Are Exchanged-Traded Funds (ETFs) Safe Investments?

The old adage of “no risk, no reward” still circulates on Wall Street when it comes to investing capital. However, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are helping to ease the minds of investors through minimizing risk while capturing the returns when markets rise.

How safe are ETF investments? All investments come with a degree of risk, but there are certain ETFs that will be less risky than others.

Safety Via Diversification

Stocks consist of shares or fractional ownership of a particular company, whereas the ETF owns underlying assets and divides ownership of those assets into shares. As such, these shares can be bought and sold on a major exchange.

Furthermore, as opposed to ownership of a company, ETFs own the actual stocks themselves. As such, ownership of an ETF offers diversification advantages compared to single stocks.

Stocks are exposed to all of the risk associated with ownership of that particular company. Conversely, an ETF that purchases a mix of stocks or other assets will have less risk exposure.

This diversification benefit can span through all asset classes. For example, if an investor wants to invest in a commodity like oil, he or she can invest in an oil ETF, which won’t be subject to the wild price swings of investing in spot oil.

Safety Through Index-Tracking

Because an ETF can track an index, it can be passively-managed. This translates to lower costs to investors when compared to mutual funds, which are typically actively-managed.

Actively-managed mutual funds carry greater operating costs because they have to pay analysts and other research specialists. The lower costs of ETFs show in their expense ratio, which is the cost to run the fund.

An ETF is a type of security that tracks an index, bonds, commodities, currencies, or a mix of various asset classes. Because it is a type of fund as opposed to an individual stock, the ETF is more often than not compared to a mutual fund when weighing the pros and cons of various investment vehicles.

An ETF that tracks an index like the S&P 500 can be safe in that historically, the index has provided positive returns over the years.