1. Exchange-Traded Funds: Introduction
  2. Exchange-Traded Funds: Background
  3. Exchange-Traded Funds: Features
  4. Exchange-Traded Funds: SPDR S&P 500 ETF
  5. Exchange-Traded Funds: Active Vs. Passive Investing
  6. Exchange-Traded Funds: Index Funds Vs. ETFs
  7. Exchange-Traded Funds: Equity ETFs
  8. Exchange-Traded Funds: Fixed-Income and Asset-Allocation ETFs
  9. Exchange-Traded Funds: ETF Alternative Investments
  10. Exchange-Traded Funds: ETF Investment Strategies
  11. Exchange-Traded Funds: Conclusion

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can be a valuable component for any investor's portfolio, from the most sophisticated institutional money managers to a novice investor who is just getting started. Some investors use ETFs as the sole focus of their portfolios, and are able to build a well-diversified portfolio with just a few ETFs. Others use ETFs to complement their existing portfolios, and rely on ETFs to implement sophisticated investment strategies. But, as with any other investment vehicle, in order to truly benefit from ETFs, investors have to understand and use them appropriately.

Understanding most ETFs is very straightforward. An ETF trades like a stock on a stock exchange and looks like a mutual fund. Its performance tracks an underlying index, which the ETF is designed to replicate. The difference in structure between ETFs and mutual funds explains part of different investing characteristics. The other differences are explained by the type of management style. Because ETFs are designed to track an index, they are considered passively managed; most mutual funds are considered actively managed. (For more insight, read Mutual Fund Or ETF: Which Is Right For You? and Active Vs. Passive Investing In ETFs.)

From an investor's perspective, an investment in an index mutual fund and an ETF that tracks the same index would be equivalent investments. For example, the performance of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF and a low-cost index fund based on the S&P 500 would both be very close to the to the S&P 500 index in terms of performance.

Although index mutual funds are available to cover most of the major indexes, ETFs cover a broader range of indexes, providing more investing options to the ETF investor than the index mutual fund investor. (For more insight, read ETFs Vs. Index Funds: Quantifying The Differences.)

This tutorial provides a basic understanding of what an ETF is and how it might be used by an investor.


Exchange-Traded Funds: Background
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    The Advantages of ETFs Compared to Index Funds

    With the ongoing ETF boom, ETFs gain more variety and increased competition in the market leads to further investors' advantages compared to index funds.
  2. Investing

    5 Reasons to Pick ETFs Over Mutual Funds

    Discover five reasons why average investors and sophisticated hedge funds choose ETFs instead of mutual funds to meet their investment goals.
  3. Investing

    A Look At the Growth Of the ETF Industry

    Explore the phenomenal growth rate of the ETF industry, and learn some of the principal reasons why ETFs are projected to continue to grow at a rapid pace.
  4. Investing

    The Main Attractions of ETF Investing (SPY)

    As the popularity of ETFs soar, a look at the main benefits of these investment vehicles.
  5. Investing

    4 Ways to Evaluate ETFs Before Buying

    Learn four areas in which to evaluate an ETF investment to be sure that the investor has a clear understanding of the security being purchased.
  6. Financial Advisor

    Why ETFs Often Edge Out Mutual Funds

    A deep look reveals why — in most instances — ETFs beat out mutual funds.
  7. Investing

    Mutual Fund Vs ETF: Which is Right For You?

    Want to invest but don't understand the difference between investment products? Here we explain ETFs vs. Mutual Funds and which is right for you.
  8. Investing

    ETFs Can Be Safe Investments, If Used Correctly

    Learn about how ETFs can be a safe investment option if you know which funds to choose, including the basics of both indexed and leveraged ETFs.
  9. Financial Advisor

    What Your Clients Must Know About ETFs

    Like any investment, ETFs come with some fine print. Here is what advisors should reveal to their clients about these hugely popular products.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. How did the ABX index behave during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis?

    Read about the disastrous performance of the various ABX indexes in the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 during the middle ...
  2. How did moral hazard contribute to the 2008 financial crisis?

    Learn about moral hazard, how it can affect outcomes and how it contributed to the conditions that led to the 2008 financial ...
  3. Which mutual funds made money in 2008?

    Read about the only mutual fund that turned a profit in 2008. Learn about risk-averse investment strategies and the financial ...
  4. Were Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO) Responsible for the 2008 Financial Crisis?

    Collateralized debt obligations are exotic financial instruments that can be difficult to understand, Learn the role they ...
Trading Center