Best ETFs for Your Investment Portfolios

We mixed and matched our 20 favorite exchange-traded funds to create four model portfolios to suit most investors' needs.

Fund managers wage war against the markets every day, trying to pick stocks or bonds that will push them past their benchmark bogeys. More often than not, the markets win. But investors don’t have to lose out, too. They can choose to invest in exchange-traded funds instead. Broad ETFs can capture nearly all of a market’s returns by passively tracking a benchmark, such as Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

Expense ratios are rock bottom — in fact, some firms are flirting with none at all (there are some catches.)

Yet with more than 2,000 ETFs now on offer, picking a few good ones can be daunting. More than a dozen funds track versions of the S&P 500 alone. Plus, scores of ETFs aim to beat the markets by carving out certain types of stocks or bonds, or by emphasizing things such as share-price momentum—anything to give them an edge over traditional indexes.

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Whatever your goals, the portfolios below can serve as the bedrock of your investment program for years. Each basket features a broad mix of common stocks and bonds, all drawn from the Kiplinger ETF 20.

Maximum growth

Small Company Blend Funds graphic

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Fewer stocks, more yield

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Playing it safe(r)

midyear valuations

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Keeping It Simple

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Nellie S. Huang
Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Nellie joined Kiplinger in August 2011 after a seven-year stint in Hong Kong. There, she worked for the Wall Street Journal Asia, where as lifestyle editor, she launched and edited Scene Asia, an online guide to food, wine, entertainment and the arts in Asia. Prior to that, she was an editor at Weekend Journal, the Friday lifestyle section of the Wall Street Journal Asia. Kiplinger isn't Nellie's first foray into personal finance: She has also worked at SmartMoney (rising from fact-checker to senior writer), and she was a senior editor at Money.