ARK Invest and its CEO, Cathie Wood, have been making headlines in the investing world. The investment management firm is known for its high-flying ETFs, which have experienced phenomenal returns over the past year.
Its flagship fund, the ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK -5.48%), has earned an incredible 175% return over the past 12 months. Since its inception in 2014, it's earned an average return of nearly 34% per year.
With returns like that, it's easy to see why this ETF is attractive. But while it has had a good run so far, it's also an incredibly risky investment. The fund has only been around for a few years, and any investment without an extensive track record is risky.
Also, the ETF only contains between 35 and 55 stocks on average, which focus on "disruptive innovation." Considering many other ETFs contain hundreds or thousands of stocks, ARK Innovation doesn't provide much diversification. In addition, "innovative" companies tend to be higher risk than well-established ones.
This doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad investment, but it is a risky one. And there are a few ETFs that may be a better option for most investors. Here are three:
iShares Core S&P 500 ETF
The iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV -2.06%) tracks the S&P 500, meaning it includes all the same stocks as the index and aims to mirror its performance. The S&P 500 includes just over 500 stocks from some of the largest and most stable companies in the U.S., which makes this ETF a relatively safe investment.
While it does see lower average returns than ARK Innovation, it's far less risky. This doesn't mean you won't have years where you experience losses. But over the long term, you're more likely to earn positive average returns.
Since its inception in 2000, it has earned an average annual return of around 7%. Keep in mind that the market has experienced a significant amount of volatility in the past 20 years, including the dot-com bubble burst and the Great Recession. Despite these downturns, this ETF has still earned positive returns over time.
Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF
The Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI -2.08%) includes 3,755 stocks from small, midsize, and large corporations in the U.S.
Similar to the S&P 500 ETF, this fund aims to track the stock market as a whole. But it contains far more stocks than an S&P 500 ETF, and it also includes stocks from companies of all sizes.
This provides more diversification and more opportunity for growth. Small and midsize companies can be more volatile, but they also tend to grow faster than large corporations. This means you could experience higher growth rates while still limiting your risk.
This ETF was established in 2001, and since then it has earned an average return of around 8%. Like the S&P 500 ETF, this fund has a long track record and has shown that it can withstand volatility over the long term.
Schwab U.S. Large-Cap Growth ETF
The Schwab U.S. Large-Cap Growth ETF (SCHG -2.49%) includes 235 stocks from companies that are expected to experience above-average growth. Three of its largest holdings include tech behemoths Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.
Growth ETFs can be riskier than S&P 500 ETFs or total stock market ETFs, but they also generally see higher-than-average returns. In fact, since this fund's inception in 2009, it has earned an average return of more than 17% per year.
This doesn't mean you'll earn returns of 17% every single year. There's a much greater chance that some years you'll experience low returns or even losses, while other years you'll earn significantly higher-than-average returns.
While its returns don't match those of ARK Innovation, this fund is safer because it includes more stocks, and many of the stocks in the fund are from large, well-established corporations. Despite being lower risk, though, it's still possible to make a lot of money with this ETF.
If you were to invest, say, $300 per month while earning a 17% average annual return, you'd have more than $2.3 million accumulated after 30 years. Again, you may not necessarily experience those types of returns, but this fund is designed for above-average growth.
ARK Innovation might be the flashy new fund taking the investing world by storm, but it's not necessarily the right investment for everyone. To keep your money safer while still maximizing your returns, these three ETFs could be a better option.