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  • Writer's pictureMark Fonville, CFP®

Can an ETF Pay Dividends?

Updated: Apr 28

Can an ETF pay dividends?

If you're looking for reliable investment options as you get closer to retirement, you've probably heard of ETFs or Exchange-Traded Funds.

These handy investment tools can be a great way to grow your nest egg.

But did you know that some ETFs can also provide you with a regular income stream through dividends?

Dividends are a portion of a company's profits that are paid out to shareholders. They can be a fantastic way to generate extra income, especially as you approach retirement.

So, the big question is: Can an ETF actually pay you dividends? Let's dive in!

Understanding ETFs

Key benefits of ETFs

Before we explore the world of dividend-paying ETFs, let's understand the basics. An ETF is a basket of investments, like stocks or bonds, that trade on an exchange, just like stocks do.

Some of the primary benefits of ETFs from an investment standpoint include the ability to easily diversify your portfolio, add liquidity to your investments, and improve your tax efficiency.

Here's how ETFs are different from some other investments:

  • Mutual Funds: Unlike mutual funds, which are typically priced at the end of the trading day, ETFs trade throughout the day, giving you more flexibility.

  • Stocks:  When you buy an ETF, you're essentially buying a tiny piece of many different companies or assets in a single transaction. This built-in diversification lowers risks.

ETFs have become incredibly popular with investors of all kinds because of their convenience, cost-effectiveness, and ease of trading.

What are the Benefits of Dividend Income?

What are the benefits of dividend income?
Potential benefits of dividend income

Dividend income offers investors several compelling advantages, making it a valuable component of many investment strategies:

  • Inflation Hedge: Companies that consistently pay and grow their dividends may help your income keep pace with inflation to some degree. As companies grow their profits, they often increase dividends over time, helping offset the rising cost of goods and services. Companies may also reduce or eliminate their dividends which can be an added risk.

  • Steady Income Stream: Dividend-paying stocks and ETFs may provide a predictable source of income, especially during retirement. This regular cash flow can supplement other sources of income or be used to cover living expenses.

  • Reduced Volatility: Stocks that pay dividends often exhibit lower price volatility compared to non-dividend-paying stocks. This is because they tend to be established, mature companies with stable earnings.

  • Automatic Reinvestment: Many brokerage platforms offer Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs), which allow you to automatically purchase additional shares of the stock or ETF with your dividend payments. This effortless compounding can lead to significant growth over time.

  • Long-term Growth: While dividends provide immediate income, they may also contribute to long-term wealth building. Reinvesting dividends can accelerate compound growth, leading to a larger portfolio value over time. Additionally, companies that consistently increase their dividends tend to demonstrate financial health and solid business models.

  • Tailored Cash Flows: Investors can strategically choose dividend-paying stocks and ETFs with different payout schedules (monthly, quarterly, etc.) to create a customized income stream that aligns with their specific needs. For example, a retiree may prefer monthly dividend payments to match their regular expenses.

The Mechanics of Dividends in ETFs

Now, let's unpack dividends. Companies often share a portion of their profits with their shareholders as dividends. This is a reward for investing in them.

But, can ETFs pay dividends?

Here's the exciting part: Yes, ETFs that hold dividend-paying stocks can pass these dividends on to you, the ETF investor! Here's how it works:

  1. Collection: The ETF collects all the dividends paid by the individual stocks it holds within its portfolio.

  2. Distribution: The ETF then distributes those dividends to its shareholders, usually on a quarterly basis (but schedules can vary).

Types of Dividend-Paying ETFs

Dividend stocks vs dividend etfs

There's an amazing variety of dividend-paying ETFs to choose from:

  • Dividend-Focused ETFs: These ETFs specifically track stocks of companies with a history of paying out strong and consistent dividends.

  • Bond ETFs: Some ETFs invest in bonds, which offer interest payments rather than dividends.

  • REIT ETFs:  Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are required to pay out a large portion of their income as dividends and are often found in dividend-paying ETFs.

Some popular dividend-paying ETFs include the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM) and the Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD).

"Dividend yield" is an important term to know. It's a percentage that tells you how much an ETF pays in dividends each year compared to its price.

Benefits of Dividend-Paying ETFs

So, why consider dividend-paying ETFs? Here's the scoop:

  • Income Generation: The most obvious benefit is an added stream of regular income, which can be especially useful during retirement.

  • Cash Bucket: Refill cash in your portfolio to help with systematic distributions and withdrawals to help fund your lifestyle.

  • Diversification: ETFs naturally diversify your investment across different companies or sectors, reducing your overall risk.

  • Tax Considerations: In some cases, qualified dividends can be taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income, giving you potential tax advantages.

Considerations Before Investing in Dividend-Paying ETFs

Dividend-paying ETFs can be a smart addition to your portfolio, but it's important to be aware of a few factors:

  • Fees: All ETFs have management fees. These fees can eat into your returns from the dividends.

  • Payout Schedule: Understand how frequently the ETF pays dividends, and consider how that aligns with your income needs.

  • ETF Holdings and History: It's wise to check out the performance history of an ETF, as well as what specific stocks or holdings it contains.

  • Concentration Risk: Too much allocation of your portfolio toward dividend stocks may limit your exposure to other types of stocks that can also be a valuable component of your retirement income plan.

How to Invest in Dividend-Paying ETFs

Here are some key things to think about when you're choosing ETFs for your investment strategy:

  • Your Goals and Risk Tolerance: Do you need consistent income? Are you comfortable with some degree of risk? Match the ETF to your specific needs.

  • Monitor Your Dividends: Remember that companies can change their dividend payouts, so keep an eye on the performance of your dividend-paying ETFs.

  • Financial Advisor: It's always a great idea to consult with a financial advisor to create a personalized strategy that's just right for you.


So, in answer to the big question, yes! ETFs can definitely pay dividends. If you're searching for a way to create an income stream and diversify your investments, including dividend-paying ETFs in your portfolio could be a savvy move.

By understanding how these ETFs work and choosing those that align with your investment goals, they can add a valuable income component to your retirement planning.

If you want a personalized investment plan, including recommendations for dividend-paying ETFs, consider reaching out to the expert advisors at Covenant Wealth Advisors.


Disclosures: Covenant Wealth Advisors is a registered investment advisor with offices in Richmond, Reston, and Williamsburg, VA. Registration of an investment advisor does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. The views and opinions expressed in this content are as of the date of the posting, are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This content contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected. Please note that nothing in this content should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Part of this content was aided by AI tools. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax, or legal advice. If you would like accounting, tax, or legal advice, you should consult with your own accountants or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Covenant Wealth Advisors unless a client service agreement is in place. Hypothetical examples are fictitious and are only used to illustrate a specific point of view. Diversification does not guarantee against risk of loss. While this guide attempts to be as comprehensive as possible but no article can cover all aspects of retirement planning. Be sure to consult an advisor for comprehensive advice.


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