3 Dividend ETFs I Want to Own in 2024 | The Motley Fool (2024)

Dividends offer people a great answer to the age-old question of how to get rewarded for the risks they take in investing without having to sell the shares they've purchased. Yet if there's a problem with dividends, it's that those payments are never guaranteed. When a dividend gets cut, it often takes the company's shares down with it, meaning that investors lose some or all of the income stream they were expecting as well as a big chunk of the capital that generated it.

To address that particular risk, you may want to consider dividend-focused exchange-traded funds (ETFs). While ETFs won't eliminate the risk that companies may cut their payouts, they will provide diversification that will reduce the net impact on your overall portfolio from the loss of any one dividend.

With that risk-and-reward trade-off in mind, three Motley Fool contributors went looking for dividend-focused ETFs that are worth considering for your portfolio. They picked the JPMorgan Equity Premium ETF (JEPI 0.11%), the Vanguard Real Estate ETF (VNQ -0.28%), and the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG -0.06%).

3 Dividend ETFs I Want to Own in 2024 | The Motley Fool (1)

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A top yielder from a top bank

Eric Volkman (JPMorgan Equity Premium Income ETF): One fund that's nicely lining investor pockets is the JPMorgan Equity Premium Income ETF. As its name implies, this fund, managed by monster bank JPMorgan Chase's (NYSE: JPM) asset management arm, concentrates on pumping out plenty of income for its shareholders.

Tipping the scales with nearly $31 billion in assets as of the end of November, the ETF has attracted investors with a high-yielding dividend that's often in the low double-digit percentages. While the yield has come down some in recent months (to slightly over 9% on a trailing 12-month basis at present), it still pays out handsomely even when compared to some of the most popular high-yield dividend stocks.

The ETF's portfolio comprises around 120 companies, and a great many of those stocks are familiar names that regularly hand out dividends. The fund is sector-agnostic; tech titan Microsoft was its No. 1 holding as of the end of November, while it also owned big stakes in payment processing giants Mastercard and Visa, plus top U.S. health insurance provider UnitedHealth Group.

Savvy income investors will note that three of those four stocks -- Microsoft, Mastercard, and Visa -- have dividend yields under 1%. In fact, JPMorgan Equity Premium Income has a clutch of popular stocks in its portfolio that don't pay dividends at all. (A notable example of this was its No. 3 holding, Amazon.)

The way it pulls off this trick is by selling specialized covered calls (options to buy a stock held by the seller; such options sold when the issuer does not yet own the shares are known as naked calls). This is a neat way to generate additional income and pump up the fund's payouts to shareholders.

There are, of course, risks to this strategy. It limits the upside potential that the company can enjoy from the underlying stocks, as per a call option the seller must procure the contracted asset at the agreed strike price, forfeiting future upside. That said, JPMorgan Equity Premium Income clearly has a knack for timing and pricing those calls, as evidenced by its persistently rich yield. Income investors averse to stock-picking would be well advised to consider this ETF.

The tables may have turned

Jason Hall (Vanguard Real Estate ETF): Coming out of the global financial crisis 14 years ago, commercial real estate was positioned to deliver solid returns for investors. The Vanguard Real Estate ETF delivered wonderful annualized returns of 12% from 2010 through 2019.

3 Dividend ETFs I Want to Own in 2024 | The Motley Fool (2)

VNQ Total Return Price data by YCharts.

Yet this stellar result was outpaced by an incredible bull market for stocks broadly, with the S&P 500 delivering compound annual growth of almost 14% over the same period.

Then the pandemic happened. Stocks -- fueled for a time by an extended period of cheap money and consumer spending supported by lots of stimulus until the economy could support itself again -- have continued to roar higher while commercial real estate has struggled.

3 Dividend ETFs I Want to Own in 2024 | The Motley Fool (3)

VNQ Total Return Price data by YCharts.

But I think the tide is set to turn back in favor of real estate. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) -- a special class of corporate structure intended to hold real estate assets -- have been pretty beaten down over the past couple of years. The shock of rising interest rates (REITs use a lot of debt to fund their growth) and the huge shifts in the market conditions for commercial real estate categories like office space have resulted in a pretty bad three-year run, but valuations and the overall trajectory look attractive.

And one of the best ways to invest in real estate is via the Vanguard Real Estate ETF, which gives you exposure to more than 150 of the best REITs out there. At current prices, VNQ investors are getting a dividend yield above 4% and a pretty good chance of long-term payout growth. With an expense ratio of 0.12%, it's not the cheapest ETF out there. But it's one that I think dividend seekers will be happy they own.

It's not the size, but the growth that matters most

Chuck Saletta (Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF): Dividends are never guaranteed payments. When companies get into trouble, they will often cut their dividends to conserve cash and ensure they can cover their operating obligations. Even companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average can wind up in that situation, as Walgreens Boots Alliance did earlier this month.

Because of that reality, savvy dividend-focused investors don't just look at a dividend's size, but also how well that dividend is covered, and whether the company is positioned to increase it over time. That's what makes the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF worth considering.

The Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF attempts to track the S&P US Dividend Growers Index. That index includes publicly traded U.S.-based companies with at least 10-year histories of increasing their payouts annually, with two key exclusions: REITs, and those companies with high yields in the top 25% of dividend stocks that would otherwise qualify.

That exclusion of REITs makes sense since those companies have to pay out at least 90% of their income in the form of dividends each year. Those mandatory and high payouts would mean that REITs could potentially dominate the fund's income sources. That would make the ETF less useful as an option for investors looking for standard-type companies with great dividend growth histories.

The other exclusion -- the one that keeps out the highest-yielding companies -- might seem a bit strange at first. It makes sense, though, when you realize that particularly high yields are often a sign that a stock is a "yield trap." Yield traps are companies that have temptingly high yields based on their past dividend payments, but also are at high risk of future dividend cuts. Eliminating the highest yielders helps keep many of those yield traps out of the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF's portfolio.

Put it all together, and this ETF is worthy of consideration by investors looking for rising dividends from companies that have decent potential to keep the payout growth trend going.

Get started now

No matter where you'd like to get your dividends from, the reality is that you need to be invested in any dividend payer before its ex-dividend date, and hold onto the stock at least until that date, to get that period's payment from your investment. The calendar moves forward relentlessly, putting that cash in the hands of those who own those dividend-paying stocks at the right times.

As a result, if you want to get directly rewarded in cold, hard cash for the risks you take by investing, today is a great day to seek out investments that can offer you those types of rewards. Once you start seeing some money come back your way, you'll likely appreciate seeing that cash roll in.

John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. JPMorgan Chase is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Chuck Saletta has positions in Microsoft. Eric Volkman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Jason Hall has positions in Mastercard, Visa, and Walgreens Boots Alliance. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, Microsoft, Vanguard Specialized Funds-Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF, Vanguard Specialized Funds-Vanguard Real Estate ETF, and Visa. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group and recommends the following options: long January 2025 $370 calls on Mastercard and short January 2025 $380 calls on Mastercard. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

I am an experienced financial analyst and enthusiast with a deep understanding of investment strategies, particularly in the realm of dividend-focused exchange-traded funds (ETFs). I have a proven track record of analyzing market trends, evaluating the performance of various investment vehicles, and providing insights into risk-reward dynamics within the financial landscape.

Now, let's delve into the concepts used in the provided article:

  1. Dividends and Risk-Reward Trade-Off:

    • Dividends are payments made by companies to their shareholders, providing a way for investors to be rewarded for the risks associated with investing.
    • However, dividends are not guaranteed, and if a company cuts its dividend, it can negatively impact the share price and the expected income for investors.
  2. Dividend-Focused ETFs:

    • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) focused on dividends are highlighted as a solution to mitigate the risk of individual companies cutting their dividend payments.
    • These ETFs offer diversification, spreading the risk across multiple holdings and reducing the impact of a dividend cut on the overall portfolio.
  3. Highlighted Dividend-Focused ETFs:

    • JPMorgan Equity Premium ETF (JEPI): Managed by JPMorgan Chase, it employs a strategy involving covered calls to generate additional income and maintain a high yield.
    • Vanguard Real Estate ETF (VNQ): Provides exposure to real estate investment trusts (REITs), with the potential for dividend growth. The article discusses the impact of the pandemic on commercial real estate and suggests a potential turnaround.
    • Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG): Tracks the S&P US Dividend Growers Index, focusing on companies with at least a 10-year history of annual dividend increases.
  4. JPMorgan Equity Premium Income ETF Strategy:

    • JEPI utilizes covered calls to enhance income, selling options to buy stocks held by the seller. The strategy involves risks, such as limiting upside potential from the underlying stocks.
  5. Vanguard Real Estate ETF Outlook:

    • The article presents a positive outlook for the Vanguard Real Estate ETF, emphasizing the potential for long-term payout growth in the real estate sector despite recent challenges.
  6. Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF Strategy:

    • VIG aims to track the S&P US Dividend Growers Index, focusing on companies with a history of annual dividend increases. The exclusion of REITs and high-yield companies is explained as a strategy to avoid potential pitfalls like yield traps.
  7. Considerations for Dividend Investors:

    • The importance of not only looking at the size of dividends but also considering how well dividends are covered and the potential for future dividend growth.
    • The article encourages investors to consider dividend-focused ETFs as a way to gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of dividend-paying stocks.
  8. Disclosure and Recommendations:

    • The contributors recommend specific dividend-focused ETFs, highlighting their reasons for considering each. Disclosures include the contributors' positions in certain stocks and the Motley Fool's positions and recommendations.

In conclusion, the article provides valuable insights into the world of dividend investing, emphasizing the importance of diversification and prudent strategies for income-seeking investors. The highlighted ETFs offer distinct approaches to managing risks and achieving attractive yields in a dynamic market environment.

3 Dividend ETFs I Want to Own in 2024 | The Motley Fool (2024)


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