5 High-Dividend ETFs for February 2023 and How to Invest in Them

Dividend ETFs offer instant diversification and potential income.
Alana Benson
Kevin Voigt
By Kevin Voigt and  Alana Benson 
Edited by Arielle O'Shea Reviewed by Tiffany Kent
25 High-Dividend ETFs and How to Invest in Them

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High-dividend ETFs may generate income

Dividend-paying ETFs can be a great tool for those looking to increase cash flow and diversify their investments. They offer a simple solution to getting exposure to a specific investing niche — in this case, stocks that pay a regular dividend.

You can use those dividends to pad your income as many retirees do. You can also reinvest those dividends back into the fund, to better take advantage of compound interest, and grow your investment portfolio. Whatever you choose, dividend-paying ETFs make it easy to add a large variety of investments to your portfolio all at once.

5 high-dividend ETFs

Below is a list of five large-cap U.S. dividend ETFs, ordered by annual dividend yield. High dividend ETFs may come with higher risk. Always read the fine print and investigate dividends that seem too good to be true.

» Need a brokerage account? Check out the best brokers for ETF investing.

Symbol

ETF name

Annual dividend yield

XLE

Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund

3.75%

SCHD

Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF

2.83%

VYM

Vanguard High Dividend Yield Index ETF

2.69%

VXUS

Vanguard Total International Stock ETF

2.46%

VEA

Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF

2.41%

Data current as of Feb. 1, 2023, and is for informational purposes only. Inverse, leveraged and hedged ETFs are excluded, as are ETFs with expense ratios over 1%. ETFs are initially filtered for assets under management to ensure higher-risk ETFs are excluded.

The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE)

XLE tries to replicate the returns of the Energy Select Sector Index and provides exposure to companies in the oil and gas sectors. XLE has 23 holdings including Exxon Mobil Corporation, Chevron Corporation and Schlumberger NV.

XLE has an expense ratio of 0.10%, meaning if you invest $10,000, you’ll have to pay a $10 annual fee.

Schwab U.S. Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD)

SCHD tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Dividend 100 Index. SCHD has 104 holdings, the top three of which are Broadcom Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and Texas Instruments Inc.

SCHD has an expense ratio of 0.06%, meaning if you invest $10,000 you’ll have to pay a $6 annual fee.

Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM)

VYM is a large value ETF that tracks the returns of the FTSE High Dividend Yield Index. VYM’s top three sectors are financials, health care and consumer staples. Its top three holdings include Johnson & Johnson, Exxon Mobil Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

VYM has an expense ratio of 0.06%, meaning if you invest $10,000 you’ll have to pay a $6 annual fee.

Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS)

VXUS aims to track the performance of the FTSE Global All Cap ex US Index, which measures the investment return of non-U.S. stocks. VXUS’s top three holdings are Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Nestle SA and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

VXUS has an expense ratio of 0.07%, meaning if you invest $10,000 you’ll have to pay a $7 annual fee.

Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA)

VEA aims to replicate the investment performance of the FTSE Developed All Cap ex US Index. VEA provides exposure to stocks of large-, mid-, and small-cap companies in Canada, Europe and the Pacific region. VEA has 53% European holdings, 36.4% Pacific holdings and 9.9% North American holdings. Its top three holdings are Nestle SA, ASML Holding NV and Roche Holding AG.

VEA has an expense ratio of 0.05%, meaning if you invest $10,000 you’ll have to pay a $5 annual fee.

Can you live off ETF dividends?

While it is possible to live off ETF dividends, you'll need to do some careful planning to make it happen. You'll need to balance how much income your investments bring in, and how much you spend. You can use the 4% rule to help you figure out how much you can withdraw from your retirement stash, meaning you should aim to withdraw around 4% from your savings every year.

If you want to live off ETF dividends you'll need to consider the money you may have from Social Security benefits, pension benefits, 401(k)s, IRAs, and any other sources of income. Then you can start to estimate how much you'll need to fill in the gaps with ETF dividends. If you're heading into retirement and want to see how ETF dividends can supplement your lifestyle, it may be a good idea to speak with a financial advisor.

» Interested in early retirement? Learn about the FIRE movement.

How to invest in dividend ETFs

A dividend ETF typically includes dozens, if not hundreds, of dividend stocks. That instantly provides you with diversification, which means greater safety for your payout. Even if a few of the fund’s stocks cut their dividends, the effect will be minimal on the fund’s overall dividend. A safe payout should be your top consideration in buying any dividend investment.

Here’s how to buy a dividend stock ETF:

1. Find a broadly diversified dividend ETF. You can typically find dividend ETFs by searching for them on your broker's website. (No broker? Here's how to open a brokerage account.)

Probably the safest choice is a low-cost fund that picks dividend stocks from the S&P 500 stock index. That offers a broadly diversified package of top U.S. companies.

2. Analyze the ETF. Make sure the ETF is invested in stocks (also called equities), not bonds. You’ll also want to check the following:

  • The dividend yield. This is how much a company pays out in dividends each year relative to its share price, and is usually expressed as a percentage.

  • 5-year returns. Generally, higher is better.

  • Expense ratio. This is the ETF's annual fee, paid out of your investment in the fund. Look for an expense ratio that is under 0.50%, but lower is better.

  • Stock size. Dividend ETFs can be invested in companies with large, medium or small capitalization (referred to as large caps, mid caps and small caps). Large caps are generally the safest, while small caps are the riskiest.

  • Assets under management (AUM). This refers to the total market value of the assets a fund manages. The AUM gives an indication of the size of the fund. Funds with a low AUM promising high dividends may be risky.

3. Buy the ETF. You can buy ETFs just like you’d buy a stock, through an online broker. A good approach is to buy them regularly, to take advantage of dollar-cost averaging.

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Learn more about sector ETFs:

Data is intended for informational purposes only.

Neither the author nor editor held positions in the aforementioned investments at the time of publication.
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