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ETF List: The Best (Low-Cost) ETFs

Quick note: This article focuses on ETFs from the perspective of a buy & hold investor. If you’re looking for information for more active investors, I’d suggest signing up for a Morningstar account. (It’s free.)

Last week’s post on the best/lowest-cost index funds went company-by-company. One of the nice things about ETFs is that all you need is a discount brokerage account somewhere, and you can pick and choose between ETF providers–no need to stick with just one company.

In that vein, this week’s comparison of ETFs  is sorted by asset class rather than by company. Really, it’s just a shopping list of sorts: The lowest-cost ETFs that I’ve found for each asset class. If you know of others that should be added (or any that should be replaced with something else), please feel free to share. 🙂

Update: Because of the fact that Vanguard now allows investors to trade Vanguard ETFs with no commissions in a Vanguard brokerage account, I’ve used Vanguard  ETFs wherever possible. (In most cases, they have the lowest expense ratios as well.)

Domestic Stock ETFs

Asset Class Name Ticker ER
Total Stock Market Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF VTI 0.07%
Large-Cap Blend Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF VOO 0.06%
Large-Cap Value Vanguard Value ETF VTV 0.14%
Large-Cap Growth Vanguard Growth ETF VUG 0.14%
Small-Cap Blend Vanguard Small-Cap ETF VB 0.14%
Small-Cap Value Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF VBR 0.14%
Small-Cap Growth Vanguard Small-Cap Growth ETF VBK 0.14%

International Stock ETFs

Asset Class Name Ticker ER
Developed Markets:
Large-Cap Blend Vanguard Europe Pacific ETF VEA 0.15%
Large-Cap Value iShares MSCI EAFE Value Index EFV 0.40%
Mid-Cap Value WisdomTree Interntnl SmallCap Div DLS 0.58%
Emerging Markets:
Large-Cap Blend Vanguard Emrg Mkts ETF VWO 0.27%
Emrg & Devlpd Markets:
Large-Cap Blend Vngrd FTSE All-World Ex-U.S. ETF VEU 0.25%
Mid-Cap Blend Vngrd FTSE AW ex-US Sm-Cap ETF VSS 0.40%

Bond ETFs

Asset Class Name Ticker ER
Short-Term Bond Vanguard Short-Term Bond ETF BSV 0.12%
Interm-Term Bond Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF BND 0.12%
Interm-Term Gov’t Vanguard Inter-Term Gov’t Bond ETF VGIT 0.15%
Long-Term Gov’t Vanguard Long-Term Gov’t Bond ETF VGLT 0.15%
Long-Term Bond Vanguard Long-Term Bond ETF BLV 0.12%
TIPS iShares Barclays TIPS Bond TIP 0.20%

Alternative Asset Class ETFs

Asset Class Name Ticker ER
REITs Vanguard REIT ETF VNQ 0.13%
Precious Metals (Gold) SPDR Gold Trust ETF GLD 0.40%

Too Much of a Good Thing

In my opinion, that very same flexibility–the ability to buy 800 different ETFs from one discount brokerage account–is also the danger of ETF investing. It’s easy to get carried away tinkering with your portfolio, when the reality is that most of us would be better served by simply buying a handful of ETFs and holding them as long as we can.

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