I know it’s a shocker to think there are sharks on Wall Street simply looking for a group of sucker investors to make them a quick buck. But sometimes the gall or silliness of these stock market charlatans is almost too much to bear.
This morning, while doing some research into dividend ETFs and income mutual funds, I encountered a disturbing fact: Many so-called dividend funds actually are heavily invested in stocks that pay a dividend of less than 1% — with some not paying a penny in dividends at all.
In this volatile market, many investors are running for cover in income investments and safe-haven dividend stocks with high yield. (Personally, I think this is a wise move — and I recently highlighted my 5 top picks for great returns and great dividends). But before you jump into a random dividend fund, take note: At some ETFs or mutual funds, the top holdings are far from true dividend stocks, regardless of what the strategy or the manager claims.
Check out the very suspect makeup of the Fidelity Dividend Growth Fund (MUFT:FDGFX) for a cautionary tale. This big-time Fidelity mutual fund has almost $8.5 billion under management. But top holdings in this fund include Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which doesn’t pay a dime in dividends, and toxic bank Citigroup (NYSE:C) which pays a mere penny per quarter for a whopping 0.1% yield. Another great member of this fund’s top 10 holdings is Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), with a yield of about 0.8%.
When your dividend investment is chasing tech stocks and toxic banks with paltry yields, you know something is fishy. Income investors should be very wary of FDGFX and other fake income funds like it.
So where can investors turn to find great income in ETFs if some so-called dividend funds are just engaging in false advertising? Here are five good choices:
The Guggenheim Multi-Asset Income ETF (NYSE:CVY) is a unique ETF in the dividend space, seeking both high income and superior risk/return profiles. Holdings include preferred shares of financials that yield north of 7.5%, as well as cash-rich dividend blue chips like Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), which yields over 3.8%. Check out the full holdings here.
The WisdomTree Dividend ex-Financials Fund (NYSE:DTN) is another great option. In typical WisdomTree form, it is crammed with blue-chip tobacco, utility and telecom stocks with yields north of 5%. Check out more on WisdomTree’s site.
The iShares High Dividend Equity Fund (NYSE:HDV) is another example of conventional dividend stocks with big consumer names. However, this ETF skews more toward consumer staples and pharma than the previously mentioned WisdomTree offering. Read more about the fund’s holdings and makeup here.
The PowerShares International Dividend Achiever ETF (NYSE:PID) is a great option for folks looking overseas but still pursuing mammoth dividends. It is made up of utility stocks and telecoms, like many good funds. Only these all have a distinct international flavor — including Spain’s Telefonica (NYSE:TEF) and Israel’s Partner Communications (NASDAQ:PTNR), both of which boast double-digit yields. Check out the full lineup of holdings here.
Lastly, the iShares S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index Fund (NYSE:PFF) is a great option to get income outside of funds that invest in the common stock of conventional dividend-paying blue chips. Preferred stock long has been an appealing asset class for investors looking to enhance their regular payouts, and this iShares fund does it well, with high-yielding preferred from stocks like General Motors (NYSE:GM) and many financials. Obviously there’s a bit more risk here, but the income potential is very high from preferred shares. Just look at Buffett’s $5 billion buy-in to preferred shares at Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) for proof.
Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks or funds named here. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.