Discover the Best ETFs for Retirement


Building and managing retirement nest eggs is a challenging endeavor that demands dedication and focused efforts. Unfortunately, many Americans face the prospect of retiring with insufficient funds that won’t sustain them beyond the first few years. To combat this issue, traditional mutual funds were previously favored for retirement investments. However, over the past decade, the landscape has changed with the emergence of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and the subsequent passive investing revolution.

In this article, we will explore the basics of ETFs, how they differ from mutual funds, and present a list of the best ETFs for retirement.

Understanding ETFs: A Brief Overview

What are ETFs?

ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, are specialized investment funds that closely resemble mutual funds. They are designed to track indexes, stocks, sectors, commodities, or asset classes. What sets ETFs apart from mutual funds is their ability to be traded on exchanges, similar to individual stocks.

The Advantages of ETFs for Retirement Investors

Liquidity and Flexibility

ETFs offer exceptional liquidity compared to mutual funds. Their ease of buying and selling has made them a preferred investment option since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Unlike mutual funds, ETFs can be traded throughout the trading day, providing investors with the flexibility to respond to market fluctuations promptly.


One of the significant advantages of ETFs is their cost-effectiveness. Unlike mutual funds, ETFs generally do not charge administrative or marketing fees. This cost-saving feature makes ETFs a more affordable option for retirement investors. While mutual fund fees can reach 1% or more annually, ETF fees can be as low as 0.1% or even lower.

Accessibility and Commission-Free Trading

ETFs offer accessibility and commission-free trading. Investors can purchase and sell ETF shares directly on exchanges, just like stocks, without incurring commissions. This accessibility eliminates the barrier of entry for new investors and reduces costs for all investors, enhancing the overall return potential.

Diversification and Investment Choices

ETFs provide diverse investment options that go beyond traditional stocks and bonds. Investors can choose ETFs that track various assets, including commodities, emerging markets, oil, gold, silver, and more. This diversification helps mitigate risks and optimize portfolio performance.

Tax Efficiency

In terms of tax efficiency, ETFs outperform both mutual funds and individual stocks. The IRS considers ETF share exchanges as in-kind distributions, resulting in potential tax advantages for investors. This tax efficiency can help maximize long-term returns and preserve retirement savings.

The Best ETFs for Retirement: A Selection

Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI)

With an expense ratio of just 0.03%, VTI is an excellent option for retirement investors seeking broad exposure to the U.S. stock market. This ETF aims to replicate the performance of the CRSP US Total Market Index, offering diversification across large, mid, small, and micro-cap stocks.

iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG)

AGG is a low-cost ETF that provides exposure to a diversified portfolio of U.S. investment-grade bonds. It seeks to track the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index and offers retirement investors stability and income generation potential.

Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ)

For retirement investors interested in growth and exposure to the technology sector, QQQ is a suitable choice. This ETF tracks the performance of the Nasdaq-100 Index, which comprises 100 of the largest non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Retirement planning requires careful consideration and strategic investment choices to secure a comfortable future. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) offer numerous advantages, including lower costs, tax efficiency, liquidity, and diversified exposure to various sectors and asset classes. In this article, we will explore the benefits of ETFs in your retirement portfolio and recommend some top ETFs for retirement investing.

The Power of Dividends: Dividend ETFs

Dividends play a crucial role in generating passive income during retirement. Here are some top dividend ETFs to consider:

Schwab U.S. Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD)

Expense Ratio: 0.06%
Annual Dividend Yield: 3.78%
Notable Features: Low-cost, tracks Dow Jones U.S. Dividend 100 index, focuses on high-quality dividend-paying US stocks.

Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM)

Expense Ratio: 0.06%
Annual Dividend Yield: 3.20%
Notable Features: Emphasizes large-cap US stocks, value investing approach, low-cost option.

Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG)

Expense Ratio: 0.06%
Annual Dividend Yield: 1.95%
Notable Features: Focuses on US stocks with a history of increasing dividends, tracks NASDAQ US Dividend Achievers™ Select Index.

SPDR Portfolio S&P 500 High Dividend ETF (SPYD)

Expense Ratio: 0.07%
Annual Dividend Yield: 4.74%
Notable Features: Concentrates on large-cap stocks with high dividend yields, offers exposure to high-dividend opportunities.

Broad Market Exposure: Index Tracking ETFs

Index tracking ETFs allow you to capture the overall market performance and provide stability to your retirement portfolio. Consider the following ETFs:


Expense Ratio: 0.09%
Annual Dividend Yield: 1.57%
Notable Features: Oldest and largest ETF, tracks S&P 500 index, ideal for long-term growth with low fees.

iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV)

Expense Ratio: 0.03%
Annual Dividend Yield: 1.58%
Notable Features: Low-cost option, closely tracks S&P 500 index, suitable for broad market exposure.

iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM)

Expense Ratio: 0.19%
Annual Dividend Yield: 1.63%
Notable Features: Focuses on mid-cap and small-cap stocks, offers potential for higher returns, diversification benefits.

Top Growth ETFs for Retirement Planning

When it comes to retirement planning, incorporating Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) in your portfolio can offer several advantages. They provide diversification, lower costs, and the potential for growth.

We will explore some of the best growth ETFs to consider for retirement investing, focusing on ETFs that align with your long-term goals and provide exposure to various market segments.

Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI)

Broad Market Exposure:

VTI offers exposure to the broad US stock market, holding stakes in over 3500 companies across different sectors and market capitalizations.

Key Details:

Price: $207.69
Expense Ratio: 0.03%
Annual Dividend Yield: 1.55%
1 Year Return: 1.33%
3 Year Return: 13.94%
5 Year Return: 10.51%

Vanguard Growth ETF (VUG)

Large-Cap Growth Focus:

VUG tracks the CRSP US Large Cap Growth Index, emphasizing large-cap growth stocks.

Key Details:

Price: $261.44
Expense Ratio: 0.04%
Annual Dividend Yield: 0.65%
1 Year Return: 1.29%
3 Year Return: 12.48%
5 Year Return: 13.07%

Vanguard Small Cap Growth ETF (VBK)

Small-Cap Potential:

VBK focuses on small-cap growth stocks, which offer higher growth rates but come with increased risk and volatility.

Key Details:

Price: $218.38
Expense Ratio: 0.07%
Annual Dividend Yield: 0.61%
1 Year Return: -2.54%
3 Year Return: 7.38%
5 Year Return: 5.98%


International Diversification:

EFA provides exposure to companies from Europe, Australasia, and the Far East, diversifying your retirement portfolio geographically.

Key Details:

Price: $73.68
Expense Ratio: 0.33%
Annual Dividend Yield: 2.4%
1 Year Return: 9.67%
3 Year Return: 11.85%
5 Year Return: 3.67%

Best Emerging Market ETFs for Retirement

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM)

Emerging Market Exposure:

EEM invests in large and mid-cap stocks from emerging economies, particularly focused on Asian countries.

Key Details:

Price: $39.30
Expense Ratio: 0.69%
Annual Dividend Yield: 2.41%
1 Year Return: -5.61%
3 Year Return: 3.91%
5 Year Return: -1.60%

Franklin FTSE India ETF (FLIN)

Focus on Indian Economy: FLIN offers exposure to Indian companies, taking advantage of India’s fast-growing economy and expanding middle class.

Key Details:

Price: $28.90
Expense Ratio: 0.19%
Annual Dividend Yield: 0.73%
1 Year Return: -7.15%
3 Year Return: 16.94%
5 Year Return: 5.10%

VanEck Vietnam ETF (VNM)

Manufacturing-Driven Growth:

VNM allows investors to benefit from Vietnam’s manufacturing boom and its emergence as a global manufacturing hub.

Key Details:

Price: $12.45
Expense Ratio: 0.66%
Annual Dividend Yield: 1.55%
1 Year Return: -28.70%
3 Year Return: 0.06%
5 Year Return: -6.97%

Larry Primeaux is a seasoned financial writer and investment expert, who regularly contributes articles on money making and investment news to With over a decade of experience in the finance industry, Larry has developed a keen eye for identifying lucrative investment opportunities and has helped numerous individuals and businesses achieve financial success.

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