Dividend index funds are mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are indexed to dividend stocks. This is different from an index fund that pays dividends to investors, based on the profits realized by its underlying investments. Investing in dividend index funds can offer diversification, income and a potential hedge against inflation. Understanding how these funds work can help you to decide if they’re right for you. If you’re thinking about investing in a dividend index fund, it may be a good idea to talk to a financial advisor fist. SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching tool can match you with advisors that serve your area today.
What Is a Dividend Index Fund?
Before defining a dividend index fund, it’s helpful to know what index funds and dividends represent. An index fund is a type of mutual fund or ETF that attempts to mirror or track the performance of a particular market benchmark or index. For example, there are index funds that track the S&P 500; their underlying holdings reflect the makeup of the S&P 500 index. Regardless of which benchmark they follow, index funds aim to meet the market rather than beat it.
Dividends represent a portion of a company’s profits that are paid out to shareholders. Not all companies pay dividends to investors. For instance, it’s rare for growth companies to pay dividends as company profits are typically reinvested to help fuel expansion. Dividends can provide current or future income to investors.
A dividend index fund combines these two concepts. These funds are indexed to stocks on the basis of the dividend they pay out to investors. Dividend index funds can focus on dividend yield or the dividend payment rate.
Are Dividend Index Funds a Good Idea?
Whether dividend index funds are good for you can depend on your investment goals. These funds pay out dividends to investors regularly so they can be useful for generating an additional stream of income. That can be helpful during your working years if you run into a cash shortfall or during retirement if you’re hoping to supplement Social Security benefits, a pension plan or withdrawals from a 401(k) or IRA.
Dividend index funds can help with managing risk in an investment portfolio, as they offer diversification in a single basket. The type of stocks a dividend index fund holds can vary, based on its overall objective. For example, there are funds that are focused on companies that generate high dividend yields. Other funds may concentrate holdings on companies that have a long track record of increasing dividend payouts year over year.
Investing in dividend index funds could help you to keep pace with inflation, though again, this can depend on the fund’s underlying holdings. When consumer prices rise, the best investments tend to be the companies that are most insulated against inflation. For example, companies in the consumer staples sector may be less affected than those in the consumer discretionary sector as people still need to buy basic items, such as food and toilet paper.
How to Compare Dividend Index Funds
If you’re interested in dividend index funds it’s important to compare funds carefully to find ones that fit your overall risk tolerance and investment strategy. When comparing dividend index funds, some of the most important considerations include:
- Risk level
- Fund management fees
- Dividend yield
- Frequency of payment
In general, dividend index funds that offer a higher dividend yield tend to be riskier for investors. Though it’s still important to look at the fund’s underlying holdings in order to determine how much risk you might be taking on.
Also, keep in mind that dividend yield can sometimes be misleading. For example, companies may pay out dividends at a pace that makes them attractive to investors in the near term, even if that dividend is unsustainable for the long term. Sticking with a dividend index fund that indexes against the Dividend Aristocrats or Dividend Kings could help to avoid a dividend yield trap.
Dividend Aristocrats are companies that have raised their dividends for a period of 25 consecutive years or more. The Dividend Kings are companies that have increased dividends consistently for 50 consecutive years or more. These companies may not generate the highest dividend yield but they can provide a reliable payout year to year.
How to Invest in Dividend Index Funds
Investing in dividend index funds isn’t that different from investing in other types of funds, in terms of how you go about it. You can find dividend index funds and ETFs offered through an online brokerage account. These funds might have “dividend” or “index” in their name, though that isn’t always the case. And keep in mind that dividend index funds can go beyond stocks and index other dividend-paying securities, such as real estate investment trusts.
When reviewing fund options, consider the minimum initial investment required and how much of your portfolio you’d like to commit to them. Since growth companies are less likely to pay out dividends, it’s important to look beyond dividend index funds for diversification. Otherwise, you could be missing out on opportunities to benefit from capital appreciation over time. Talking to your financial advisor can help you find the right balance between dividend investments and other investments as you work toward your goals.
The Bottom Line
Dividend index funds can provide dividend income without requiring you to buy shares of individual dividend stocks. Since these are index funds, they may be better suited to investors who prefer a passive investing strategy versus active investing. Looking at the makeup and cost of a particular fund is a good place to start when considering where dividend index funds might fit in your portfolio.
Tips for Investing
- Consider talking to your financial advisor about dividend and index fund investments to help decide if they make sense for you. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Choosing the right brokerage account is important when buying dividend index funds or any other type of security. While dividend index funds themselves may have low expense ratios, online brokerages can still charge steep fees to trade them. Looking for a brokerage that offers commission-free trades can help you preserve more of your investment returns over time.
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