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2 ETFs That Can Help Recession-Proof Your Portfolio

By David Jagielski – May 25, 2021 at 6:50AM

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And they can instantly diversify your holdings.

Are you worried about the impact that inflation or a recession may have on your portfolio? A good way to hedge your risk is by investing in an exchange-traded fund (ETF). With an ETF, you don't have to worry about which stock is the best buy or whether you have a good mix. ETFs can hold many stocks and offer you lots of diversification while catering to your specific investing strategy.

A couple of ETFs that risk-averse investors should consider adding to their portfolios today are iShares U.S. Healthcare (IYH -1.13%) and iShares MSCI Global Gold Miners (RING 1.06%). With many top companies plus exposure to healthcare and gold, these ETFs can help strengthen your portfolio in the event that tougher times lay ahead for the economy.

A couple meeting with an advisor.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. iShares U.S. Healthcare

The healthcare industry is a stable spot to park your money over the long term. Unlike the oil and gas sector, which can be impacted by commodity prices, or the travel industry, which the pandemic has leveled, healthcare services are essential and will always be in demand. And by holding a basket of stocks inside an ETF, you aren't overly exposed to one area of healthcare.

Inside this ETF, as its name suggests, investors are getting a mix of U.S.-based healthcare stocks. With 125 holdings, there's a good variety of investments in the fund, including Johnson & Johnson, which is the largest holding at 8.8%, followed by UnitedHealth Group at 7.5%. Another good feature of the fund is that no other stock makes up more than 5% of its weight. This is important as it ensures that significant swings in value of an individual stock won't adversely impact the ETF. The pharmaceutical and healthcare equipment sectors make up half of the fund's exposure, which are two areas that should also provide safety and stability. And with an expense ratio of just 0.43%, the management fees from this fund aren't going to weigh down your returns.

Over the past five years, the fund has generated total returns (including dividends) of around 100%. That is less than the S&P 500's gains of 105% during that time, but investors are trading in potential profits in return for a safer and more focused investment with this ETF. 

2. iShares MSCI Global Gold Miners

When inflation goes up and the economy is in turmoil, investors often look to gold as a safe place to store their wealth. And when more people buy gold, that drives up its price, meaning gold miners can benefit from better margins. That is where the Global Gold Miners ETF can be particularly valuable. While investors will be taking on some more risk from this ETF given its exposure to gold, if you are worried about a struggling economy, it's a move that could pay off.

At just 40 holdings, it isn't as vast an ETF but it has the big-name gold miners that investors will want, including Newmont and Barrick Gold, which account for 22.4% and 16.7% of the fund's weight, respectively. The past few years have been strong for gold miners amid rising gold prices, with Newmont reporting a $2.8 billion profit for both 2020 and 2019. Barrick, meanwhile, has posted a profit margin of at least 18% in each of those years. 

Those strong results aren't guaranteed to continue, especially as the price of gold fluctuates. But with inflation on many investors' minds, it's possible that gold could again be on the rise. And that's what has been happening since April:

Gold Price in US Dollars Chart

Gold Price in US Dollars data by YCharts

While investing in gold miners isn't the same as investing in gold directly, the ETF has proven to follow similar patterns over the past five years:

Gold Price in US Dollars Chart

Gold Price in US Dollars data by YCharts

The fund can be a great way to diversify your holdings, and its expense ratio of just 0.39% is even lower than the U.S. Healthcare ETF. Whether you're bullish on gold prices or just want a way to offset the impact of inflation, the Global Gold Miners fund can be a solid option to hold today. While its five-year returns may not look stellar, remember -- that's because things were going well for the economy. In a downturn, those returns could look very different.

David Jagielski has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Johnson & Johnson and UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

iShares, Inc. - iShares MSCI Global Gold Miners ETF Stock Quote
iShares, Inc. - iShares MSCI Global Gold Miners ETF
RING
$19.95 (1.06%) $0.21
Barrick Gold Corporation Stock Quote
Barrick Gold Corporation
GOLD
$16.15 (1.57%) $0.25
Johnson & Johnson Stock Quote
Johnson & Johnson
JNJ
$161.91 (-1.94%) $-3.20
UnitedHealth Group Stock Quote
UnitedHealth Group
UNH
$519.13 (-1.51%) $-7.94
Newmont Corporation Stock Quote
Newmont Corporation
NEM
$44.89 (2.25%) $0.99
iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare Stock Quote
iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare
IYH
$261.60 (-1.13%) $-2.99

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