Michael Johnston: As billions of dollars have flowed into exchange-traded products over the past several years, some asset classes and strategies have attracted particularly high levels of interest (and cash) from investors. Dividend ETFs in particular have become quite popular as investors have sought to build portfolios around securities that generate consistent and meaningful cash flows. There are now more than four dozen dividend ETFs–products that focus in one way or another on stocks that make payouts to their shareholders.
Focusing on the subsets of stock markets that pay dividends generally requires ETF investors to pay a bit more in expenses. But those looking to keep fees down still have dividend ETFs. Below, we profile a handful of dividend-focused ETFs with relatively low expense ratios [see the highest rated dividend stocks]:
- Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (NYSEARCA:VIG)
Vanguard’s VIG is one of the most popular dividend ETFs, and no doubt part of the tremendous interest comes from the rock bottom expense ratio. VIG is linked to an index consisting of companies that have consistently raised dividends over the past ten years, delivering access to a group of securities that make stable payouts.
VIG charges an annual expense ratio of 0.13%, making it one of the cheapest dividend ETF available to U.S. investors and also one of the cheapest ETFs regardless of investment objective. VIG is eligible for commission-free trading in TD Ameritrade, Vanguard and Firstrade accounts [see high yielding dividend stocks].
- High Dividend Yield ETF (NYSEARCA:VYM)
Another Vanguard dividend ETF is at the top of this list. VYM has some overlap with VIG, but implements a slightly different dividend-centric strategy. Instead of focusing on the most consistent dividend payer, it picks those U.S. stocks with the highest yields. As a result, VYM will generally have a higher distribution yield, but will include stocks with shorter histories of paying out money to their shareholders. The index this fund follows is derived from the U.S. component of the FTSE Global Equity Index Services.
VYM charges an annual expense ratio of 0.13%, making it, along with VIG, one of the cheapest dividend ETF available to U.S. investors. VYM can be traded commission-free in TD Ameritrade and Vanguard accounts.
- US Dividend Equity ETF (NYSEARCA:SCHD)
Charles Schwab’s SCHD follows the Dow Jones US Dividend 100 Index, which only follows consistent dividend paying stocks in the United States. The other criteria for being included in this index is the fundamental strength and comparative financial ratios of each firm compared to others in their sector.
Schwab’s ETFs are often among the cheapest options out there, and this one is no different; SCHD charges an annual expense ratio of 0.17%. It’s also eligible for commission-free trading in Schwab accounts [for insights on dividend stocks, sign up for the free Dividend.com newsletter].
- LargeCap Dividend Fund (DLN)
This ETF, like many in the WisdomTrNYSEARCA:ee family, is linked to a fundamentally-weighted index that includes dividend-paying stocks. DLN’s portfolio consists of large cap U.S. stocks that make the largest cash distributions annually; the biggest individual weightings are AT&T (NYSE:T), Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).
DLN charges an annual expense ratio of 0.28%, and can be traded commission-free in E*TRADE accounts.
- Total Dividend Fund (NYSEARCA:DTD)
This ETF seeks to replicate the WisdomTree Dividend Index, which is a fundamentally weighted index that follows U.S. companies that have paid regular cash dividends and meet liquidity requirements set by the index. It’s generally similar to DLN, but includes smaller companies in its portfolio as well; DTD can be used as a way to achieve very broad-based exposure to U.S. equities.
DTD also charges an annual expense ratio of 0.28%.
- ETRACS Monthly Pay 2x Leveraged S&P Dividend ETN (NYSEARCA:SDYL)
SDYL is unique from the other products on this list; it is structured as an ETN and offers monthly 2x leverage to the underlying index, which consists of the 50 highest dividend-yielding stocks on the S&P 1500 that have also increased dividends for at least 25 years. The result of adding leverage to this benchmark is impressive yield potential; the 2x yield on the underlying index is close to 7%. While this ETN has a very high income potential, it is worth noting that there are added risks when investing in highly leveraged funds.
SCHD charges an annual tracking fee of just 0.30%.
- High Dividend Yield ETF (NYSEARCA:HDIV)
HDIV is managed by Russell and follows the Russell US Large Cap High Dividend Yield Index, which is designed to invest in high-yielding dividend companies based in the United States. These companies also must have shown dividend growth and sustained profits over a period of time. HDIV charges an annual expense ratio of just 0.33%.
Unfortunately, this ETF won’t be around for long; Russell recently announced that it will shutter most of its existing ETF lineup in the fourth quarter of this year.
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