Dividend-paying exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have been growing in popularity for a while now, especially among investors looking for high yields and more stability for their portfolios. As with stocks, most pay their dividends quarterly. But an increasing number of ETFs are paying them monthly.

Investors don’t just like these ETFs that pay dividends once a month instead of a once a quarter. They love them.

Why? Well, obviously because they provide frequent payouts. Not only is that a godsend for senior citizens and others who are on a fixed income, it's also attractive to any investor seeking income in the current, often-volatile stock market. Monthly dividends can be more convenient for managing cash flow, too: Most people find it easier to budget when their income stream is more predictable.

But the appeal isn't just for spenders. For investors looking for greater total returns, monthly dividends that are reinvested can compound at a faster rate than dividends paid quarterly.

Range of Choices

Luckily, there are plethora of monthly dividend ETF funds, offered by the major firms, including State Street Global Advisors (via its SPDR ETFs), The Vanguard Group, and BlackRock, Inc. (BLK) (via its iShares ETFs), along with smaller outfits such as Global X Funds. The majority of monthly dividend payers come from the bond field, but there are more than 40 that invest in equities, preferred stock or a mixture of assets.

Either way, it pays to be choosey. Fund managers sometimes offer high double-digit yields that they can’t sustain in order to attract investors who would otherwise ignore them. It’s important to pay attention to expense ratios, as well. Remember, the less money that goes into a manager’s pocket the better.  (For more, see: Due Diligence on Dividends.)

For investors interested in such funds, here are eight names to consider (in no particular order). The performance figures are as of October 2017.

Global X SuperDividend ETF (SDIV)

Assets Under Management: $1.03 billion

Total Expenses: 0.58%

Yield (12 mo.): 6.57%

2016 Return (Price): 13.31%

This fund tracks an index of the 100 equally-weighted companies that rank among the highest-dividend payers around the world – a strategy that has earned it kudos in the financial press. Including common stocks, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and master limited partnerships (MLPs), these securities have to combine top returns with lower-than-average volatility to be included in the index. 

Global X U.S. SuperDividend U.S. ETF (DIV)

Assets Under Management: $425.6 million

Total Expenses: 0.45%

Yield (12 mo.): 6.13%

2016 Return (Price): : 10.61%

Established in 2013, DIV is a relatively small fund. Like its international counterpart, it focuses on a  basket of a low-volatility, high-yielding securities, the objective of which is to track the performance of 50 equally weighted common stocks, MLPs and REITs within the INDXX SuperDividend U.S. Low Volatility Index. It has performed very well against its benchmark, returning an average annualized 6.2% over the last four years. Securities listed in the index are among the highest-yielding in the United States, and they have lower relative volatility than the market.  It pairs very nicely with SDVI, for investors who want a truly global grip on high-yielding equities.

PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF (SPHD)

Assets under management: $3.02 billion

Total Expenses: 0.30%

Yield: 3.6%

2016 Return (Price): 22.36%

As it says on the tin, this fund looks for stocks that both pay high dividends and offer low volatility. It's heavily weighted toward utilities. Other holdings include Health Care REIT, Inc. (HCN) and Altria Group, Inc. (MO). The fund’s low expenses are especially attractive.

WisdomTree US High Dividend ETF (DHS)

Assets Under Management: $1.24 billion

Total Expenses: 0.38%

Yield (12 mo.): 3.25%

2016 Return (Price): 8.63%

DHS mimics the WisdomTree High Dividend Index, a fundamentally weighted index that feature companies ranked by dividend yield with average daily trading volumes of at least $200 million. The fund’s holdings are well diversified among sectors such as real estate, health care, energy/utilities and consumer staples.

PowerShares Preferred ETF (PGX)

Assets Under Management: $5.31 billion

Total Expenses: 0.5%

Yield (12 mo.): 5.6%

2016 Return (Price): .85%

The PowerShares Preferred Fund is another preferred stock ETF that delivers on yield. PGX's objective is to replicate the performance and yield of the BofA Merrill Lynch Core Fixed-Rate Preferred Securities Index. Its portfolio holds more than 200 preferred stocks with a heavy weighting towards the financial sector. and a smaller presence in telecommunications, industrials and energy. Less than 5% of the portfolio is invested in A- and AA-rated securities, while the rest is invested primarily in BBB- or BB-rated securities. Launched in January 2008, the fund has returned an annualized 5.66% since 2013; last year was rough, but currently it's up 10% year-to-date.

PowerShares KBW High Dividend Yield Financial Portfolio ETF (KBWD)

Assets Under Management: $329.94 million

Total Expenses: 2.99%

Yield (12 mo.): 8.32%

2016 Return (Price): 20.48%

Based on one of the prestigious Keefe Bruyette & Woods Nasdaq indexes, this fund's fat dividend yield is pretty tempting. KBWD is heavily weighted (at least 90%) towards publicly held financial companies, which should perform better in a rising interest rate environment.

iShares U.S. Preferred Stock ETF (PFF)

Assets Under Management: $18.7 billion

Total Expenses: 0.47%

Yield (12 mo.): 5.68%

2016 Return (Price): 1.3%

The iShares U.S. Preferred Stock ETF is a viable alternative for investors seeking high yields. PFF was launched in March 2007, and as of October 2017, it was the largest fund in its category. PFF seeks to mirror the performance and yield of the S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index. The portfolio is well diversified, with no security weighted more than 3.23%. However, it does tend to favor financial companies that are big issuers of preferred securities. Over 80% of the portfolio is invested in BBB- or B-rated securities, and less than 8% is invested in A-rated or better. Preferred stock ETFs are generally designed for income, not outperformance, as is the case with PFF, which has delivered a steady total return of 5.29% over the last five years.

SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA)

Assets Under Management: $19.1 billion

Total Expenses: 0.17%

Yield (12 mo.): 2.11%

2016 Return (Price): 16.37%

The SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF doesn’t offer the highest yield, but investors who prefer some capital appreciation potential with their income might find its portfolio attractive. Launched in January 1998 (making it one of the oldest ETFs still standing), the fund is one of the few to directly play the Dow Jones Industrial Index (DJIA) – itself the grandpa of stock indexes, comprised of 30 of the bluest blue chip companies.  It has done a commendable job of tracking the DJIA, returning 7.41% over the 10 years since 2005 and 10.70% over the five years since 2010. (For more, see Top 3 ETFs That Track the Dow for 2017.)

The Bottom Line

High-dividend ETFs offer a cheap, easy way to add an extra stream of income to the portfolios of retirees and beginning investors alike. As always, it's important to do your due diligence on any fund before committing your hard-earned cash.

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.