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

    For More And More Investors, ETFs Are A Godsend

    Average and cautious investors can experience lower risk with ETFs - a safer alternative to swaps and derivatives.
  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

    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.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What's the Best Way to Contact Warren Buffett?

    Learn how to contact Warren Buffett and what kinds of contact is most likely to receive a response from him or from his company, ...
  2. What is the Financial Services Sector?

    A diverse group of companies, beyond banks and credit unions, comprises the financial services sector.
  3. Who are Whole Foods' (WFM) main competitors?

    Whole Foods' main competitors are Sprouts Farmers Markets and Trader Joe's. However, the recent acquisition by Amazon my ...
  4. What caused the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that preceded the Great Depression?

    Find out what led to the stock market crash of 1929, which in turn led to the Great Depression. It sparked a nearly 90% loss ...
Trading Center