One of the prime advantages of index funds is their low fees. And since they passively track benchmark indices, you may as well buy the funds with the lowest expense ratios. In that spirit, we highlight 7 great index funds with super low fees.
But before we discuss these the funds, it’s wise to provide the criteria for our search. How do you know what’s great if we don’t define what great is? Here’s how we selected our great index funds with super low fees:
- Low expense ratios: How low is super low? This is an obvious one but we eliminated index funds with expenses of 0.10% or higher. Thus, super low is in the single digit, hundredths of a percent range. That’s less than $10 for every $10,000 invested!
- Long-term track record: Performance isn’t a high consideration for a passively-managed fund, especially if it does a good job of tracking its index. But how do you know if the fund tracks the index without a track record? We threw out any funds less than three years old.
- High assets under management: Since we’re highlighting ETFs, it’s important to have high liquidity and low bid-ask spreads. This is where assets come into play. We threw out funds with less than $5 billion in AUM.
- Diverse categories: We don’t want to show you a list of S&P 500 index funds with nothing else to consider. So we threw in some low-cost funds from other categories.
For a quick preview, and in no particular order, here 7 index funds to buy with super low fees:
- iShares Core S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:IVV)
- Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSEARCA:VTI)
- Vanguard Mid-Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:VO)
- Schwab U.S. Small Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:SCHA)
- Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (NYSEARCA:VYM)
- SPDR Portfolio Developed World ex-U.S. ETF (NYSEARCA:SPDW)
- iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond (NYSEARCA:AGG)
As a bonus, since we’ve chosen funds from diverse categories, these low-cost ETFs could collectively be used to build a portfolio.
Index Funds With Super Low Fees: iShares Core S&P 500 (IVV)
AUM: $242 billion
There are only a small handful of S&P 5o0 index funds with expense ratios below 0.05% and iShares Core S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:IVV) is arguably the best among them.
With an expense ratio of just 0.03% and assets totaling $242 billion, you get a giant, super cheap ETF that tracks the S&P 500 index, the benchmark that every active manager wants to beat. And when expenses are this low, index funds like this are even more difficult to beat.
Since IVV tracks the S&P 500, shareholders get exposure to about 500 of the largest U.S. equities as measured by market cap. As such, the portfolio includes giant stocks like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
Oh, and one more thing: if you’re building a portfolio of cheap ETFs, IVV would make a solid core holding.
Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI)
AUM: $206 billion
It’s only fitting that a broadly diversified index fund with super low fees, in this case Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSEARCA:VTI) comes from the king of cheap index funds, Vanguard.
Vanguard has loads of cheap index funds but VTI is one of its cheapest, coming in at a rock bottom expense ratio of 0.03%. You’d be hard pressed to find such a diversified fund with expenses as low as this.
For shareholders who want to cover more of the market than the S&P 500 offers, VTI gets the job done with a basket of nearly 3,600 U.S. stocks of all market cap sizes. If you’re not familiar with cap-weighted funds, keep in mind that, although VTI covers the entire U.S. stock market, the heaviest weights (the highest allocations) go to the largest of the large-caps. This also means that the smallest of the small-caps get the lowest allocation weights.
In summary, VTI is broadly diversified but has the heaviest allocation to the mega-cap stocks like AAPL, MSFT and AMZN. This means that the fund will perform in a similar way as an S&P 500 index fund.
Vanguard Mid-Cap ETF (VO)
AUM: $42.6 billion
Vanguard gets another mention in our set of cheap index funds with Vanguard Mid-Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:VO).
If you’re not taking the total stock market fund core holding approach on your portfolio construction, VO is an outstanding choice to compliment an S&P 500 index fund and a small-cap index fund by adding a low-cost basket of mid-cap stocks to your mix.
VO tracks the CRSP US Mid Cap Index, which represents 346 U.S. stocks in the mid-range of market capitalization. Shareholders get an ETF that can match the performance of a mid-cap index, less just a few pennies per thousand in fees. Stocks in the index aren’t all household names but still have growth potential.
Schwab U.S. Small-Cap ETF (SCHA)
AUM: $13.6 billion
Small-cap index funds with extremely low expenses are not easy to find but we found a great one in Schwab U.S. Small-Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:SCHA).
Schwab has several low-cost ETFs to choose from but we picked SCHA for the small-cap space. This dirt cheap ETF tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Small-Cap Total Stock Market Index, which consists of about 1800 U.S. small-cap stocks, averaging $3.19 billion in market cap.
SCHA also has long track record (dating back to November 2009) and its extremely low expenses pay off over time, as seen in the performance history. For example, the 10-year annualized return in market price is 11.6%. Compare that to 9.8% for all funds in the small-blend category and you can see a winning fund for long-term investors.
Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM)
AUM: $38.6 billion
Cheap ETFs can be a smart way to get high yields and Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (NYSEARCA:VYM) is great fund to accomplish this objective.
With a current yield of 3.17%, VYM gives you more than double the yield of the S&P 500, which is 1.52%. At the same time, you get the extremely low expense ratio of 0.06%, assets of $38.6 billion and a track record of 14 years on the market.
A bonus for VYM is that growth stocks are looking increasingly expensive, which means that high-quality, value-oriented stocks could be the market performers for the foreseeable future.
SPDR Portfolio Developed World ex-U.S. ETF (SPDW)
AUM: $9.4 billion
It’s a rare thing to see a super cheap fund with a track record that invests in foreign stocks but SPDR Portfolio Developed World ex-U.S. ETF (NYSEARCA:SPDW) is one such fund.
SPDW tracks the S&P Developed ex-U.S. BMI Index, which offers broad exposure to stocks in developed countries outside of the U.S. More specifically, the portfolio consists of about 2200 foreign stocks, which are primarily large-caps like Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF), Nestle (OTCMKTS:NSRGY) and Roche Holding (OTCMKTS:RHHBY).
An additional reason to hold passively-managed foreign stock funds is that overseas markets can be challenging and expensive to trade here in the U.S. This makes a super cheap international stock index fund like SPDW a smart holding to fill your ex-U.S. space.
iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond (AGG)
AUM: $84.7 billion
Combining all our stated search criteria of low expenses, high assets, and long track record, iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond (NYSEARCA:AGG) wins the core bond title in our search.
If you’re looking for an ultra-cheap ETF to fill your core bond holding space, AGG is an outstanding fund to do the job for you. AGG tracks the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index, which covers the entire U.S. bond market of over 8,000 bonds.
Since the bond market can be more challenging (and more expensive) to navigate than the stock market, investors are wise to simply hold a low-cost, broadly diversified index fund like AGG, rather than an actively-managed fund.
On the date of publication, Kent Thune did not personally hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. However, he holds IVV and AGG in some client accounts. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities.