Retirement investing is not very fun. There are countless options and choices, and every financial firm or fund company is making endless pitches on what is the best for you. Moreover, decisions that you make today will have long-lasting impacts and could either speed up your retirement capability or severely restrict possible plans for what should be one of the best times in your life.
To deal with the risks and rewards of building a simple and straight-forward retirement portfolio, I have pulled together five easy-to-buy-and-own ETFs (exchange-traded funds) that form a benchmark of growth and income capabilities for a great and risk controlled portfolio.
And the best part of this collection is that it will work for any investor — from the beginner just embarking on their investment journey toward retirement to the more experienced retirement investor.
And because these ETFs are easy to buy in almost any retirement account, anyone can get started with a nominal initial investment. With lower fees and embedded expenses, these five will form an efficient retirement portfolio for years to come.
So, let us get started as I run you through my favorite retirement ETFs.
Favorite Retirement ETFs: SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY)
Expense Ratio: 0.09%, or $9 per $10,000 invested
The best building block for any retirement portfolio can be found in the benchmark for the general U.S. stock market in the S&P 500 Index. This is where I’m starting with the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSEARCA:SPY).
The S&P 500 provides longer term growth as not only the U.S. economy expands, but much of the world, as companies far and wide capitalize on U.S. economic growth.
Now, I am not daft enough to assume that the S&P 500 Index will always generate gains. After all, there have been plenty of down market corrections including the dramatic downturn of the 2007-2008. However, for retirement, the market has consistently proven to be one of the most reliable general builder of wealth with the past ten years providing gains from the tough to the current market of approaching 300%.
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust is offered by State Street Advisors with over 277 billion in assets and one of the lowest fee cost at a mere 0.09% making it one of the ideal means for efficiently acquiring exposure to this important foundation for any retirement investment portfolio.
And with U.S. economic growth accelerating — aided by the dramatic shift in the corporate U.S. tax code — expectations should be for yet further general positive performance.
Favorite Retirement ETFs: SPDR MSCI ACWI EX-US ETF (CWI)
Expense Ratio: 0.3%
Now that we have started your retirement portfolio with the benchmark of the U.S. stock market, we can add to it by bringing the equivalent of the globe’s leading stock markets with the SPDR MSCI ACWI EX-US ETF (NYSEARCA:CWI). This ETF tracks the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) without U.S. stocks.
The benefit of this ETF is that while the U.S. is one of the leading markets and economies, the rest of the world is also growing and expanding. This gives you the ability to have the benefits of leading companies around the globe that sell their products and services around the planet.
Right now, all of the leading economies in the world are experiencing economic expansion. From Europe to Asia and beyond, recoveries are either underway or even better. This is bringing large-scale investments to markets far and wide.
This ETF provides easy and direct access to the leading stocks of the leading markets that are not in the U.S. — providing a balance with the SPDR S&P 500. This ETF is also offered by State Street Advisors and while smaller in assets — it still is of size at over $1.5 billion. And while the expenses are a bit higher at 0.3% — that’s needed as the cost to process and trade across multiple global markets are higher than for just the regular U.S. S&P 500 stocks.
And with expectations for further global expansion, this ETF will provide that extra growth to build out a wealthier retirement.
Favorite Retirement ETFS: Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
Expense Ratio: 0.12%
Every successful retirement portfolio has both growth and income. Income-generating investments work to provide cushions when general stock market conditions are jittery. And income, even if not being taken, can be re-invested and built up to effectively expand the value of any portfolio.
And when it comes to combining growth and income, real estate is an ideal hybrid of a market. It generates plenty of current income from rents, leases and other revenues while also growing in value, as it’s limited in absolute supplies in key markets. And it generates lots of steady and rising cash.
This is where the Vanguard REIT Index Fund (NYSEARCA:VNQ) comes in.
The ETF tracks the MSCI US REITs index and as such provides exposure to commercial, hospitality, residential and all sorts of other income generating real estate.
It is ideal in that it provides broad exposure to the real estate market, which balances out the vagaries of individual segments of the market.
And with Vanguard, the ETF has massive size for liquidity and controlled risk of individual real estate companies. And with the expenses at a mere 0.12%, it is a very frugal means of putting growth and income for your retirement portfolio.
Favorite Retirement ETFs: First Trust Preferred Securities and Income ETF (FPE)
Expense Ratio: 0.85%
I’m continuing the growth and income for the next component of this retirement portfolio with one of my favorite parts of the markets — preferred stocks.
Back in 1830, preferred shares were first introduced by railroad companies that needed additional capital to expand lines and services from the east to the expanding western markets in the U.S.
Preferred shares provide the dependability of set and higher dividends than for common stock while also providing credit protection for investors that get capital back if there is unforeseen trouble way before common stock holders see a penny. So, they are like a bond in their security — but they also provide the growth benefits in that their prices will reflect the growth and success of the issuing companies.
But despite the attractiveness of preferred stocks for longer-term investing, they tend to trade with less frequency and there are fewer of them than common stocks. Costs can also be higher to trade them.
However, our next ETF solves these issues with liquidity and a lower expense cost.
The First Trust Preferred Securities and Income ETF (NYSEARCA:FPE) is one of the relatively newer “active” ETFs that do not track an index, but rather track the securities chosen by the asset manager.
First Trust has been a specialist in income investing and has a series of closed end funds especially in preferred and other income-focused investments that have performed well over the past many years.
With the ETF, First Trust provides the eased access of the liquid market for exchange-traded funds, arguably with the potential for closer to net asset values for their closed end funds in preferred shares.
And with a yield in the 5% range, and gains that mirror the successful U.S. stock market, this is yet another great hybrid investment of income and growth for your retirement portfolio.
Favorite Retirement ETFs: PIMCO 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond Index ETF (HYS)
Expense Ratio: 0.55%
Every retirement portfolio needs a balance of cash, stocks and other securities to offer the benefits of balancing out the zigs and zags of the markets and the economy. But too often investors keep too much cash in lower-yielding funds that don’t really pull much of their weight for the performance of the portfolio.
An alternative is an ETF that focuses on short-term bonds that are not only highly insulated from interest rate risk of rising rates – but also of credit risk of the underlying borrowers.
The effect is that the ETF provides lots of current income as a cash alternative while protecting principal from issuer risk.
The PIMCO 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond Index ETF (NYSEARCA:HYS) tracks the Bank of American Merrill Lynch 0-5 Year High Yield Constrained Index. This index focuses on U.S. corporation bonds with maturities from less than one year to no more than five years.
This means that investors tracking this index get the advantages of higher-yielding bonds from lesser credit-rated companies with less risk of rising interest rates and less risk of default given the short maturities.
It makes for a great cash alternative as part of our retirement portfolio and can be used to park dividends for re-investment over time as part of this retirement ETFs portfolio.
As of this writing, Neil George did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.