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5 best Vanguard index funds

These high-performing funds boast low expense ratios and solid returns.

Vanguard offers one of the best selection of index funds to choose from. It can be an excellent choice for retirement investment or for taking advantage of large sector moves, such as moves in the financial sector, technology or utilities.

Top Vanguard funds

I compared 76 Vanguard exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in terms of one-, five- and ten-year return. I also compared the dividend yield and the expense ratio to choose the six ETFs that stood out from the rest.

Keep in mind that positive past performance doesn’t always mean a fund will continue to do well in the future, and there’s no foolproof way to predict how an ETF will perform.

1. Vanguard Energy ETF (VDE)

  • Fund category: Equity, energy sector companies
  • Assets under management: $6.7 billion
  • Notable holdings: Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM), Chevron Corp (CVX), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Kinder Morgan (KMI).
  • Yield: 3.29%
  • Expense ratio: 0.10%
  • Why it made our list: This ETF has had one of the best runs in 2021, beating most Vanguard ETFs in 1-year returns. It seems the energy sector will get another push higher from rising oil and gas prices. If that happens, the VDE will perform even better.

2. Vanguard Financials ETF (VFH)

  • Fund category: Equity, financial companies
  • Assets under management: $11.58 billion
  • Notable holdings: JPMorgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.
  • Yield: 1.75%
  • Expense ratio: 0.10%
  • Why it made our list: The Vanguard Financials ETF owns large companies with a proven track record. What’s more, this ETF consistently returned 16% each year in the past 10 years.

3. Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)

  • Fund category: Large blend
  • Assets under management: $753.4 billion
  • Notable holdings: Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, NVIDIA and Berkshire Hathaway.
  • Yield: 1.34%
  • Expense ratio: 0.03%
  • Why it made our list: This ETF closely tracks the S&P 500 index, meaning it moves the same as the index. Because of that, it has had a solid performance in the past, and it’ll likely keep growing.

4. Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM)

  • Fund category: Large value
  • Assets under management: $48.5 billion
  • Notable holdings: JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, Home Depot, Bank of America, Pfizer and Cisco Systems.
  • Yield: 2.79%
  • Expense ratio: 0.06%
  • Why it made our list: This is a dividend ETF with the highest dividend of all Vanguard equity funds. What’s more, the fund also has had an excellent run with around 13% average annual return in the past 10 years.

5. Vanguard Total World Stock ETF (VT)

  • Fund category: World stock
  • Assets under management: $30.4 billion
  • Notable holdings: Apple, Microsoft, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, NVIDIA and Facebook.
  • Yield: 1.65%
  • Expense ratio: 0.08%
  • Why it made our list: This is one of the top-performing Vanguard ETFs with an annual average return of 12% in the past 10 years. What makes it unique, though, is that it helps investors diversify into other markets, including Europe, Emerging Markets and the Pacific.

3 types of Vanguard investors

Vanguard offers over 70 ETFs, making it convenient to choose the one that best suits your investment needs and goals. Vanguard ETFs can be a solid choice for:

  • Retirement investors. Aside from the standard S&P 500 funds, you get to choose bond ETFs and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities funds. These are often low-risk, low-reward investments that protect your portfolio against inflation and can provide income in the form of interest.
  • Sector investors. Investors who want to invest in particular sectors without handpicking stocks may find Vanguard’s selection to be more than enough. Choose from funds that are entirely made up of financial stocks, technology stocks, healthcare, utilities, communication services and more.
  • Bond investors. If you don’t want to buy bonds individually, you can scoop up Vanguard ETFs and enjoy the benefit of owning multiple bonds without directly owning any. These didn’t perform well during the COVID pandemic except for the TIPS funds. However, in the long run, these could be decent low-risk, low-reward investments.

Vanguard funds advantages and drawbacks

Vanguard funds come with some perks, including a low expense ratio. But there are some downsides as well.

Pros

  • Low expense ratio (i.e. annual fee)
  • Wide selection of funds
  • Most funds pay out dividends
  • Most ETFs have a mutual fund version

Cons

  • No disruptive technologies funds
  • No cryptocurrency funds

How to invest in Vanguard funds

You can invest in Vanguard funds if you have a brokerage account. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open a brokerage account if you don’t have one.
  2. Log in and search for the ticker symbol of the fund you want to invest in, for example, “VT.”
  3. Enter the number of shares you want to buy and at what price.
  4. Review your order and submit it.

Open a stock trading account to invest in ETFs

Compare brokerage accounts to make sure you’re getting the best fees, platform and tools for your investments.

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CIBC Investor's Edge
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Interactive Brokers
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Scotia iTRADE
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Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities
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Alternatives to Vanguard funds

Vanguard isn’t the only provider of index funds. Other companies that offer ETFs include:

  • Goldman Sachs
  • iShares
  • ProShares
  • ARK
  • Invesco
  • SPDR
  • Charles Schwab

Bottom line

Vanguard offers a high selection of ETFs, including the S&P 500 index, technology sector ETFs and bond funds. Learn more about investing in EFTs in our detailed guide.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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