Actor Sam Waterston of "Law and Order", the television show on which he plays a district  attorney, is making a case for exchange traded funds (ETFs) on ads for online broker TD Ameritrade. This is a sign of the times, where ETFs are becoming a mainstream investment tool, and could possibly become a household word, such as cell phone, computer and mutual fund.

The ETF revolution has allowed individual investors to use strategies that were before only available to large institutions, such as shorting or buying on margin, reports CNN Money. The industry has also broadened exposure past stocks and reached out to bonds, currencies and commodities. In 2008, we’re likely to see some of these ETF advances:

  • The first truly actively managed ETF
  • More leveraged and inverse exposure to foreign markets
  • "Lifecycle" ETFs break into the 401(k) market
  • Providers will continue to push the limits with bonds, international small-caps, and commodities

These are just the beginning of the possibilities. The benchmarks tracked by ETFs are becoming more sophisticated and technology is allowing much more to happen faster.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.