A Beginner’s Guide to Investing in ETFs

ETF Shares: A Beginner's Guide to Investing in ETFs

If you’re looking to become a confident investor, it’s essential to have foundational knowledge about how the market works and what your investment options are.

Even if you’re working closely with a financial advisor, being acquainted with the ways in which your wealth is being managed can help you make informed decisions.

One important step towards building your investment knowledge is getting familiar with common investment vehicles. While you may have a general idea of what a stock is, you may not be aware of what an ETF is or the difference between individual stocks and ETFs. In this article, we’ll explore these concepts and help you understand the pros and cons of investing in each.

Key Takeaways

  • Foundational knowledge about the market and investment options is crucial for confident investing.
  • Understanding common investment vehicles, such as stocks and ETFs, is an important step towards building your investment knowledge.
  • Knowing the pros and cons of investing in individual stocks versus ETFs can help you make informed decisions about your investments.

What is a Stock?

When a corporation divides its ownership into portions, these portions are known as stock. Publicly-held companies trade stock on stock exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the Nasdaq. By buying a stock, you become a shareholder and own a portion of the company. This entitles you to a portion of the company’s assets and earnings.

Companies issue shares to raise capital, which they use to fund business operations. When you buy stock in a company, you invest your money to fund the business in exchange for a portion of the claim on future company earnings. Essentially, you are betting on the company’s executives to create gains that will allow you to sell your shares at some point down the line to recoup your investment and get a return.

Owning stock gives you the right to vote on company matters and receive dividends. The value of your stock can fluctuate based on various factors, including the company’s financial performance, market trends, and global events.

What is an ETF?

An ETF, or exchange-traded fund, is a professionally managed pooled investment fund that trades on the stock exchange. It is similar to a mutual fund, but instead of representing an individual share in a company, it purchases a diverse range of assets such as stocks, commodities, bonds, and other securities and places them into a basket.

As an investor, you would buy shares of the ETF, and the fund itself holds the underlying assets. Unlike mutual funds, you don’t have to buy it directly from the mutual fund company or use a full-service broker. ETFs trade and distribute dividends like a stock, but they allow you to diversify your investments.

ETFs can represent a commodity, like gold or oil, track a particular sector or index, such as the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or include stocks and bonds that meet given criteria. With an ETF, you can gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of assets with a single investment.

You may be asking what is an ETF vs. stock, or how is an ETF different from a stock? Here is some information to further guide you.

What are the Pros and Cons of an ETF vs. a Stock?

Pros of investing in ETFs

Investing in ETFs comes with several benefits that make it an attractive option for many investors. Here are some of the pros of investing in ETFs:

  • Diversification: ETFs inherently bring more diversification to your portfolio than buying individual stocks. By diversifying, you are spreading your risk, minimizing the impact of market volatility, and more easily obtaining an optimal allocation aligned with your financial goals.
  • Investment strategy: An ETF allows you to tap into the investment strategy of the fund. Rather than selecting individual stocks based on time-consuming research, you’re trading on investment strategies that you may not be able to do on your own with individual investments. And if you have a goal to gain access to a certain market or sector, an ETF can help you do that in a pre-packaged manner.
  • Flexibility: ETFs can create income streams with their basket of holdings, with stocks that pay dividends or bonds. They can also be leveraged with margin and utilize option and shorting strategies, which are advanced high-risk, high-reward techniques. While you may not be ready for this level of investment, you should know these possibilities exist.
  • Tax planning strategy: ETFs can help with your tax planning strategy. If you repurchase the same stock within 30 days of a stock loss, but you redeploy your loss proceeds into an ETF in the same sector, you can offset capital gains with capital losses. Again, this is an advanced strategy but something to be taken into consideration.

Cons of investing in ETFs

While there are many advantages to investing in ETFs, there are also some limitations that investors should be aware of. Here are some of the cons of investing in ETFs:

  • Limited returns: Many investors consider ETFs to be boring because while the risk tends to be lower than investing in stock, the returns tend to be average. Safer investments are less exciting for investors who are comfortable with being more aggressive because with less risk comes less chance of reward. Your personal tolerance for risk can help you decide what types of investments are the best fit for you.
  • Limited control: With ETFs, you’re giving up some control when you invest in ETFs versus stocks. Before buying individual stocks, you have the ability to research the company, look into their business operations, and read up on their earnings history and projections for upcoming quarters. With ETFs, you’re trusting the fund manager to make investment decisions on that level for you.
  • Sector and index reliance: Giving up some control in your investment choices also means you’re putting faith in certain sectors and indexes. Whereas an individual stock might be performing well, a handful of stocks could be underperforming. So if you have a knack for picking undervalued stocks, you could miss your chance to cash in on the market price catching up to a stock’s growth potential.
  • Higher cost: The cost of owning ETFs is usually more than owning individual stocks. Whereas with buying stocks you would typically pay a one-time commission, you would pay a commission plus management fees and expenses when you own ETFs. The management fees are not usually as high as mutual fund fees, but it is something to consider when looking at your overall return on investment.

Overall, investing in ETFs has its pros and cons, and it’s important to weigh them carefully before making any investment decisions. While ETFs can provide diversification, flexibility, and tax benefits, they also come with limitations such as limited returns, control, sector and index reliance, and higher costs. It’s up to you to determine what works best for your investment goals and risk tolerance.

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After reviewing the information provided, you should have a better understanding of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and how they differ from stocks. ETFs offer several advantages, including diversification, lower fees, and ease of trading. However, there are also some disadvantages, such as limited control over the underlying assets and potential tracking error.

Whether or not to invest in ETFs depends on your individual financial goals and risk tolerance. It is important to consult with a financial advisor to determine the best investment strategy for you. Your advisor can help you identify ETFs that align with your goals and provide guidance on how to incorporate them into your portfolio.

Remember that investing always involves risk, and there is no guarantee of success. It is important to regularly review and adjust your investment strategy as needed to ensure that it aligns with your changing financial goals and risk tolerance.

In summary, ETFs can be a valuable investment vehicle for those looking for diversification and lower fees. However, it is important to carefully consider the potential advantages and disadvantages before making any investment decisions. Consult with a financial advisor to determine the best investment strategy for your individual needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ETF in the stock market?

An ETF, or Exchange Traded Fund, is a type of investment fund that trades on stock exchanges like individual stocks. It is made up of a basket of assets, such as stocks, bonds, or commodities, and is designed to track the performance of a specific index.

What are the advantages of owning ETF shares?

Owning ETF shares has several advantages, including diversification, low fees, and flexibility. ETFs provide investors with exposure to a wide range of assets, which helps to spread risk. They also typically have lower fees than mutual funds and can be bought and sold throughout the trading day.

How do I buy ETFs?

To buy ETFs, you will need to open a brokerage account and place a buy order for the ETF you want to purchase. ETFs can be bought and sold through a brokerage account just like individual stocks.

What is the difference between an ETF and a stock?

While both ETFs and stocks trade on stock exchanges, they are fundamentally different. Stocks represent ownership in a single company, while ETFs are made up of a basket of assets and are designed to track the performance of a specific index.

Why should I choose ETFs over individual stocks?

ETFs offer several advantages over individual stocks, including diversification, lower fees, and ease of trading. By investing in an ETF, you can gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of assets, which helps to spread risk. Additionally, ETFs typically have lower fees than individual stocks and can be bought and sold throughout the trading day.

What is the best ETF to buy now?

When you’re looking for etf stocks to buy the best ETF to buy now depends on your investment goals and risk tolerance. It’s important to do your own research and consult with a financial advisor before making any investment decisions. When you’re looking at how to buy ETFs, some popular ETFs include the SPDR S&P 500 ETF, the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF, and the Invesco QQQ Trust.

What are ETF shares?

ETF shares are securities that represent partial ownership in an exchange-traded fund. They can be bought and sold on a stock exchange throughout the trading day like individual stocks

Martin Hamilton

Martin Hamilton is the founder of Guiding Cents. Martin is a Writer, Solopreneur, and Financial Researcher. Before starting Guiding Cents, Martin has been involved in Personal Finance as a Mortgage Planning Consultant, Licensed Real Estate Agent, and Real Estate Investor.

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