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  • Aaron Meaders

The Supreme Guide to Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) | The Treasury of the People

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are a class of investment that operate in ways that are comparable to mutual funds. Normally, they work to track particular assets like indexes, commodities, or sectors. However, they differ from mutual funds in that they are able to be sold or purchased on an exchange in the same manner as traditional stock.

They are able to be configured for tracking nearly anything. This includes but is not limited to the price of individual commodities to diverse collections of securities. What’s more, they can even track unique investment strategies.

The very first ETF in circulation was designed to track the index of the S&P 500, a list of the top 500 publicly traded corporations in the United States, considered leaders of their respective industries. Like stocks, the share prices fluctuate throughout the course of the day as an ETF is purchased and sold. A key benefit to them is the offer of low expense ratios and reduced commissions for brokers.



ETFs are funds that hold a multitude of underlying assets instead of a single one like a typical stock. Due to this, they are extremely popular as an option for diversification. Instead of a single asset, ETFs can include hundreds or even thousands of stocks than span multiple industries, or simply be isolated to one. Many funds tend to focus on domestic offerings, yet others have an international outlook. For instance, ETFs that are banking-focused contain stocks of specific banks.

One of the best features of ETFs is the fact that they are marketable securities with share prices that can not only be bought low and sold high throughout the day but can also be sold short. In America, the majority of ETFs are founded as open-ended funds, which are pools of money that do not place limits on the number of investors involved.


Passive & Active

Generally speaking, ETFs are characterized by how they are managed. The main types include passive and active. Passive ETFs try to replicate a broader index in terms of performance like the S&P 500 or a more specific trend. One such example includes gold mining stocks. Conversely, active ETFs don’t tend to target security indexes, but instead, use portfolio managers who are responsible for making decisions about which assets that include in a portfolio. Such funds are beneficial over passive ETFs but often cost more for investors.

Various types of ETFs exist for investors to purchase for the purposes of income generation, price increases, speculation, or to hedge in a given portfolio. Here is a description of common ETFs that are available on the market.



These are utilized as regular income streams for investors. The distribution of income for these ETFs depends on how the underlying bonds perform. The bonds themselves may include municipal bonds, government bonds, local and state bonds, or corporate bonds. There is no maturity date for bond ETFs, and they typically trade at either a discount or premium from the price of the bonds.


Equity ETFs include a collection of stocks that track specific sectors or industries. For instance, these may track foreign or automotive stocks. Regardless, the goal is to provide a single industry with diversified exposure, with one including new entrants that have the potential to grow and are high performers. When compared to mutual funds, these ETFs do not include ownership of securities and have lower trading fees.


Sector / Industry

These are funds that are designed to target specific industries or sectors. Energy sector ETFs deal with companies that operate in the energy industry, for instance. They help achieve exposure to the positive trends in a given industry by tracking the performance of the best companies. Volatile performance negatively impacts traditional stocks but is curtailed by ETFs as there is no direct ownership.



Funds for commodities can be observed in examples like gold or crude oil. They serve to diversify portfolios and make it painless to hedge downturns. They also provide cushions during stock market slumps. Lastly, holding commodity ETFs is cheaper than physically owning the commodities themselves.


Start Investing in ETFs

Modern technology has made it easier than ever to begin trading, and this bonus extends to ETFs. The first thing to do is find a proper investing platform. These assets are available on the vast majority including investment applications like Robinhood. Many provide trading at no commission, so you will not have to pay a broker to buy and sell ETFs. However, this does not mean that the provider of the ETF will provide access to other assets without the associated fees.

Service-based platforms set themselves apart through product variety, convenience, and services. For instance, investing applications allow for the execution of trades at a single button on a smartphone. While this is not the case for every broker, many will extend the convenience offered to even provide educational content surrounding ETFs.

Another critical step to successfully investing in ETFs is to research them. There is a wide array of different ETFs available on the modern market. One element to keep in mind when researching is that ETFs consider the greater picture in terms of an industry or sector. This means understanding your personal investment time frame, the purpose of the investment (whether for growth or income), interest in specific sectors, and general trading strategy.

If you plan to invest, it’s recommended to spread out your costs over a stretch of time. This allows for smoothening of curves and price fluctuations, ensuring a more disciplined approach. Furthermore, it provides education on the nuances of investing in ETFs in general. When people are more comfortable with executing trades, investors can consider more sophisticated approaches such as sector rotation and swing trading.


Advantages and Disadvantages

ETFs offer lower than average costs because it’s incredibly expensive for an investor to purchase every single individual stock held in a portfolio. They only need to execute a single transaction for purchasing and a single transaction for selling, leading to lower commissions because there are only several trades performed by investors. While brokers normally charge commissions for trades, others reduce costs by removing commissions entirely.

The expense ratio of an ETF represents the cost of managing and operating the fund. They often have reduced expense ratios due to the fact that they track an index, making it far less time-consuming to oversee. Not every ETF tracks an index passively and therefore offers a large expense ratio. Such actively managed ETFs demand higher fees, and those that are exclusively focused on one industry lack the diversification that typically helps investors stay consistent with returns. Moreover, the lack of liquid assets hurts transactions.


Other Considerations

Indexed-stocked ETFs give investors the needed diversification that normally comes from index funds along with extended trading. This means the ability to trade with margin, sell short, or limit transactions to a small number of shares because of a lack of requirements for a minimum deposit. Yet, not every ETF is diversified equally.

Although ETFs give investors the power to gain profit from the rise and fall of stocks, they tend to benefit companies that pay out dividends. These are a portion of earnings that are paid or allocated to investors by companies for holding shares of stock. Shareholders represent ownership of the company and are entitled to specific proportions of profits including interest. Furthermore, they may even receive residuals if the fund is liquidated.

Overall, ETFs are far more tax-efficient than their mutual fund counterparts because the majority of buying and selling occurs through exchanges. Furthermore, the sponsor doesn’t need to redeem their shares every time an investor desires to issue or sell new shares when another wants to buy.

Redeeming a fund’s shares triggers liabilities on tax, so listing the shares on exchanges lowers tax costs. For mutual funds, shares are sold back to the fund by investors which inevitably incur a liability that must be paid on behalf of the fund’s shareholders.

Given that ETFs are a very popular investment strategy, many new funds are created that result in lower trading volumes, leading to investors being unable to easily trade low-volume ETFs. Concerns with respect to the influence of market ETFs and whether demand for such funds can cause bubbles and inflate the values of stocks. Certain other ETFs rely on models whose portfolios aren’t tested in various market conditions which leads to extreme flux from the funds. This has a terrible impact on the stability of the market.


Creating and Redeeming

The supply of shares for an ETF is regulated by creation and redemption via investors known as authorized participants (APs). When an ETF desires to issue more shares, an AP will purchase shares from an index to sell or exchange on the ETF for new shares of equivalent value. As a result, the AP will flip the shares for a market profit. The block of shares that are passed through transactions are called creation units.

In addition, an AP will purchase shares on the open market for an ETF. They then sell shares back to the sponsor for individual stock shares that are sold on the open market. The result is a reduced pool of shares across the market, completed in a process known as redemption.


Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. The Supreme Guide to Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but don’t worry if it sounds a bit daunting. It can be tricky getting your head around investing. Still, ETFs make the process much more manageable than buying stocks and bonds individually. And once you get started, it becomes addictive!

Have you started investing yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Get yourself over to your favorite broker and open an account today. You won’t regret it!

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