How to Make Money Using Exchange-Traded Funds

Trading guru, Bernie Schaeffer, explains all of the ETF basics

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    ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, are vehicles that allow traders to invest in stocks, mutual funds, currencies, or other assets like land or art through the U.S. stock market. In plain English, ETFs are shares in a company that are given to ETF owners regularly. You can think of ETFs as individual stocks held in a diversified portfolio. ETFs are one of the most popular ways to invest in stocks because traders get to invest in a diverse groups of companies or a specific sector/industry.

    In this guide, we will cover everything from the basics of ETFs to some key features and benefits of trading ETFs. If you have always wanted to start investing in ETFs but didn't know how, this is an excellent place to start.

    What Exactly is an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF)?

    By now, you are familiar with options trading, but what you may not know is that there's a whole different world of financial instruments called exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that retail traders may not fully understand. Exchange-traded funds are an important piece of what make the financial markets function. Investors use them around the globe to buy and sell stocks, bonds, commodities, and other assets at any time and from any source. In addition to trading, ETFs can be used to achieve a number of different investment objectives, including individual investment goals.

    How Exactly do ETFs work?

    When it comes to ETFs, you have to make sure you understand how ETFs work and what exactly ETFs are. Most ETFs trade just like stocks through a determined, though often complex, trading process before the ETF is bought and/or sold. However, there are a few key differences in how ETFs are bought and sold compared to buying and selling stocks.

    For example, instead of buying an ETF outright, you may buy a security that represents a portion (or all) of an underlying asset. Thus, when an trader purchases an ETF, they are essentially shorting that security to get an amount of profit when the asset (or commodity) prices rise.

    ETFs are the perfect vehicle for nurturing your underlying investment idea while forcing you to think on your feet. When things don't go as expected, picking just the right ETF can save you significant money and time over time. And since ETFs are often bought and sold like stocks, choosing the right ETF can be a great way to get cheap exposure to specific asset classes without putting your full money into a single stock -- potentially making you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over time.

    What Kind of Traders Benefit from Trading ETFs?

    ETFs (exchange-traded funds) are virtually identical to mutual funds in that they are large pools of investor funds that track a specific sector or security. However, unlike mutual funds, ETFs are typically open to all investors, meaning that small brokers can advertise services as offering ETFs instead of actively managing a client's portfolios.

    Unlike exchange-traded stocks, ETFs are typically settled through secondary market transactions rather than directly with the company buying and selling stock. Therefore, ETFs can be bought and sold with much less lag time than stocks. This means that ETFs have got less capital information to process and thus offer less of a chance of price mispricing.

    Getting Started with Trading ETFs

    ETFs are highly speculative instruments. You could lose money buying them and even more money if the price goes against you. That's why it's essential to understand what ETFs are and how exactly they work.

    In the context of ETFs, the spread is the difference between the price at which an asset is bought (the bid price) and the price at which it is sold (the ask price). This will help you understand the volatility of the market and the price action to expect. Typically, the spreads are wider when the market is more volatile.

    ETFs can be bought through online brokers or directly through your broker through its Institutional Investor service. The Institutional Investor is a partnership between 60 major brokers that offers ETF services. Fees are substantial for these services, but an ETF allows you to earn returns based on market forces once invested. Of course, there is a limit to how much you can invest in one fund at any given time, but the Institutional Investors service program can offer lower costs and larger bets than individual traders.

    Four Things to Know About Trading ETFs

    ETFs have become a popular, if not well understood, form of alternative investments. There are over 16,000 unique ETFs trading today, making up over $3 trillion in assets under management. Here are four key factors to consider to create a complete understanding when trading ETFs:

    1. Market Order: While the fastest way to buy an ETF, the market order is the riskiest. You are telling your broker to buy immediately at market price and leaving it to their discretion.
    2. Limit:  A limit order is more strategic. You can tell the broker the price to buy and sell, and they execute the trade at your desired market price. Thus, you are ensuring that the purchase fits your strategy.
    3. Diversify your portfolio: EFTs allow you to diversify by investing in a group of stocks or funds rather than one. For instance, if you are heavily invested in tech equities, you can use oil and gas ETFs to diversify your portfolio.
    4. Fees and Commissions: TD Ameritrade and other institutional brokers offer access to commission-free ETFs typically traded on commissions and fees.

    ETFs can be great trading tools for traders, both big and small. Investing in Exchange Traded Funds can be a lucrative trading business. You could make a lot of money if you know where to look. Exchange-Traded Funds are an investment vehicle that allows investors to buy and sell securities similar to stocks. ETFs have gained popularity in recent years. Someone can purchase them directly through an ETF broker rather than buying the underlying stock or commodities through a company such as Amazon or Walmart. ETFs generally give investors access to assets typically found in public companies and help investors hedge against price changes.

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