Contributor, Benzinga
March 13, 2023

Passive exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are a type of investment fund that tracks the performance of a specific market index or group of assets. Unlike actively managed funds, passive ETFs aim to match the performance of the underlying index without any attempt to outperform it. This factor makes them a popular choice for investors who want to take a hands-off approach to investing as well as those who want to benefit from the long-term growth potential of the market.

Strategies for Success with Passive ETFs

To make the most of passive ETFs, investors should consider the following strategies:

  1. Diversify: By investing in a range of passive ETFs that track different indexes or asset classes, investors can spread their risk and maximize their returns.
  2. Keep fees low: While passive ETFs tend to have lower fees than actively managed funds, investors should still pay close attention to expense ratios and transaction costs to ensure they are getting the best value for their money.
  3. Be patient: Passive ETFs are designed for long-term investing, so investors should avoid making frequent trades or trying to time the market.

Compare Passive ETFs

Index Tracking

Passive ETFs aim to track a specific index or benchmark, such as the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The ETF will hold a portfolio of securities that reflects the composition of the index it is tracking, in the same proportion as the index. For example, if an index has 500 stocks, and one stock makes up 1% of the index, then the ETF will allocate 1% of its assets to that stock.

This approach can offer investors a number of benefits. It provides diversification, as the ETF will hold a large number of securities. It can also be more cost-effective than actively managed funds, as there are no costs associated with conducting in-depth research on individual securities.

How Do Passive ETFs Work?

Passive ETFs are structured as open-end funds, which means that they can issue and redeem shares based on demand. Investors buy and sell shares in the secondary market, and the ETF's price is determined by the market. The price of an ETF share is designed to reflect the underlying value of the assets held by the fund.

The ETF will have a management team responsible for ensuring that it tracks its underlying index as closely as possible. The team will rebalance the ETF periodically to ensure that it remains aligned with the index. Rebalancing typically involves buying and selling securities to reflect changes in the index's composition or weighting.

What Are the Advantages of Passive ETFs?

Low fees: Passive ETFs can be much cheaper than actively managed funds. The management fees associated with actively managed funds can be high because of the costs of research and analysis. In contrast, passive ETFs have lower fees because they track an index and do not require ongoing analysis of individual securities.

Diversification: ETFs hold a basket of securities, providing investors with diversification. This factor can help to reduce risk because the performance of individual securities is less important than the overall performance of the basket of securities.

Transparency: Passive ETFs are highly transparent. Because they track an index, investors can easily see which securities the fund holds and how they are weighted. Investors to make informed decisions about the risks and opportunities associated with the fund.

What Are the Disadvantages of Passive ETFs?

Limited flexibility: Passive ETFs are designed to track an index and may not be able to take advantage of short-term opportunities. This feature can limit their flexibility and may mean that they do not perform as well as actively managed funds in certain market conditions.

Tracking error: No passive ETF can track its underlying index perfectly. There will always be some degree of tracking error, which is the difference between the ETF's performance and the index it is tracking. The disparity can be caused by a number of factors, including transaction costs, fees and changes in the index's composition.

Lack of control: Passive ETF investors have no control over the individual securities held by the fund. They cannot take advantage of specific opportunities or avoid specific risks.

Compare ETF Brokers

Do your research and look into the brokers that are best for your situation. Choosing the right broker is just as important as choosing the right assets.

Frequently Asked Questions


How are passive ETFs different from actively managed ETFs?


Passive ETFs track a specific index or benchmark, while actively managed ETFs are managed by a portfolio manager who makes investment decisions on behalf of the fund.


Can passive ETFs be used for short-term trading?


Passive ETFs are typically designed for long-term investors who want to hold a diversified portfolio of securities. However, they can be used for short-term trading, but investors should be aware of the tracking error associated with the ETF.


What are the risks associated with investing in passive ETFs?


Like all investments, passive ETFs carry risks, including market risk, interest rate risk and liquidity risk. It is important to understand the risks associated with the specific ETF before investing.


Are passive ETFs a good investment for beginners?


Yes, passive ETFs can be a good option for beginners, as they are simple to understand and offer exposure to a range of assets.


How do passive ETFs compare to actively managed funds?


Passive ETFs typically have lower fees than actively managed funds, but they do not attempt to outperform the market like actively managed funds do.


What are some popular passive ETFs?


Some popular passive ETFs include the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSEARCA: SPY), the iShares Core S&P Total US Stock Market ETF (NYSEARCA: ITOT) and the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSEARCA: VTI).


How often should I rebalance my portfolio of passive ETFs?


The frequency of portfolio rebalancing depends on the investor’s risk tolerance and investment goals. Some investors may choose to rebalance annually, while others may do so more frequently.


Are passive ETFs suitable for retirement investing?


Yes, passive ETFs can be a good choice for retirement investing, as they offer exposure to a range of assets with low fees and are designed for long-term investing. However, investors should consult with a financial advisor to determine the best investment strategy for their unique needs.