ETF Definition: A beginner’s guide to exchange-traded funds

ETF definition: what are exchange traded funds?

ETF Definition? What’s an ETF?

Feb 1, 2023

An ETF is a type of investment fund that is traded on stock exchanges, just like stocks. They comprise a basket of assets, such as stocks or bonds, which are chosen to track a specific market index or sector. For example, an ETF that tracks the S&P 500 index will hold shares in the 500 largest companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. ETFs offer investors the ability to gain exposure to a broad range of assets with a single investment rather than having to purchase each asset individually.

Understanding ETFs: A Comprehensive Guide

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are becoming increasingly popular among investors for their versatility and ease of use. They offer a simple way to gain exposure to a wide range of assets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to understanding ETFs and how they can be used to build a diversified investment portfolio.

How do ETFs work?

Fund managers create and manage ETFs and select the assets that make up the fund. They are then sold to investors as shares, which can be bought and sold on stock exchanges throughout the day. The price of an ETF is determined by the value of the assets it holds, and it will fluctuate in line with the performance of those assets.

Benefits of ETFs

There are several benefits to investing in ETFs, including:

  • Diversification: By investing in a basket of assets, ETFs provide investors with diversification, which can help to reduce risk.
  • Low costs: ETFs typically have lower costs than actively managed funds, as they are not required to pay for research or fund management.
  • Liquidity: ETFs are traded on stock exchanges, which means they can be bought and sold throughout the day. This makes them a liquid investment, which can be useful for investors who need to access their funds quickly.
  • Tax efficiency: ETFs are more tax efficient than other types of investment funds, as they do not require the fund manager to sell assets in order to raise cash.

Risks of ETFs

As with any investment, there are also risks associated with ETFs. These include:

  • Market risk: The value of an ETF will fluctuate in line with the performance of the assets it holds. This means that if the market falls, the value of the ETF will also fall.
  • Interest rate risk: ETFs that hold bonds are exposed to interest rate risk, which means that if interest rates rise, the value of the bonds will fall.
  • Credit risk: ETFs that hold bonds are exposed to credit risk, which means that if a bond’s issuer defaults, the bond’s value will fall.
  • ETFs tracking a specific sector or market may be more volatile and subject to greater fluctuations than an ETF that tracks a broader market index.

How to Invest in ETFs

There are several ways to invest in ETFs, including:

  • Buying shares on a stock exchange: ETFs can be bought and sold on stock exchanges throughout the day, just like stocks.
  • Using a brokerage account: Many online brokerages offer the ability to buy and sell ETFs, and some also offer commission-free trading.
  • Using a robo-advisor: Some robo-advisors offer ETF portfolios as a way to invest in a diversified range of assets.


ETFs can be valuable to any investment portfolio, offering diversification, low costs, flexibility, and tax efficiency. However, it’s essential to consider the risks and considerations associated with ETFs and do your own research before making investment decisions. As you can see in the above diagram, ETFs offer many benefits, such as diversification, low costs, flexibility and tax efficiency, but also have some risks, such as market risk, liquidity risk, and tracking error. Doing your own research and considering these factors when making investment decisions is essential.

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