How to Invest in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) | A Powerful Guide for Beginners

Exchange traded funds are an easy and affordable way to add diversification to your investment portfolio. In the U.S. market, ETFs alone hold more than $4.4 trillion.

How to Invest in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)? 

Steps to start your investment journey in ETFs are:

1. Pick your ETF Investing Goals and Timeframe

Before getting into how to invest in exchange traded funds, decide what financial goals you want to achieve. Which exchange traded funds make the most sense for your portfolio depends on how you intend to use the returns from your ETF investments.

How to Invest In Exchange Traded Funds

The four main types of ETFs that you should add to your asset allocation are:

Bond ETFs: You are investing in hundreds of bonds at once when you buy a bond ETF. Bond exchange-traded funds are also referred to as fixed-income ETFs. They are less volatile, which means their value remains relatively constant. This is a good investment if you want stability in your portfolio or want to invest for the short-term. Your portfolio should be 70% or more in bonds if your investment goal is a few years away.

• International ETFs: Investing in international stocks and bonds can add diversification to your portfolio. International ETFs allow you easy access to businesses both inside and outside of the United States. International ETFs should make up no more than 40% of your stock investments.  

• Stock ETFs: Stock ETFs offer greater returns with higher risk than bond funds. Stock ETFs are good investments for long-term investors, such as those in retirement. Your portfolio should be mostly in stocks if you are decades away from your investment goals. This will give your money the best time to grow.

• Sector ETFs: Sector ETFs let you focus on individual sectors or industries if you’d prefer to narrow your exchange-traded fund investing strategy. Industries like energy and healthcare have the potential for high growth. But it comes with high risk because the industry can suffer losses that can affect your investment. This is why you should make up only a small portion of your portfolio.

Identifying our investment timeline is an important part of deciding financial goals. Consider less risky ETF options if you need money sooner for a goal such as home down payment. If you are thinking about long-term goals like retirement, you can take a risk with stock ETFs.

2. Research Potential ETF Investments

There are thousands of ETFs available to choose from, not just four. You should do your research completely to find potential ETF investments. Important points to consider while choosing and comparing ETFs are:

• Constituent Investments: If you want your investment dollars to go to business practises, broad indexes may make your investment difficult. That’s because they force you to invest in all companies in a particular index. Screen for ETFs that follow value-based indexing if your ETF investments are important to you. Both ESG- and SRI-based indexes are available for these investments.

• Underlying Benchmark: ETFs are almost always index funds. Like the S&P 500, they try to copy the performance of a market benchmark index. Pay attention to which index it models itself on when selecting an ETF. Sometimes same-category indexes can contain different securities and companies. It’s important to be aware of which benchmark index ETFs are tracking.  

How to Invest in Exchange Traded Funds

• Active or Passive Management: Passively managed funds are the most commonly used in investment. Passive managed ETFs focus on tracking an underlying benchmark index. On the other hand, actively managed funds are managed by experts, and they try to outperform a certain benchmark index. Actively managed ETFs are focused on returns, which is why they often charge a higher expense ratio than passively managed funds. The fact that historically, index funds have performed better than actually managed funds. So in actively manage funds, you end up paying more for bad performance.

• Expense Ratio: The expense ratio is what you pay to run the ETFs you invest in. As compared to mutual funds, ETFs have lower expense ratios, but a slightly different ETF can have very different expense ratios. These slightly small annual fees can help your returns. So try to find an ETF with low expense ratios.

For research on ETFs, the Morningstar and sites can help you find investments in different funds.

3. Open a Brokerage Account to Buy ETFs

You need to open a brokerage account to invest in EFTs. There are many options to choose, you have to choose according to your investing goals. Some of the most famous brokerage accounts are:

• Taxable investment accounts: In taxable investment accounts, you have to pay taxes on capital gains. But with this account, you can make penalty free withdrawals at any time. This is a good choice for investors, except for retirement.

• IRAs: Individual retirement accounts allow you to buy and sell investments without any capital gain taxes. Investing in EFTs via IRAs is an excellent way to save for retirement.

• Custodial accounts: Custodial funds are a special type of fund that allows you to buy ETF investments on behalf of children. When your child reaches a given age (18 to 25 years), they become the owner of the account and can use the ETF as they want. But before then, funds can be used according to the benefit of the child account owner.

• 529 Plans: These accounts are used for education expenses, and they are tax-advantaged accounts. 529 plans offer tax-free growth and withdrawals if used for qualified education purposes or expenses.

• Robo-advisors: This platform is completely automated and is used to build portfolios of ETFs for you. The portfolio depends on your financial goals and your risk tolerance. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage and build your portfolio. This platform offers good service, but it may cost you more than it would on your own. If you are comfortable paying additional fees, then this platform is best for you.

These ETF investing accounts are offered by the majority of large brokerages. Each account has its own requirements and process. Remember to check the firm’s investment minimums before opening a brokerage account.

4. Plan to Keep Investing in ETFs

Adding money to your investment portfolio gradually and steadily is a great plan for the majority of investors. In ETF investing, there are no minimum purchase amounts, like with mutual funds, and online brokerages allow you to buy fractional shares of ETFs. With this, you can start investing even if you don’t have enough to buy full shares.

You are leveraging dollar-cost-averaging when you make smaller but regular purchases of ETFs. Making regular investments— weekly, monthly, or quarterly— can help investors reduce the chance of accidentally investing their money when the prices are high. 

It’s a good idea to review your ETF portfolio once per year once you’ve started regularly investing. To remain on track with your goals, you need to rebalance your allocations or buy or sell certain investments. If you don’t want to do this kind of stuff, robo-advisors are a good choice for you.

5. Consider your existing ETF strategy

Investments for the long-term are wise, but in the end, you need to sell your ETFs and make profits from your investment. You are doing what’s called realizing a capital gain when you sell an investment at a profit. It means your initial investment has increased in value.

You are doing what’s called realizing a capital gain, when you sell an investment at a profit. It means your initial investment has increased in value. Your increase in value is taxable income. The rate you pay depends upon how long you have held the investment and many other factors.

You can effectively avoid these capital gains taxes if your long-term goal is retirement and your investments are within your tax-advantaged retirement account, like a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. Your investment gains will never be taxed on a Roth IRA, as long as you don’t touch them before age 59 ½. You won’t be taxed with a traditional IRA until you start making withdrawals from it in retirement. In the end, your tax payments will be based on your current income and not short-term capital gains rates.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

How to start an exchange traded funds? 

Starting an exchange-traded fund can be complicated for new investors. Some basic steps to start investing in ETFs are:

1. Create a business plan

2. Choose a legal structure

3. Hire a service provider

4. Register with the SEC

5. Obtain an exchange listing

6. Launch the EFT

How do I start investing in ETF? 

If you want to know how to invest in exchange traded funds, follow these steps to start investing in ETFs are given below:

1. Determine your investment goals

2. Choose a brokerage firm

3. Select ETFs

4. Place your order

5. Monitor your investments

What are exchange traded funds? 

Exchange-traded funds are investment funds that trade like stocks. ETFs trade all day long on an exchange like stocks do. ETFs allow investors to buy and sell shares at market prices. EFTs are less expensive than mutual funds. ETFs can be used for diversification, income generation, and speculation.

Can you buy ETFs when the stock market is open? 

Yes, you can buy whenever the stock market is open. ETFs trade like stocks; their prices fluctuate throughout the trading day.

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