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ETF Picks for a Retirement Portfolio

Gone are the days when retirement was the time to sit back and relax. Earlier, retired people used to follow a rule of thumb for asset allocation between stocks and bonds, which said that the stock part of one’s portfolio should equal 100 minus the retiree’s age. For example, if an investor retires at 60, 40% of his total savings would go to stocks and the rest to bonds.

However, in this era of rock-bottom interest rates, especially in the developed world, things are now that easy. Even an inclination toward a stock-heavy portfolio is rampant among retirees these days. But in today’s choppy market a stock-tilted portfolio stokes fear of losing all your hard-earned money.

So what one needs is a balanced retirement portfolio made of stocks and bonds so that steady current income can be availed of in a safe manner. While picking stocks, focus on value should be practiced. Below we highlight a few ETF strategies that could be considered in a retirement portfolio with a long-term focus (read: 5 ETFs to Buy and Hold for the Next 5 Years).

Dividend: The First Bet – 20% of the Portfolio

Tapping dividend ETFs, when considering a stock-based ETF for retirement portfolio, is an intriguing idea as dividends ensure steady income. Within the dividend space, honing in on the ‘dividend aristocrats’ could be the most beneficial way to ward off the risks resulting from market volatility. This technique looks upon the fundamental strength of the dividend payers. Dividend Aristocrats are the blue-chip dividend-paying companies, which have a long history of hiking dividend payments year over year.

However, in the present era of low yield, the need for higher yield is also necessary. Investors can have a look at Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) PowerShares High Yield Equity Dividend Achievers Portfolio ETF (PEY) which gives exposure to stocks that are chosen on the basis of dividend yield and consistent growth in dividends. PEY yields about 3.30% annually (as of April 25, 2016).

Also, yield-seekers may plant their money in PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF (SPHD). The fund follows an index which is designed to track the performance of 50 securities selected from the S&P 500 Index that have historically provided high dividend yields with lower volatility. The fund yields 3.34% annually (as of April 25, 2016).

Bonds: Another Must Watch – 20% Weight

Bonds are another destination to enjoy regular current income and moderate capital appreciation, both of which result in a stable portfolio. Among various kinds of bonds, retirees can target investment grade muni bonds ETFs like iShares National Muni Bond ETF (MUB). MUB has tilt toward long-term bonds while California (22.82%) and New York (19.82%) have the largest weight in the fund.

Municipal bonds are great picks for investors seeking a steady stream of tax-free income. Usually the interest income from munis is exempt from federal tax and sometimes even state taxes, making these especially attractive to investors in the high tax bracket looking to reduce their tax liability.

Though yields will likely rise in the coming days as the Fed will tighten policies sooner or later, the tax benefit will look more promising with rising yield. MUB yields 2.03% annually (as of April 25, 2016). However, investors can also take a look at the safe choice long-term U.S. Treasury ETF, iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT), which yields 2.42% annually (as of April 25, 2016). After all, returns of TLT beat out MUB over the last five-year frame.  

A Look at Corporate Bond – 20% Weight

Investors can also consider long-term corporate bond ETFs like Vanguard Long-Term Corporate Bond ETF (VCLT) for higher yield than treasuries. However, since corporate bonds are riskier in nature, honing in on investment-grade ones is a prerequisite. VCLT yields 4.36% annually (as of April 25, 2016).

Diversified Exposure: Go Global – 10% Weight

As several developed economies are currently in the thick of policy easing, a play on the global level seems warranted, but with lesser risk. Persistent worries over global growth hold us back from being too hawkish, especially when it comes to construct a retirement portfolio. iShares MSCI All Country World Minimum Volatility ETF (ACWV) is thus our pick for this section (see: all the World ETFs here).

Rely on Wide Moat – 20% Weight

If you are hunting for companies that are likely to last long, the ‘wide moat’ technique may please you. These stocks have distinguished competitive advantages than those of their peers. These competitive advantages can be of various sorts including brand name, economies of scale and so on.

Investors can play this concept via Market Vectors Morningstar Wide Moat (MOAT), ELEMENTS Morningstar WideMoat Focus TR ETN (WMW) and Morningstar International Moat ETF (MOTI) (read: Van Eck Rolls Out International Wide Moat ETF).

A Subtle Flavor of Risk – 10% Weight

While most of the above-mentioned choices are value-driven, which should be at the core of a retirement portfolio in our view, a certain amount of risk may be tested too. First Trust Dorsey Wright Focus 5 ETF (FV), a relatively gutsy choice, hovers around technical indicators namely relative strength (read: The Safest Stocks and ETFs for Momentum Investors Right Now).

The fund is designed to indentify the five First Trust sector and industry based ETFs that are arguably expected to have the maximum chance of outperforming the other ETFs in the selection universe. Securities with high relative strength scores (strong momentum) are given higher weights.

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PWRSH-HY EQ DV (PEY): ETF Research Reports
PWRSH-SP5 HI DV (SPHD): ETF Research Reports
ISHARS-NAMTF (MUB): ETF Research Reports
ISHARS-20+YTB (TLT): ETF Research Reports
VANGD-LT CRP BD (VCLT): ETF Research Reports
ISHARS-MS ACW (ACWV): ETF Research Reports
MKT VEC-WIDE MT (MOAT): ETF Research Reports
FT-DORSEY WFFF (FV): ETF Research Reports
MKT VEC-MS IM (MOTI): ETF Research Reports
ELEMT-LK MORN (WMW): ETF Research Reports
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