Want to be like one of the richest men in the world? Warren Buffett is third on Forbes' World's Billionaires list (ranking the wealthiest people in the world) with a net worth of $44 billion. Only Carlos Slim Helú and Bill Gates rank higher. If you are going to design a portfolio for longer term gains, looking at Buffett's favorite stocks is a logical first step.
For the retail investor, individual stock picking can feel like a loser's game, and often it is. Finding the next Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) in the thousands of available stocks doesn't exactly put the odds in your favor. A less risky way to put money to work in the stock market is to use exchange traded funds (ETFs).
Buffett hasn't disclosed any use of ETFs in his portfolio, but if stocks were not his product of choice, which ETFs might he choose?
SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average (ARCA:DIA)
There is no doubt that Buffett is a blue chip investor. His portfolio boasts at least five of the Dow 30 stocks as well as other mega cap names like Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP).
For that reason, he would likely invest in an ETF that tracks the Dow Jones Industrial Average. DIA is one of the most popular ETFs, trading more than 3 million shares each day. It has a low expense ratio of only 0.18% and has a dividend yield of 2.4%.
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (ARCA:XLP)
Much of Buffett's portfolio is made up of low beta names that pay a healthy dividend. Names that Buffett has said he will hold "forever" include Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG).
Those two names are the top two holdings, making up 23.6% of XLP. Buffett owns four of the top 10 holdings in the fund. Since Buffett is a penny pincher, he would want a low expense ratio, and at 0.18%, he would get it with XLP. He would also be paid a dividend of more than 3% to hold it.
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (ARCA:EFA)
CNBC chronicled a trip that Buffett and a Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A, BRK-B) delegation recently took to China. He not only had existing investments in the country, but also looked for new opportunities.
He has his eye on opportunities outside of America, so a Buffett ETF portfolio has to have some international exposure. There are a large number of ETFs with China, emerging markets and other international exposure, but the EFA ETF keeps with his core idea of investing in solid, reliable, developed businesses.
EFA invests in securities in developed countries in Europe, the Far East and Australasia. Its relatively low expense ratio of 0.34% is well below the category average of 0.51% and the fund pays a dividend of more than 3%.
PowerShares Dynamic Food & Beverage (ARCA:PBJ)
Finally, any Buffett follower knows that he is a very rich man with common tastes. He loves Coca-Cola products, likes to stay in his modest-looking home and one of his favorite restaurants is a steakhouse in Omaha, Neb.
For that reason, an ETF that tracks the performance of the more sinfully delicious foods might be in order. The PBJ ETF has among its holdings Kraft (Nasdaq:KRFT) (one of his holdings), Hershey (NYSE:HSY) and Papa John's Pizza (Nasdaq:PZZA). It has a yield of 1.57% and an expense ratio of 0.63% - maybe a little high for his "taste."
The Bottom Line
Buffett hasn't shown much of an interest in ETFs, but for retail investors, ETFs remove some of the risks associated with stock picking. Maybe next time he does one of those three-hour CNBC interviews, somebody will ask him about his favorite ETFs.
At the time of writing, Tim Parker did not own any shares in any company mentioned in this article.