How to Invest with ETFs

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“ETF” is an often heard financial acronym that still isn’t well understood by many, but these are one of the best available investments to millennials to start building their long-term investment portfolio.

Millennials don’t invest. Which is unfortunate, because they need to. Failing to invest is a six-figure mistake — because you’ll miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential returns if you stay out of the stock market and keep your cash stashed in a simple savings account.

One of the simplest and lowest cost ways to get started in the stock market is to invest in ETFs. Here is a simple introduction to these investments so you can feel informed to start adding them to your portfolio!

What are ETFs?

“ETF” stands for “Exchange Traded Fund” and are a collection of investments that trades like a single stock. This means you buy and sell shares of a single ETF, but you’re really moving a number of different stocks around when you do so.

Like a mutual fund, the ETF has a fund manager who selects and manages the holdings within the ETF. For this reason, you will pay some fees to own the ETF. These are the Management Expense Ratio or MER fees, just like with a mutual fund. However, unlike a mutual fund, the MER fees for an ETF are typically less than 0.5%. Many are as low as 0.20%!

An ETF will contain anywhere from a handful to over 100 different stocks or bonds. Usually, the ETF will be categorized based on its holdings, either by the type of investment, industry, or country. For example, you can choose an ETF that contains all dividend-paying stocks, or one that represents the globals stock market except the US. You can choose ETFs that are all financial, tech, or natural resource stocks. Chances are whatever you want to invest in, there’s an ETF for it.

Opening a Brokerage Account

In order to buy ETFs, you’ll need to have a brokerage account. A brokerage account is an account that lets you access the stock market. 

These accounts typically require a minimum of $1,000 to open, but some financial institutions may charge as much as $5,000. Questrade is one of the most affordable online brokers, requiring only $1,000 to open account and zero-commissions to purchase ETFs!

How to buy and sell ETFs

Choosing the appropriate ETFs for your investment portfolio needs a little bit of legwork in the beginning to do your research on what’s available and choose your asset allocation. Typically it’s best to start with 1 or 2 broad market ETFs and contribute steadily to those in order to grow your wealth. Once you’ve amassed a small nest egg (a few thousand dollars), you can branch out into more specific niche ETFs to meet your investment goals.

In order to trade ETFs, you have to have a brokerage account. These may or may not be offered by your bank, depending on its size. A brokerage account is an account you use to trade investments on the stock market.

To open a brokerage account, you need to be over the age of 18, typically have at least $1,000 to get started, and select a brokerage. Trading fees with brokerages can range anywhere from $0 to $30, so it’s important to keep this in mind when selecting where you want to invest.

Why ETFs are awesome for your investment portfolio

The best thing about ETFs is they offer you a lot of diversification in your investment portfolio at a very low cost. Because ETFs contain a number of different stocks or other holdings, you can get broad exposure to the entire stock market with only a handful. As few as 2 or 3 well-chosen ETFs is enough to create a diversified stock portfolio!

Additionally, ETFs can be great for creating a passive income stream. Often ETFs will contain dividend-paying investments, so when these stocks pay out their monthly, quarterly, or annual dividend, this will get passed on to you. Like many stocks on the market, ETFs typically pay out quarterly, but you can find ETFs that pay monthly if you want a more frequent income.

In short, if you’re looking to maximize your income and take control of your investments, buying ETFs is one of the easiest ways to do it.

Want to learn more about investing? Check out my eCourse, The Six-Figure Stock Portfolio, and learn how to go from $0 to $100,000 in a way that protects your investment, minimizes costs, and maximizes your passive income.

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About Author

Student debt killer, super saver, and stock market addict. BSc. in Chemistry from the University of Alberta, MBA in Finance from the University of Calgary. CEO x 2 and MOM x 1. Currently residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but hooked on travelling.

11 Comments

  1. Ahh, thanks for doing an overview of ETFs. I’m a millennial and the stock market seems so intimidating and scary. But it’s something that we definitely need to be active in, particularly because we have more time on our side.

  2. This is a great overview of ETF’s. I’ve found that Vanguard seems to have the lowest expense ratios among nearly any brokerage, even as low as .05% for the total market index ETF’s, which are particularly convenient to invest in since they require no minimum amount. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. I’ve been interested in ETFs but it looks like usually there’s a fee of 10 dollars per trade. If I’m investing 100 weekly, that gets expensive, so what’s the best strategy?

    • Buy your ETFs quarterly! Continue to contribute to your account weekly, then when the balance hits $1,000, buy your ETFs. This reduces the cost of purchasing from 10% to 1%.

      • This would end up costing more though, wouldn’t it?

        For example, the MER for an index fund like the TD US Index – e-Series is 0.35% (TDB902E). The equivalent Vanguard US Total Market ETF has an MER of 0.16% (VUN). You’d be paying $9.99 in commission but the difference in MER on $1000 is only $1.90. Plus, in the most recent 3 month period, the S&P500 has returned close to 7%.