A Look at Vanguard's S&P 500 ETF
The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) is a fund that invests in the stocks of some of the largest companies within the United States. Vanguard's (VOO) is an exchange traded fund (ETF) that tracks the S&P 500 index by owning all of the equities within the S&P.
An index is a hypothetical portfolio of stocks or investments representing a specific portion of the market or the entire market. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) are both examples of broad-based indexes. Investors cannot invest in an index, per se. Instead, they can invest in funds that mirror an index by owning the stocks within the index.
The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF is a popular and reputable index fund. The S&P 500's investment return is considered a gauge of the overall U.S. stock market.
- The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) track's the S&P 500 index by investing in all of the stocks within the S&P 500.
- The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF is appealing for many investors since it's well-diversified and comprised of equities of large U.S. corporations.
- The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF offers low fees since the fund's management team is not actively trading by buying and selling stocks.
Understanding the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)
The S&P 500 represents 500 of the largest U.S. companies. The goal of the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) is to track the returns of the S&P 500 index.
The VOO is appealing for many investors since it's well-diversified and comprised of equities of large corporations—called large-cap stocks. Large-cap stocks tend to be more stable with a solid track record of profitability versus smaller companies.
The broad-based, diversified portfolio of stocks within the fund can help lessen, but not eliminate, the risk of loss in the event of a market correction. Some of the key characteristics of the Vanguard S&P 500 (as of August 31, 2021) include:
- Assets under management (AUM): $805.4 billion
- Expense ratio: 0.03%
- SEC Yield (30-day): 1.23%
- One-year performance: 31.05%
- Performance since the inception date of September 07, 2010: 16.10%
- Minimum investment: The price of one share
Please note that the SEC yield is a standardized metric mandated by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), which provides investors with a common yardstick for comparing the interest earned and dividend yield of various funds. Dividends are typically cash payments paid to investors by companies as a reward for owning their company's stock.
The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF's Largest Holdings
Listed below are the top ten holdings of the VOO along with their portfolio weightings, which in total make up nearly 30% of the fund's portfolio.
|Top Ten Holdings of Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)|
|Berkshire Hathaway Inc.||1.40%|
|JPMorgan Chase & Co.||1.30%|
|Johnson & Johnson||1.20%|
Equity Sector Diversification
Many funds contain equities from several sectors within the economy. A sector is a large grouping of companies organized by similar business activities, such as a product or service.
For example, the consumer staples sector represents essential goods, such as toilet paper, while the consumer discretionary sector represents non-essential goods, such as luxury items. Below is the weighting of each sector within the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF.
|Equity Sector Diversification for Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)|
|Equity Sector||Sector Weighting|
The Risk of Loss from Dangerous Theories
Think back to the real estate boom of the mid-2000s. A common theory as to why real estate prices would appreciate forever was: “They’re not building more land.” This theory meant that supply would be limited, which would lead to increased demand and continuously rising prices.
Unfortunately, many investors were unprepared for the impending real estate crash, which led to the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis in part due to loose lending practices.
Now consider a similar theory with U.S. stocks: “It’s the only place to put your money right now.” An added incentive for many investors has been that if everyone sees U.S. equities as the only place to put their money, it will continue to drive equity prices higher.
In other words, it's essential that investors not become complacent in thinking the market can only go up. With investing in the stock market, there is a risk of market downturns and corrections, which can lead to a significant decline in an investor's portfolio and financial loss.
Investors looking for a low-cost, low-maintenance fund that provides them with access to U.S. equity markets might opt for the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF. However, each investor must consider the level of risk they're willing to take when investing—called risk tolerance. Also, how long the money will be invested in the market should be considered.
Risk Tolerance and Time Horizon
Younger investors might opt to invest all their money in the equity markets since their portfolio has many years to make up for investment losses due to market corrections. Conversely, investors who are at or near retirement might opt for low-risk stocks and securities.
Risk-averse investors might buy U.S Treasury bonds and bills. Although the yield or interest is not always attractive, Treasuries are considered risk-free assets since they're backed by the U.S. Treasury. As a result, investors can't lose their principal or initial investment if the bond is held until its maturity or expiration date.
Rising and Falling Prices
Some investors concerned about the possibility of deflation, which is a decline in the prices of goods in an economy, may leave their money in cash. Although it may appear counterintuitive, if deflation occurs, the cash value in dollars can increase.
Conversely, some investors might be concerned about inflation, which is the pace at which prices increase in an economy. As a result, investors might invest in the stock market, including the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF, hoping to achieve a higher return rate than inflation.
Other investors might invest in securities that adjust for rising prices in the economy. For example, Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) are designed to adjust in price as inflation increases, protecting investors so that they never receive less than the original amount invested.
The Bottom Line
Investing in the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF is a passive investment strategy in which the fund tracks the performance of the S&P 500. In other words, the fund's management team is not actively trading by buying and selling stocks, which helps maintain the lower expense ratio.
Investing in Vanguard's VOO is a low-stress way for investors to access the U.S. equity market. However, there is the risk of loss as with any investment, and investors should consult a financial professional before investing in the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF.
Dan Moskowitz doesn't own shares of VOO.
Best S&P 500 ETFs for Q4 2021
The S&P 500 is a market-cap-weighted index of 505 large-cap U.S. stocks, representing approximately 80% of the market value of the U.S. stock market. Often synonymous with "the market" in the U.S., the S&P 500 is the closest thing to a default U.S. stock index. Its largest components by weight are mega-cap stocks such as Apple Inc. (AAPL), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), class A shares of Facebook Inc. (FB), and class A shares of Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL). The S&P 500 was the benchmark of the first index fund, and the first ETF. An S&P 500 ETF is an inexpensive way for investors to gain diversified exposure to the U.S. stock market, though it has been unusually volatile in the past year amid the coronavirus pandemic and massive disruptions in the global economy.
- The S&P 500 is a market-cap-weighted index of 505 large-cap U.S. stocks.
- The index has a 31.1% trailing 1-year total return.
- The S&P 500 ETFs with the lowest fees are SPLG, VOO, and IVV.
- The highest-liquidity ETF is SPY.
There are 4 ETFs tracking the S&P 500 that trade in the U.S., excluding inverse and leveraged funds. The S&P 500 has provided a total return of 31.1% over the past 12 months, as of Aug. 30, 2021. Below, we look at the least expensive S&P 500 ETFs for buy-and-hold investing and the most liquid one for more active traders. There is a three-way tie between the least expensive funds, an indication of just how intense the price war is as ETF issuers compete to both retain and add investors. All numbers below are from ETFdb.com and as of Aug. 30, 2021.
S&P 500 ETF with the Lowest Fees: SPDR Portfolio S&P 500 ETF (SPLG) (Tie)
Because index-tracking ETFs follow the performance of the S&P 500 index, one of the most important determinants of long-term returns is how much a fund charges in fees.
- Expense Ratio: 0.03%
- Performance over 1-Year: 31.0%
- Annual Dividend Yield: 1.27%
- 3-Month Average Daily Volume: 1,714,640
- Assets Under Management: $12.4 billion
- Inception Date: Nov. 8, 2005
- Issuer: State Street
S&P 500 ETF with the Lowest Fees: Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)(Tie)
- Expense Ratio: 0.03%
- Performance over 1-Year: 31.0%
- Annual Dividend Yield: 1.28%
- 3-Month Average Daily Volume: 3,619,505
- Assets Under Management: $254.5 billion
- Inception Date: Sept. 7, 2010
- Issuer: Vanguard
S&P 500 ETF with the Lowest Fees: iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) (Tie)
- Expense Ratio: 0.03%
- Performance over 1-Year: 31.0%
- Annual Dividend Yield: 1.25%
- 3-Month Average Daily Volume: 4,067,274
- Assets Under Management: $304.3 billion
- Inception Date: May 15, 2000
- Issuer: BlackRock Financial Management
Most Liquid S&P 500 ETF: SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY)
Liquidity indicates how easy it will be to trade an ETF, with higher liquidity generally translating to lower trading costs. Trading costs are not a big concern with people who want to hold ETFs long term. But if you’re interested in trading ETFs frequently, then it’s important to look for high-liquidity funds to minimize trading costs.
- 3-Month Average Daily Volume: 60,887,680
- Performance over 1-Year: 30.9%
- Expense Ratio: 0.09%
- Annual Dividend Yield: 1.24%
- Assets Under Management: $395.8 billion
- Inception Date: Jan. 22, 1993
- Issuer: State Street
The comments, opinions and analyses expressed herein are for informational purposes only and should not be considered individual investment advice or recommendations to invest in any security or to adopt any investment strategy. While we believe the information provided herein is reliable, we do not warrant its accuracy or completeness. The views and strategies described on our content may not be suitable for all investors. Because market and economic conditions are subject to rapid change, all comments, opinions, and analyses contained within our content are rendered as of the date of the posting and may change without notice. The material is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region, market, industry, investment, or strategy.
Best index funds in October 2021
Index funds are popular with investors because they promise ownership of a wide variety of stocks, greater diversification and lower risk – usually all at a low price. That’s why many investors, especially beginners, find index funds to be superior investments to individual stocks.
Among the best are index funds based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500). The index includes hundreds of the largest, globally diversified American companies across every industry, making it a relatively low-risk way to invest in stocks. Of course, as 2020 showed, even the whole market can fluctuate dramatically, especially if something momentous happens.
This index is the very definition of the market, and by owning a fund based on the index, you’ll get the market’s return, historically about 10 percent per year. It’s among the most popular indexes.
Here’s everything you need to know about index funds, including five of the top index funds to consider adding to your portfolio this year.
Best index funds for October 2021
The list below includes S&P 500 index funds from a variety of companies, and it includes some of the lowest-cost funds trading on the public markets. When it comes to an index fund like this, one of the most important factors in your total return is cost. Included are two mutual funds and three ETFs:
1. Fidelity ZERO Large Cap Index
2. Vanguard S&P 500 ETF
3. SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust
4. iShares Core S&P 500 ETF
5. Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund
1. Fidelity ZERO Large Cap Index (FNILX)
The Fidelity ZERO Large Cap Index mutual fund is part of the investment company’s foray into mutual funds with no expense ratio, thus its ZERO moniker. The fund doesn’t officially track the S&P 500 – technically it follows the Fidelity U.S. Large Cap Index – but the difference is academic. The real difference is that investor-friendly Fidelity doesn’t have to cough up a licensing fee to use the S&P name, keeping costs lower for investors.
Expense ratio: 0 percent. That means every $10,000 invested would cost $0 annually.
2. Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)
As its name suggests, the Vanguard S&P 500 tracks the S&P 500 index, and it’s one of the largest funds on the market with hundreds of billions in the fund. This ETF began trading in 2010, and it’s backed by Vanguard, one of the powerhouses of the fund industry.
Expense ratio: 0.03 percent. That means every $10,000 invested would cost $3 annually.
3. SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY)
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF is the granddaddy of ETFs, having been founded all the way back in 1993. It helped kick off the wave of ETF investing that has become so popular today. With hundreds of billions in the fund, it’s among the most popular ETFs. The fund is sponsored by State Street Global Advisors — another heavyweight in the industry — and it tracks the S&P 500.
Expense ratio: 0.09 percent. That means every $10,000 invested would cost $9 annually.
4. iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV)
The iShares Core S&P 500 ETF is a fund sponsored by one of the largest fund companies, BlackRock. This iShares fund is one of the largest ETFs and like these other large funds, it tracks the S&P 500. With an inception date of 2000, this fund is another long-tenured player that’s tracked the index closely over time.
Expense ratio: 0.03 percent. That means every $10,000 invested would cost $3 annually.
5. Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund (SWPPX)
With tens of billions in assets, the Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund is on the smaller side of the heavyweights on this list, but that’s not really a concern for investors. This mutual fund has a strong record dating back to 1997, and it’s sponsored by Charles Schwab, one of the most respected names in the industry. Schwab is especially noted for its focus on making investor-friendly products, as evidenced by this fund’s razor-thin expense ratio.
Expense ratio: 0.02 percent. That means every $10,000 invested would cost $2 annually.
Why are index funds so popular?
The S&P 500 index fund continues to be among the most popular index funds. S&P 500 funds offer a good return over time, they’re diversified and a relatively low-risk way to invest in stocks.
- Attractive returns – Like all stocks, the S&P 500 will fluctuate. But over time the index has returned about 10 percent annually. That doesn’t mean index funds make money every year, but over long periods of time that’s been the average return.
- Diversification – Investors like index funds because they offer immediate diversification. With one purchase, investors can own a wide swath of companies. One share of an index fund based on the S&P 500 provides ownership in hundreds of companies.
- Lower risk – Because they’re diversified, investing in an index fund is lower risk than owning a few individual stocks. That doesn’t mean you can’t lose money or that they’re as safe as a CD, for example, but the index will usually fluctuate a lot less than an individual stock.
- Low cost – Index funds can charge very little for these benefits, with a low expense ratio. For larger funds you may pay $3 to $10 per year for every $10,000 you have invested. In fact, one fund (listed above) charges you no expense ratio at all. When it comes to index funds, cost is one of the most important factors in your total return.
While some funds such as S&P 500 index funds allow you to own companies across industries, others own only a specific industry, country or even investing style (say, dividend stocks).
How to invest in an index fund in 3 easy steps
It’s surprisingly easy to invest in an index fund, but you’ll want to know what you’re investing in, not simply buy random funds that you know little about.
1. Choose an index fund to invest in
Your first step is finding what you want to invest in. While an S&P 500 index fund is the most popular index fund, they also exist for different industries, countries and even investment styles. So you need to consider what exactly you want to invest in and why it might hold opportunity:
- Location: Consider the geographic location of the investments. A broad index such as the S&P 500 owns American companies, while other index funds might focus on a narrower location (France) or an equally broad one (Asia-Pacific).
- Business: Which industry or industries is the index fund investing in? Is it invested in pharma companies making new drugs, or maybe tech companies? Some funds specialize in certain industries and avoid others.
- Market opportunity: What opportunity does the index fund present? Is the fund buying pharma companies because they’re making the next blockbuster drug or because they’re cash cows paying dividends? Some funds invest in high-yield stocks while others want high-growth stocks.
You’ll want to carefully examine what the fund is investing in, so you have some idea of what you actually own. Sometimes the labels on an index fund can be misleading. But you can check the index’s holdings to see exactly what’s in the fund.
2. Decide which index fund to buy
After you’ve found a fund you like, you can look at other factors that may make it a good fit for your portfolio. The fund’s expenses are huge factors that could make – or cost – you tens of thousands of dollars over time.
- Expenses: Compare the expenses of each fund you’re considering. Sometimes a fund based on a similar index can charge 20 times as much as another.
- Taxes: For certain legal reasons, mutual funds tend to be less tax-efficient than ETFs. At the end of the year many mutual funds pay a taxable capital gains distribution, while ETFs do not.
- Investment minimums: Many mutual funds have a minimum investment amount for your first purchase, often several thousand dollars. In contrast, many ETFs have no such rule, and your broker may even allow you to buy fractional shares with just a few dollars.
3. Purchase your index fund
After you’ve decided which fund fits in your portfolio, it’s time for the easy part – actually buying the fund. You can either buy directly from the mutual fund company or through a broker. But it’s usually easier to buy a mutual fund through a broker. And if you’re buying an ETF, you’ll need to go through your broker.
Things to consider when investing in index funds
As you’re looking at index funds, you’ll want to consider the following factors:
- Long-run performance: It’s important to track the long-term performance of the index fund (ideally at least five to ten years of performance) to see what your potential future returns might be. Each fund may track a different index or do better than another fund, and some indexes do better than others over time. Long-run performance is your best gauge to what you might expect in the future, but it’s no guarantee, either.
- Expense ratio: The expense ratio shows what you’re paying for the fund’s performance on an annual basis. For funds that track the same index, such as the S&P 500, it makes little sense to pay more than you have to. Other index funds may track indexes that have better long-term performance, potentially justifying a higher expense ratio.
- Trading costs: Some brokers offer very attractive prices when you’re buying mutual funds, even more so than the same mutual fund company itself. If you’re going with an ETF, virtually all major online brokers now allow you to trade without a commission. Also, if you’re buying a mutual fund, beware of sales loads, or commissions, which can easily lop off 1 or 2 percent of your money before it’s invested. These are easy to avoid by choosing funds carefully, such as those from Vanguard and many others.
- Fund options: Not all brokers will offer all mutual funds, however. So you’ll need to see whether your broker offers a specific fund family. In contrast, ETFs are typically available at all brokers because they’re all traded on an exchange.
- Convenience: It may be a lot easier to go with a mutual fund that your broker offers on its platform rather than open a new brokerage account. But going with an ETF instead of a mutual fund may also allow you to sidestep this issue.
Can an index fund investor lose everything?
Putting money into any market-based investment such as stocks or bonds means that investors could lose it all if the company or government issuing the security runs into severe trouble. However, the situation is a bit different for index funds because they’re often so diversified.
An index fund usually owns at least dozens of securities and may own potentially hundreds of them, meaning that it’s highly diversified. In the case of a stock index fund, for example, every stock would have to go to zero for the index fund, and thus the investor, to lose everything. So while it’s theoretically possible to lose everything, it doesn’t happen for standard funds.
That said, an index fund could underperform and lose money for years, depending on what it’s invested in. But the odds that an index fund loses everything are very low.
What is considered a good expense ratio?
Mutual funds and ETFs have among the cheapest average expense ratios, and the figure also depends on whether they’re investing in bonds or stocks. In 2020, the average stock index mutual fund charged 0.06 percent (on an asset-weighted basis), or $6 for every $10,000 invested. The average stock index ETF charged 0.18 percent (asset-weighted), or $18 for every $10,000 invested.
Index funds tend to be much cheaper than average funds. Compare the numbers above with the average stock mutual fund (on an asset-weighted basis), which charged 0.54 percent, or the average stock ETF, which charged 0.18 percent. While the ETF expense ratio is the same in each case, the cost for mutual funds generally is higher. Many mutual funds are not index funds, and they charge higher fees to pay the higher expenses of their investment management teams.
So anything below the average should be considered a good expense ratio. But it’s important to keep these costs in perspective and realize that the difference between an expense ratio of 0.10 percent and 0.05 percent is just $5 per year for every $10,000 invested. Still, there’s no reason to pay more for an index fund tracking the same index.
Is now a good time to buy index funds?
If you’re buying a stock index fund or almost any broadly diversified stock fund such as an S&P 500 fund, it can be a good time to buy. That’s because the market tends to rise over time, as the economy grows and corporate profits increase. In this regard, time is your best friend, because it allows you to compound your money, letting your money make money. That said, narrowly diversified index funds (such as funds focused on one industry) may do poorly for years.
Investors need to take a long-term mindset, however, and experts recommend adding money to the market regularly. You’ll take advantage of dollar cost averaging and lower your risk. A strong investing discipline can help you make money in the market over time. Investors should avoid timing the market, that is, jumping in and out of the market to capture gains and dodge losses.
Index fund FAQ
If you’re looking to get into index funds, you may still have a few more questions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that investors have about them.
How do index funds work?
An index fund is an investment fund – either a mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund (ETF) – that is based on a preset basket of stocks, or index. This index may be created by the fund manager itself or by another company such as an investment bank or a brokerage.
These fund managers then mimic the index, creating a fund that looks as much as possible like the index, without actively managing the fund. Over time the index changes, as companies are added and removed, and the fund manager mechanically replicates those changes in the fund.
Because of this approach, index funds are considered a type of passive investing, rather than active investing where a fund manager analyzes stocks and tries to pick the best performers.
This passive approach means that index funds tend to have low expense ratios, keeping them cheap for investors getting into the market.
Some of the most well-known indexes include the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq 100. Indexing is a popular strategy for ETFs to use, and most ETFs are based on indexes.
What sort of fees are associated with index funds?
Index funds may have a couple different kinds of fees associated with them, depending on which type of index fund:
- Mutual funds: Index funds sponsored by mutual fund companies may charge two kinds of fees: a sales load and an expense ratio.
- A sales load is just a commission for buying the fund, and it may happen when you buy or when you sell or over time. Investors can usually avoid these by going with an investor-friendly fund company such as Vanguard, Schwab or Fidelity.
- An expense ratio is an ongoing fee paid to the fund company based on the assets you have in the fund. Typically these are charged daily and come out of the account seamlessly.
- ETFs: Index funds sponsored by ETF companies (many of which also run mutual funds) charge only one kind of fee, an expense ratio. It works the same way as it would with a mutual fund, with a tiny portion seamlessly deducted each day you hold the fund.
ETFs have become more popular recently because they help investors avoid some of the higher fees associated with mutual funds. ETFs are also becoming popular because they offer other key advantages over mutual funds.
These are some of the best S&P 500 index funds on the market, offering investors a way to own the stocks of the S&P 500 at low cost, while still enjoying the benefits of diversification and lower risk. With those benefits, it’s no surprise that these are some of the largest funds on the market.
Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.
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