A Simple, but Effective Dividend ETF


Investors still love dividend exchange traded funds. That much is confirmed by the nearly $8 billion in new assets that have flowed into such ETFs this year.

One of the more prodigious asset gatherers among U.S. dividend ETFs this year is also one of the group’s largest members: The Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM) . VYM has hauled in over $1 billion this year.

As are many Vanguard ETFs, VYM is a hit with investors due in part to its low fees. With $12.2 billion in assets under management as of July 31, VYM charges a mere 0.1% per year, making the ETF less expensive than 91% of rival funds, according to Vanguard.

Although VYM’s name implies it is a high-yield ETF, there are important differences between it and rival funds, such as the iShares Select Dividend ETF (DVY) . Both ETFs have prospective yields (an estimate of full year payouts) of 3.7% and each have forward P/E ratios of 15.5, according to YCharts.

However, there significant differences in how these ETFs deliver yield. Assuming dividends have been reinvested, DVY has returned nearly 8% this year, a performance owed in part to DVY’s 33.3% weight to the utilities sector. The ETF also sports an almost 15.4% weight to consumer staples, another defensive sector. [Dividend Stocks Back to Topping S&P 500]

VYM ‘s trailing 12-month yield of 2.83% is about 40 basis points better than what investors will get on 10-year U.S. Treasuries, but 2.83% hardly qualifies as “high yield.” That is not a knock on VYM, an ETF that has jumped 9% this year with reinvested dividends.

For a “high yield” ETF, VYM’s exposure to the sectors investors view as yield destinations is relatively light. Staples, utilities and telecom combine for 25.8% of the ETF ‘s weight. Said another way, VYM’s 17.3% weight to the technology sector, which is massive among equity-based high-yield ETFs, is more than double the ETF’s weight to utilities and more than triple its weight to telecom stocks.

In fact, Apple (AAPL) is VYM’s largest holding. Apple “is in fact the largest position, accounting for nearly 7% of the ETF’s assets. That’s a bit of rarity among dividend-focused funds, as most rules-based dividend portfolios insist on a dividend history of at least 10 years. Microsoft (MSFT), Intel (INTC) and Cisco Systems (CSCO) are also in the top 25 holdings,” according to YCharts. [Another Apple ETF]

Although Apple has plenty of dividend growth potential due to its pristine balance sheet and massive cash hoard, at 2.1%, the stock is not a legitimate high yielder. Few of VYM’s top-10 holdings are.