Amazingly, there are more indexes tracking different sets of U.S. stocks than there are U.S. stocks. This proliferation of indexes makes choosing which index fund to put in your IRA a difficult task.
Luckily, three of our Motley Fool investors are here to help cut through the noise. If you're looking to beat the market, the Vanguard Information Technology ETF (NYSEMKT:VGT) and Vanguard Healthcare ETF (NYSEMKT:VHT) give you the potential to do just that. If instead you just want to match the market's performance, the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSEMKT:VTI) is your best bet. Here's what you need to know about these three options.
Technology can make your retirement better
Nicholas Rossolillo (Vanguard Information Technology ETF): Technology has been quickly reshaping the economy and society overall. That trend has only picked up the pace in recent years, and software specifically has grown in importance to help bridge the gap between the physical and digital world. As a result, technology has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the economy over the last couple of decades.
Enter the Vanguard Information Technology ETF, which has doubled in value twice and then some in the last decade. The fund is made up of big names like Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet, but with 356 holdings, it has plenty of exposure to small up-and-coming companies, too. Though it is concentrated toward the technology industry, at a mere 0.1% annual fee, this ETF could be a great way to get some diversification across big, stable companies and small, high-growth endeavors.
The fund is an obvious fit for IRAs owned by young people with many decades left until retirement, but retirees could also benefit from the Information Technology ETF. 2018 got off to a rocky start for the market on the whole, and many portfolios are still barely positive for the year. For retirees looking to battle the crippling effects of volatility, VGT could be the ticket. The fund has yielded double-digit profits this year, easily beating the overall stock market and giving retired investors a place to pull income from to live on.
Give your retirement a booster shot
Todd Campbell (Vanguard Healthcare ETF): Vanguard's Healthcare ETF could be a great addition to retirement accounts, including IRAs.
The global population is getting increasingly larger and living longer and that means plenty of demand for healthcare providers, medical device makers, and drugmakers. Globally, $7 trillion was spent on healthcare in 2015, and by 2020, Deloitte estimates spending will reach $8.7 trillion.
To profit from the spending growth, investors can buy index funds that track specific subsectors of healthcare, such as biotechnology, but I like Vanguard's Healthcare ETF for retirement accounts because it's a diversified fund, and it charges very little in annual fees.
Altogether, it owns 379 different stocks, and although most of its assets are invested in big-cap companies (Goliath Johnson & Johnson accounts for 8.5% of its holdings), about 12% of assets are invested in small- and mid-size companies with market caps below $8 billion. The diversification offers some insulation against a drop caused by any one company's failure, while the small-cap exposure provides an opportunity to profit from the next big thing.
Vanguard charges just 0.10% in fees for its efforts in managing the fund, so investors keep more money for themselves. Also, while the past is no guarantee, the healthcare sector's nondiscretionary nature has allowed it to outperform the broader stock market during tough times. For instance, the Vanguard Healthcare ETF dropped by about 23% in 2008 when the S&P 500 lost about 37% of its value.
Overall, I think aging is one of the biggest multidecade investing trends going, and if I'm right, then tucking some of Vanguard's Healthcare ETF into retirement accounts could be smart.
Buy all the stocks
Tim Green (Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF): Funds that track the S&P 500 index are popular, but they have one downside if you're looking for an entirely passive investment: Someone has to choose which stocks are included. The Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF, which simply buys every U.S.-listed stock weighted by market capitalization, eliminates this issue while giving you some exposure to small-cap stocks that the S&P 500 is missing.
This is a Vanguard ETF, so you can be sure that the fees will be next to nothing. Investors in this ETF pay an expense ratio of just 0.04%, so it should come very close to matching the performance of the stock market as a whole.
Vanguard itself views a total market fund as the best option for investors looking for broad stock exposure. Earlier this month, the company removed its flagship S&P 500 index fund from its employees' 401(k) plan, with the company calling the total market alternative "the best proxy for the U.S. market."
If you're looking to match the performance of the market and pay next to nothing in fees, the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF is where your money should be.