Index funds and exchange-traded funds can be some of the easiest ways to invest in the market without doing the research or taking the risk investors should put into owning individual stocks. And depending on what kind of financial goals you have and where you see investing opportunities, there are dozens of funds that can meet your goals.
We asked three of our investors for their favorite index funds or ETFs and Fidelity MSCI Information Tech (NYSEMKT:FTEC), Vanguard High Dividend Yield (NASDAQMUTFUND:VHDYX), and SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEMKT:SPY) were at the top of the list. Here's a look at why they're great ways to invest today.
Tech is big and getting bigger
Jeremy Bowman (Fidelity MSCI Information Tech): It's no secret that tech stocks have surged this year as the five biggest stocks on the market (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon.com) now all hail from the tech sector. And as technology seeps into more industries such as autos and payments, the sector will get even bigger. But picking your own basket of tech stocks can be tricky as the market is volatile and full of disruption. That's why I'd suggest going with an index fund like Fidelity MSCI Information Tech.
FTEC offers exposure to the biggest tech companies -- the top four holdings are Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Facebook -- and also holds consistent winners like Visa.
Year to date, the ETF is up 25% and it's gained 30% over the last year. Since its inception in 2013, the fund has essentially doubled the S&P 500's returns, 81% to 41%.
FTEC has a small expense ratio of 0.08%, meaning investors will pay just $0.80 on a $1,000 investment for management of the funds. The fund also offers a 1% dividend yield to reward investors just for holding the stock.
Every year, it seems tech companies, like NVIDIA recently, are among the big winners on the stock market. Fidelity MSCI Information Tech can help investors get access to those gains with the diversification in the industry that should provide a cushion in a down market.
Higher income with fewer risks
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Vanguard High Dividend Yield): Many income investors are looking for ways to boost their portfolios' yield. But in reaching for unusually high rates, you're usually taking on a big risk of a future dividend cut or freeze.
Consider spreading out your bets instead with an index fund like Vanguard High Dividend Yield. This investment is tilted toward big U.S.-based companies that pay higher rates than the broader market. As a result, its overall yield is 3%, or a full percentage point above that of the S&P 500.
The stocks that populate the fund aren't especially risky, either. In fact, investors will recognize many of the top holdings as true blue chips, including Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC)).
Vanguard's high dividend fund carries an absurdly low expense ratio, 0.15%, which will allow your investment to grow unburdened by the hefty fees that many managed funds charge. Its emphasis on slower-growing companies, meanwhile, might ensure periods of underperformance against the broader market. However, the fund's total return is likely to closely track stocks in general, especially if you choose to reinvest those hefty quarterly dividend payouts.
The S&P 500 in fund form
Travis Hoium (SPDR S&P 500 ETF): Whether you're just starting investing or diversifying a large portfolio, getting exposure to the market as a whole can be a great investment decision. SPDR S&P 500 ETF is a fund that seeks to generate returns that "correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the S&P 500 Index." In other words, this is a way to buy every stock in the S&P 500 with very little in expenses.
One of the big advantages of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF is that its $243 billion in assets under management means the sheer size allows it to charge very low fees. The expense ratio is just 0.0945% annually, likely making it more cost-effective for individual investors to buy than pay commissions to buy a highly diversified portfolio that holds even a fraction of the S&P 500's individual stocks.
By definition, SPDR S&P 500 ETF isn't going to be a market-beating investment, but if you're looking to stay in the investing game without taking the risk of owning individual stocks, this is one of the best funds to accomplish that goal at very low cost.
Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Jeremy Bowman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Travis Hoium owns shares of Johnson & Johnson and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.