returns of roughly 10%. In fact, the overwhelming majority of actively managed equity funds and ETFs regularly underperform the popular benchmark. So if you'd rather not dedicate the time required for picking individual stocks during your retirement, but you still want to benefit from the wealth-generating machine that is our stock market, I think you should consider buying shares of the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF.
Just like it sounds, the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF is designed to closely track the S&P 500's return. Because that means it's effectively comprised of 500 of the largest companies in the United States, you also shouldn't experience the same level of volatility as you might otherwise in picking a limited basket of stocks or a more specialized ETF. In addition -- and in keeping with Vanguard's propensity for offering products with ultra-low fees -- the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF boasts an expense ratio of just 0.04%, a small fraction of the already low industry-average ETF expense ratio of 0.28%. If you're investing a reasonably large sum of money early in your retirement, those fees (or lack thereof) can make an enormous difference in how much remains in your own pockets.